It started as rumors. An airplane rented for “aerial photography”. A deadrise commissioned for “location scouting”. A well-known actor spotted having lunch with some locals. Talk of the environment, of waterman culture, of capturing the Chesapeake Bay’s presence on film; but at its heart, telling a story about all of this, from within. And it looks like the rumors are true.
Chesapeake is an independent feature film written and directed by Eric Hurt. His fictional tale is set amidst the watermen culture of the Chesapeake Bay and stars Academy Award winning actor Keith Carradine. Over the last decade, Hurt has been exploring and learning more about the unique, and as he says, “liberating” way of life engaged by this culture.
The story of Chesapeake centers around an isolated waterman, Burnham [Carradine], whose solitary life profoundly changes when he saves a woman and a boy from drowning in the Chesapeake Bay. These three characters, each with complex pasts, find comfort and safety with each other as well as in the remoteness and beauty of the Bay. When their world is threatened, Burnham must decide how much he is willing to risk to keep them safe.
“Chesapeake reaches at our basic needs: vulnerability, security, fear, love and hope,” says Hurt. “The characters seek out beauty in a small corner of the world, when all else is crumbling around them.”
As a director, Hurt is interested not only in creating a compelling narrative populated by real and rich characters, but also in carrying the narrative into a rich visual realm that creates a personal, emotional experience for the viewer.
“The bay is a melding of place and emotion,” says Hurt. “That unique balance is what I’m interested in capturing”.
Waterman communities of the Chesapeake Bay stretch back to the earliest days of American history. While the techniques now used to work the water are very different, the pull that watermen feel towards the water remains unchanged. Independence, self-reliance, and the beauty of the natural environment draw watermen to their unique way of life.
Hurt’s vision is built around showcasing our spectacular settings of the Bay using underwater photography and 360 degree views of the area. In addition to providing entertainment, Chesapeake hopes to lend its voice to the preservation of the Bay. The film showcases the disappearing culture of the watermen and the raw beauty of the environment; not only as inspiration and creative metaphor, but also to increase appreciation for the area and bring awareness of the challenges the Bay faces to wider audiences.
Keith Carradine. best known for his roles in the films Nashville and Cowboys and Aliens as well as the hit television series Dexter, said the script and its timeless story drew him to the movie’s lead role. “The first thing that attracted me to Chesapeake [the film] was the script: it’s a classic story of loss and redemption,” says Carradine, “There’s something so ultimately affirming about this story, and I want to be a part of things that do that.”
Intensive research and on-the-ground experience have been crucial to the development of the project, especially to ensure its authenticity.
“I’ve been amazed at the support and encouragement we’ve received and continue to receive from so many people and organizations, from the individual watermen and Watermen’s Associations we’ve met, to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Film Office, who have been with us every step of the way and who are integral to this process,” says Hurt.
“This project is a perfect representation of what Virginia film is all about,” said Andy Edmunds, Director of the Virginia Film Office. “You have a homegrown team that has a great deal of experience on bigger films, and they combine their skill and dedication as filmmakers with a boundless passion not only for their story, but for the place they are telling it.”
Erica Arvold, Virginia casting director for Spielberg’s Lincoln, will cast and produce Chesapeake. Arvold also cast and produced Hurt’s feature film, House Hunting. She brings over 25 years of work on studio and independent features in Chicago and Los Angeles. Since moving to Charlottesville, she has focused on Virginia filmmaking, with casting credits that include the new AMC television series Turn, and films Killing Kennedy, Wish You Well, Lake Effects and the upcoming Big Stone Gap.
“I think it’s a profound and important responsibility to capture the watermen culture in a genuine and authentic manner. This way of life may not be around forever,” says Arvold. “I am drawn to fictional films that are more than pure entertainment. I gravitate towards character driven stories that not only center around the human condition but have the ability to help bring awareness to much larger social issues. That said, when I am emotionally moved, that’s what counts, and that’s what I found when reading Chesapeake.”
Sara Elizabeth Timmins, also producing Chesapeake, moved to Virginia from LA and has been producing films for over a decade. She produced the Hallmark Channel movie Lake Effects and her most recent project was Wish You Well, a feature film based on the novel by David Baldacci. Both films were shot in Southwest Virginia, and her vision and drive to involve the community in the production process resulted in lasting relationships and a positive economic impact on Virginia.
“Our approach to filmmaking is to create a collaborative environment and a fulfilling experience for everyone involved, especially the community,” notes Timmins. “We have met some of the most enthusiastic and welcoming people along the Bay in Virginia and Maryland.”
Bringing an independent film to a location outside of Hollywood could be described as bringing a circus to town without any tents. That means a profound economic impact for the entire region. Film production, in general, creates an intense period of economic activity both directly and indirectly for the community.
