It's very interesting; the next project Im working on is very hard and very edgy. I sort of have these two sides of my personality. People warned us about The Chester Story and pretty much everyone who read it was like, "Happy, love, hope..." They were inspired by the message and that's why they got behind it and worked for very little money. The people in the industry that we spoke to before going into this said, "Oh Lord, your first real film and youre going to make a drama. You're in trouble. Its a feel-good drama on top of it. Its going to be so hard to market." And they're not wrong (laughing). Particularly when you have Teri Hatcher who most people associate with a TV name and then you have a very small budget, other actors most people dont know, and for independent theaters to take a chance on you, it's difficult because youre a feel-good film. Its okay to have a feel-good film [but] I cant think of very many that have crossed over.
We thought that after 9/11 wed be in a really great place to market the heck out of it. We applied to Sundance. Even that year, Sundance was all weird off-the-wall stuff, very, very strange programming. I thought for sure that would be the year festivals gave more time and more attention to really feel-good dramas. It didnt happen and its very odd. I think we need it now, too, with the war and the economy. Its definitely a good time for The Chester Story so that people can go have two hours and walk away going, "Ahh, that was nice."
How did you find the location?
The whole film was supposed to take place in New Hampshire where I grew up spending my summers and winters. What ended up happening was by the time we had raised the money, we were in winter and there was no way we could shoot in Lake Winnipesaukee. We could have switched it to a winter film but we didnt have a crew up there and everyone was going to have to come up from either Boston or New York. It got very complicated very quickly. I had just read an article that said other than Canada, Wilmington was this mecca for filmmaking. They have this really huge studio down there. We started talking to the film commission and we started talking to the studio people there - Frank Capra Jr. runs the studio. Who knew it was this mini-L.A.? And at the time I think the economy was taking a hit, especially with Dawsons Creek had wrapped.
[Wilmington] has these extremely professional crews. We had "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" shooting while we were there, and a big John Travolta movie. There were these two huge Hollywood films and then us. And Mandy Moore's film "A Walk to Remember" was shooting at the same time. It was so strange to be in this environment that you didnt really know much about, with all these other great films. We had never visited [Wilmington], we had just looked at a lot of pictures online, and talked to a lot of people. Probably within two weeks we made the decision that thats what we were going to do. We started researching housing and it happened very quickly. We took a leap of faith and Im really pleased that we did. I hope that the economy picks up again down there and people start shooting. Id certainly go back.
Your location really is like another character in this movie.
It's very important that you said that because Id said, "I want the environment to be as much of a character as the characters." It has such a strong influence on me - the water, the spirituality, the fate aspect of it. I said, "I want you to feel the environment moving around you as much as you get to know Teris character." Its just beautiful down there. Its funny, though, because it's not beautiful everywhere. Its not like you drive into town and you're like, "This place is heaven." You have to have someone find those beautiful spots and when you find them, they are gorgeous.