The Hippo


Aug 20, 2019








Peter and John started screening in New Hampshire this month. Courtesy image.

Upcoming screenings of Peter and John

Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St., Concord: Thursday, July 21, at 2:10,5:35 & 7:40 p.m.
Wilton Town Hall, 40 Main St., Wilton: Thursday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m.
Dartmouth College, Hopkins Center, 4 E. Wheelock St., Hanover: Saturday, July 30, at 7 p.m.
The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth: Thursday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m.

Community filming
Craven tries something new for Peter and John

By Kelly Sennott

 It wasn’t hard to convince Jay Craven to shoot outside Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the location for six of his eight feature films. All it took was a newspaper interview.

“Why don’t you do a movie in Nantucket?” Nantucket Mirror reporter Lindsay Pykosz asked him in 2012 while previewing a benefit event Craven was participating in with actor Chris Noth (known for The Good Wife and Sex and the City). 
Craven didn’t know why not. And so he did — the result, Peter and John, tours New Hampshire this summer and fall.
“You sort of go with your gut at every level in making movies, ” Craven said via phone last week. 
The flick is an adaptation of the 19th-century novel Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant, about two brothers whose relationship is strained when the younger receives news of an unexpected inheritance — and when both become interested in the same woman. 
The original story is set on the French coast, but this version takes place in 1872 Nantucket during the island’s ghost period — after the Civil War and the decline of the whaling industry and before the rise of tourism. 
Craven knew the story well because he’d been planning on partnering with a British filmmaker for a South African version of the story 10 years ago. Plans fell through, but he still liked the tale and knew it had potential. It had strong family and romantic conflict and was an important piece of historic literature; in their lifetimes, Henry James, Vladimir Nabokov, Vincent Van Gogh and Leo Tolstoy all talked about Maupassant’s work with reverence, Craven said.
In the film community, Craven’s known for filming New England stories on-site, particularly in Vermont. Five of his features were collaborations with Vermont writer Howard Frank Mosher. He had Vermont contacts and knew what to expect there.
Nantucket was an entirely different beast. Not a lot of filmmaking happens on the island, so cast, crew, equipment, props and costumes all had to be shipped over via ferries. When everyone finally arrived to start filming in March, April and early May of 2014, a foot of snow coated the ground and there were 92-mile-an-hour gusts of wind. 
“I’ve done a lot of period filmmaking, but mostly in the 1920s, ’30s, and in Northern New England. Going back to 1872, it’s a whole different world,” Craven said. “The upside was that Nantucket is one community, ultimately, so in trying to organize a base of support … it happened more easily and more quickly than in any other place I can think of in Vermont, where I’ve worked for 40 years.”
The community allowed cast and crew to stay cheap or free in youth hostels and in rooms at the Maria Mitchell Association and were happy to assist or take part in filmmaking; Nantucket musicians and singers, for instance, performed the score containing music by 19th-century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
The silver lining of producing in Nantucket was the Massachusetts film tax incentive both Vermont and New Hampshire lack, which includes a 25-percent production credit, 25 percent payroll credit and sales tax exemption for movies spending more than $50,000.
Peter and John was produced through the Movies From Marlboro program, a biennial film intensive semester produced by Marlboro College, where Craven works as a professor, and Kingdom County Productions. It involved a cast and crew of 22 professionals and 32 students from 12 regional colleges. Among the cast were Christian Coulson from Harry Potter, Shane Patrick Kearns from Blue Collar Boys, Diane Guerrero from Orange is the New Black, Gordon Clapp from Matewan and Golden Globe winner Jacqueline Bisset.
For Craven, the film intensive is a win-win, making production more affordable (students work for credit, not pay) and the atmosphere more exciting.
“I’ve done five feature films with all professional crews and three with students and professionals, and I prefer [the latter]. There’s a spirit of generosity and a sense of excitement in doing this for the first time. Do [students]  make mistakes? Yes. But a mistake is handled like a learning opportunity, not a problem,” Craven said. “I’ve given them a lot of responsibility, and that’s what excites them about it.”
Craven screens movies the same way he films them — through the community. They’ve been known to hit indie theaters, schools, town halls, fire stations, cafes, you name it. He loves bringing the pieces to New Hampshire.
“I was just reflecting yesterday that New Hampshire has a substantially stronger indie film culture than Vermont does. If you look at Red River and The Music Hall, at Dartmouth and Wilton. … the films are stronger and audiences are bigger. In an era where independent films are struggling, New Hampshire’s in pretty great shape,” he said. 

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