July 11--RANGELEY -- John Meyers of Rangeley is thrilled that his first feature movie will premiere at the 16th Maine International Film Festival this month in Waterville. It was filmed in 12 days last December in Rumford and Rangeley.
Showings of "The Guide" will be at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Railroad Square Cinema and at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at Waterville Opera House.
"I'm just so honored to be in the Maine International Film Festival," Meyers, 55, said Wednesday afternoon at his home. "The programming at MIFF is so outstanding. It's right up there with the quality of film festivals across the country."
Meyers wrote and directed the 90-minute, low-budget thriller, which tells the story of a distraught Maine woodsman who reluctantly agrees to guide two New Yorkers on a buck hunt in the frozen wilderness of northwestern Maine and finds his sanity slipping away as the wreckage that his hunting set in motion a year before catches up with him.
"I love stories that take place over the course of 48 hours, because that is how life comes at you," Meyers said.
On June 21, The Guide's world premiere sold out at the Manhattan Film Festival. Meyers said he'd like to see its Maine premiere on July 14 sell out, too. The film was well received at two private screenings, he said.
"In this little movie, by golly, you feel like you're a fly on the wall," he said. "It's pretty gripping. People (in the audience) really don't move for 90 minutes. It holds you in a vise grip, because you're involved with the characters and you don't know what's going to happen to them."
The Guide features a cast of five actors whom Meyers said he found via Backstage, an Internet resource for casting.
"I didn't have the money to do an official casting, so I posted roles on Backstage and they auditioned via Skype," he said.
Cast members are Don Scribner, Stephanie Leone, Jan-David Soutar, Clayton Myers and Nicholas Russell.
"I wanted to tell a story about my neck of Maine that captures the people and landscape up here that are unique to this part of the state," Meyers said.
"One of the things that I'm most proud about is the way the actors meshed together," he said.
Scribner plays Maine guide Joe Dawkins, the hero of the story.
Dawkins "embodies the quiet nobility that comes naturally to so many folks who live in these isolated mountains," Meyers said.
He said he got the idea for Dawkins and the film's premise from talking with his friend and neighbor, Lee Libby, a registered Maine guide.
"Lee is an amazing storyteller...and a very nice guy," Meyers said.
Meyers's son, Ben Meyers, who turns 21 on July 14, was the cinematographer and rock musician Jason Mancine of Jay did the score.
In "The Guide," the hunt for a trophy buck would be routine for master buck tracker Joe Dawkins were it not for his personal demons, Meyers said.
According to the movie's synopsis, an inexperienced and unworthy hunter named Greg (portrayed by Myers) has traveled hundreds of miles to be led into the wilderness to bag a deer. Except this time, at an abandoned logging camp far away from civilization, the hunter becomes the hunted.
The peace and solitude of the woods -- once Joe's touchstone -- no longer exist for him. Haunted by guilt over his wife's sudden death a year earlier when he wouldn't abandon a 10-pointer's track and return to her side, Joe is on the brink of madness, Meyers said.
On his way to rendezvous with Greg, Joe unexpectedly discovers that his only child, Jenna, has fallen into an abyss of meth addiction in a down-on-its-heels mill town under the thumb of a violent dealer.
Saving her becomes the only purpose remaining for Joe's life. Yet when he gets on the track of the very same buck that eluded him a year before, he and Greg will face the ultimate test of survival as Joe's tortured soul seeks a vicious end or redemption.
That mill town is Rumford. It's also where Meyers said he'd live if he didn't live in Rangeley.
"I love Rumford's visuals," he said. "I think it's a beautiful industrial-looking town. I love its bridges, its great river, and the paper mill, and I wanted to build that into the story. When I wrote the script, I wanted to include a section that shows off Rumford," he said.
"I think anybody from Rumford will recognize the landmarks. But the action is pretty gritty and, like any town anywhere, Rumford has its share of troubling characters. But, as the film demonstrates, even they can let go of their ways if confronted by the unlikeliest of people."
Filming for "The Guide" was supposed to start in Rangeley. Due to the lack of snow, however, the first week was spent in Rumford.
"We needed snow for the hunting sequences, so we had to reverse the order of filming," he said.
Then, more than 2 1/2 feet of snow fell, so the second half was shot in and around Rangeley and on the side of Saddleback Mountain for its old-growth timber.
Winter shooting for full days at zero degrees Fahrenheit took a harrowing toll, but Meyers said it adds to the film's ambiance. In a regular film, cast and crew would have heated trailers.
"But this was a microbudget movie, so we didn't have heated trailers," Meyers said. "Basically, we froze. But it lends realism to the movie. You can't fake that. The actors' cheeks were red, their lips are cracked, you can see their breath and they were coated with snow.
"It gives a sense of realism," he said. "It's not fake snow or fake rain. We were cold and we had some pretty close calls.
"If nothing else, the film shows that a cast of five and a crew of eight can pull off a very tight story that's much more than just a hunting story," Meyers said.
(c)2013 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
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