In the Fall of 2009 I read a remarkable collection of short stories by Maile Meloy titled Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It. Two of the stories intrigued me as film adaptation projects. Part of one would have to be shot on horseback, so I let the other one, ‘The Children,’ take root in my imagination. It fascinated me that this story about a philandering middle-aged man, Fielding Bent, captured my sympathies. Instead of simply writing him off as an immature jerk, I wondered what it would take for him to learn to love maturely. How had Meloy succeeded in making me care about the choices he had made and the decision he had to make? Would I be able to translate my interest in narrative and empathy informed by 30 years as a psychotherapist to a film audience? Make them wonder at the film’s end how the following hours, days, years would unfold for Fielding? How long would he be “drowning in the shallow end?”
I shared my adaptation project enthusiasm with my whip-smart 20-something cousin, Kendall McKinnon, and she helped shape my rambling ideas into a coherent and colorful film treatment, a prose form story outline which got rid of the short story’s flashbacks and played up the character Jennie’s unselfconscious danger. Armed with the treatment, I asked my friend, Debbie Danielpour, a screenwriting professor at Boston University, if she’d be interested in writing the screenplay. She dazzled me with her intelligence and generosity of time and spirit. She cared about Fielding as much as I did and found the actions and language to communicate a poignancy of loss and knowing that fills every scene in this family drama. The three women in Fielding’s life know him better than he knows himself; in lesser hands, this would have felt melodramatic or insipid. In Debbie’s hands, we have three-dimensional characters each seeking secure attachment.
I partnered with a wonderful filmmaker, Sam Ketay, as my co-producer. As a first time director, I knew that, to attract expert help, I needed to communicate both a clear vision for this adaptation and my determination to make the film. Sam’s faith in the project was a huge injection of confidence, and this film simply would not have been made if I hadn’t benefitted from his wisdom, psychological savvy, sense of humor and connections to terrifically talented filmmakers.
I’m grateful to my dear friend and talented actress, Elizabeth Swackhamer, who upon reading the screenplay said, “I know the perfect actor to play Fielding!” Thank goodness Nicholas Guest was interested in and available for the role. He made being a “deer in the headlights” compelling. His brilliant wife, Pamela Guest, was up for playing his on-screen wife, Raye, whose sturdiness in the midst of uncertainty is heartbreaking. Their dear friend, Lili Bordan, agreed to play Eleanor, Fielding’s mistress. Eleanor’s beauty and conviction that she is worthy of Fielding’s love are critical to informing the paralysis Fielding experiences. I auditioned a handful of actors to play Jennie and Gavin and couldn’t have been luckier to have found Carly Foulkes and Tyler Johnson! Carly and her precocious, adorable, frisky inhabiting of Jennie keeps Fielding in anxious check throughout the film; she wields a lot of power with her knowledge of his secret affair. Tyler gave Gavin, Fielding’s son, just the right amount of innocence. Gavin loves his dad, and we feel for him as he begins to see the cracks in his family’s presumably safe foundation. And, I’m grateful to my neighborhood’s beloved grocer, Marc Najarian, for his short but sweet moment as Pug whose presence lets us know that Fielding is thought of as a decent guy in his community.
When Sam Ketay and I interviewed Gus Sacks to be our cinematographer, we were impressed not only with his careful reading of the script and his understanding of the feel I was after but with his preparedness to illustrate that “feel”. He brought with him a stunning book of photographs taken by a New York Times photographer that documents the final months of the photographer’s father’s life. The intimacy of these photos, their light, hue, depth of field, framing, perfectly matched my vision for Halfway Somewhere Else. I knew then and there that Gus was the guy for our film. Gus made our film intimate and beautiful; thank you, Gus. And thank you, too, to the crew he brought along with him - a wonderful, friendly group of hard working professionals.
The only thing I ever really knew on the set was the story I wanted to tell. Enter stage right, Dawn Bridgewater, my assistant director. Dawn’s high-spirited and uber competent leadership on the set allowed me to focus on the drama unfolding in front of the camera. For every first time director out there, hire Dawn to make your filmmaking experience less intimidating and more fun. And hire Firebox BBQ to feed you well.
I asked Gus after our five-day shoot in Cambridge, Belmont and Truro, Massachusetts if he could recommend a great editor. He said, “Jacob LaMendola is the best I know.” He’s now the best I know, too! Jacob is a miracle worker, weaving together disparate pieces of sound and video to define developing tensions, deepen sympathies, entertain desires, and leave an audience wanting more. He is a joy to work with; that this film engages anyone is in great part due to his genius.
The folks at Silver Sound in NYC took the saliva out of some words and whistles out of others. They found door buzzer, knife cutting, and car starting sounds that perfectly matched action on the screen. They filtered music to sound like it’s coming out of a car radio or a living room amp. In other words, these fantastic sound engineers, Cory, Bryan and Ted, made the film “sing.” Nicholas Pike’s haunting composition opens the film and successfully captures everything we need to know about Fielding: his desire and guilt, sadness and shallowness. Ken Cook and Ivan Camblor wrote a relaxed and sexy Latin piece for Eleanor’s scene. Eric Martin’s songs fuel Jennie’s driving scenes with a rockin’ edge of foreshadowing danger. Anne Heaton and The Pines’ songs each yearn for love with gorgeous melodies, and Doug MacDonald’s song over the film’s credits provides the hopefulness found in major chords and a country road.
There are many other people to appreciate for supporting the making of this film, and I have listed them in the credits, but I want to give a special shout out to my family, Jake, David, Sophie and Rick Weissbourd who patiently and lovingly cheered me to the finish line. Thank you. And for those of you wondering about the origins of my film production company’s name, Rimer Blue Films: my dad, Ed Rimer, had blue eyes and so do my siblings, Ned and Polly, and I. Whenever we wore blue, someone would inevitably comment, “Oh, that Rimer Blue.” This one’s for you, dad.