“Crew members love to eat at restaurants, shop on their off days, and drink a whole lot of coffee. The needs of production include lumber, gas for vehicles, lodging and catering. Our presence will definitely be felt…and hopefully in a good way as we want to involve the community as much as possible,” says Arvold.
“This is the bonus of making an independent film, we have the luxury of not taking orders from a studio in LA. Our approach to filmmaking is to create a collaborative environment and a fulfilling experience for everyone involved, especially the community,” notes Timmins.
The production plans to document the behind-the-scenes aspects of the filmmaking process with a “making of” featurette that will highlight local communities, businesses and people who have contributed to the process.
“We offer opportunities for sponsorships and are already engaged in several collaborations with local businesses,”
says Timmins. “We have so much interest and support from non-profits and area organizations who will benefit from the awareness that this fictional story brings to the area and environmental issues. We look forward to announcing all of these partnerships at green light.”
Tentatively shooting this summer, the project’s final scheduling depends on fundraising, which the production team is in the thick of right now. Despite the short time frame to raise the remaining capital needed, the team remains confident in the project’s ability to gain backing and knows that the support of the Bay community will bring this project to life.
Making a film is a collaborative art form, both creatively and financially, and making a film requires a lot of hard work and dedication. “We love what we do and we’re excited to showcase the Chesapeake Bay and honor it’s beautiful culture,” says Hurt.
You can view their promo video at their website, www.chesapeakethefilm.com.
Producer/Casting Director ERICA ARVOLD is a current nominee for CSA’s prestigious Artios Awards for her casting on Spielberg’s Lincoln. She recently cast Killing Kennedy for the National Geographic Channel, Turn for AMC and developed and produced the children’s television series Ralph’s World: Time Machine Guitar for Grammy Nominee Ralph Covert. Erica is the casting director and associate producer for Wish You Well, a feature film written by novelist David Baldacci starring Ellen Burstyn, Josh Lucas and Mackenzie Foy. Erica served as casting director for the Ridley Scott & Tony Scott-produced Killing Lincoln for National Geographic, was the Virginia casting director (with Anne Chapman) for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, cast the Hallmark Movie Channel’s Lake Effects, and produced as well as cast Eric Hurt’s indie psychological thriller House Hunting. For over 20 years, Erica has contributed & participated in the casting of over 100 films and 75 television projects. Select film credits include Backdraft, Rudy, Natural Born Killers, Mad City, The Horse Whisperer, Runaway Bride, See This Movie, Gods And Monsters, My Dinner With Jimi, In Her Shoes, and Charlotte’s Web. Select television credits include the series Providence, Frasier, Wings, The Untouchables, Postcards From Heaven, television movies Aftershock: Earthquake In NY, March In Windy City and The Darkling. Select theatre credits include the 1st National Tour of Angels in America and Forever Plaid. Erica has been based in Chicago, Los Angeles, and now Charlottesville, Virginia where she jumps back and forth between coasts. In 2012, Erica was inducted into the First Lady of Virginia’s Opportunity Hall of Fame for contributing to the economic growth in the state.
Sara Elizabeth Timmins
Sara Elizabeth Timmins has been producing for over a decade. In 2008, she established Life Out Loud Films to make inspiring films with strong female characters that also make a positive community impact through the filmmaking process. Sara Elizabeth most recently produced the feature Wish You Well, based on the novel by New York Times best-selling author David Baldacci starring Ellen Burstyn, Josh Lucas and Mackenzie Foy. She produced Lake Effects starring Jane Seymour, Jeff Fahey, Casper Van Dien and Sean Patrick Flanery which is currently airing on The Hallmark Channel and is available in over eighteen countries. In addition to Chesapeake, she is in development on Shoeless Wonders, an inspirational sports drama based on a true Lynchburg story of a 1920’s orphan football team that played barefoot and went undefeated and unscored upon for 8 years. In the past, she served as line producer on the film Tattered Angel with Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), was production manager for the ABC regional TV movie Skin Complex and produced Rosabella, an original ballet for film based on a children’s book, to name a few. In 2010, Sara Elizabeth was inducted into the Opportunity Hall of Fame for her contribution through filmmaking to economic development in the state of Virginia. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Xavier University and relocated to Los Angeles and then to Virginia to follow her passion. She has also worked as a motivational speaker professionally for 10 years.
Eric Hurt is the owner of Pillage and Plunder Pictures and has been behind a camera the majority of his life. A prolific writer, Chesapeake is Eric’s ninth feature script, adding to his many shorts and countless treatments for stories yet to be penned. A true auteur, Eric maintains a heavy hand over the lighting, choosing to direct the photography as well as the actors with the help of a highly trained and loyal crew. Eric believes that a film is built on the backs of each person in the cast and crew and fosters a collaborative environment while keeping a firm vision of the finished product. With the successful release of his latest film House Hunting, Eric has turned his eye, and soon his camera, to the remote world of the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay.