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Sep 19, 2011

Anatomy of the Tide: Long Time Coming

ROCKLAND — Rockland fisherman Joel B. Strunk is no newcomer to show biz; he can remember being a young child sitting on the lap of Karen Carpenter while his father performed on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” Now he is filming his own project, in the Rockland area and on Vinalhaven, and it is decidedly less glam and more real.

Strunk, son of the late Jud Strunk — a popular singer/songwriter whose biggest hit, “A Daisy a Day,” was the first recorded song ever played on the moon — and his crew have begun a 25-day shoot for “Anatomy of the Tide,” an independent coming-of-age feature-length film. The cast includes some real stars, drawn to the project by Strunk’s Nicholl Fellowship-contending script (a 2010 semifinalist, it was in the top 2 percent of the last year’s thousands of entries). How that script came to circulate in Hollywood is a tale of personal connections and how the film came to be funded is, too.

The inspiration for the film’s story goes back to 1990s, when the state eliminated the deer herd on Monhegan, and even earlier, to when writer/director Strunk was 11 years old and started thinking about what it must be like to grow up on an island. He describes “Anatomy of the Tide” as a summer kids’ story, grounded by a deeper tale but basically about redemption … and about a very particular aspect of an island summer.

“There hasn’t been a Maine movie that really captures the politics of the haves and have-nots of summer here, the ebb and flow of the social classes, like this one,” said Strunk.

There hasn’t been a movie funded like this one either, he said. While he tried to find some big pockets — at one point, he was pitching the movie “to this old billionaire in Palm Beach” — it ended up coming together through the aggregated generosity of his fellow fishermen.

“It’s hard-working, blue-collar people that made this happen,” he said.

Strunk grew up watching his father wow audiences around the country, and he knew at some level that he was an artist too. It took him a while to figure out his niche.

“My dad was an incredible entertainer. I couldn’t pick up the banjo and play like he did or tell a joke like he could,” he said.

But he could write. In college, he began writing plays. His first Nicholls’ screenplay entry, “Veterans Day” in 2000, was in the top nine of that year’s contenders; one in that finalist group that ended up winning became “Akeelah and the Bee.” “Anatomy of the Tide” has been in the works for some 15 years.

“I fish to pay the bills, and other times I write. My neighbors must think I’m lazy because I show up late on my porch in my bathrobe, but I’ve been writing until 3 in the morning,” he said.

Now that the script is actually being lensed — Maine Media Workshops instructor Daniel Stephens is the cinematographer, wielding a RED digital video camera courtesy of MMW’s David Berez — Strunk said his neighbors must be even more concerned, given the state of his just-outside-Hope yard.

“They must think my lawn mower has broken down,” he said.

How Strunk’s script became so hot in Hollywood is thanks in part to his late father. About five years ago, Strunk connected with Charles Kipps, a friend of his father, in New York. Kipps has produced both records and films and when he found out Strunk was a Nicholls finalist with a screenplay in hand, he asked to read it. After he did, he offered to produce “Anatomy” if Strunk could pull together the funds. Kipps put the script in circulation, and Strunk was amazed at the people who expressed interest, as well as those who eventually signed on.

“I am so excited! I mean, we have eight stars,” he said, ticking off a list that includes Spencer Locke (“Resident Evil,” “Cougar Town”), Jamie Lynn Sigler (“The Sopranos”) and Robbie Amell (this season’s “How I Met Your Mother,” “Scooby-Doo!”).

Playing the coming-of-age characters that form the core of the story are up-and-coming young actors Gabriel Basso (“Super 8”) and Daniel Flaherty (“Skins”), as well as Nathan Keyes (“Ben 10: Alien Swarm”).

“I mean, driving back from casting in Portland, I stopped into a rest-stop McDonald’s and there was Nathan Keyes in a Happy Meal prize and he’s in my movie,” enthused Strunk.

The “local casting,” which spanned Maine to Boston, was handled by Karen True and Maureen Gorman, “who did a fabulous job,” said Strunk. The film has a fairly large cast, thanks to its script’s complex weaving of multiple subplots. What it does not have is a large budget. The fishing dock investors have raised some $600,000; the film’s Modified Low Budget Agreement cut-off is $625,000, as a dollar more would mean a different set of requirements from the Screen Actors Guild.

“The SAG guidelines make it difficult to accept any more donations of money, but we can do in-kind,” Strunk said.

Those donations have included everything from use of a parent’s dock to “a car Dick Crossman from the Allen Agency waved down in the street and asked if we could use,” said Strunk. Right now, the production company is looking for another set of wheels.

“What I really need is an old, rusted-out bread truck — an old Wonder Bread truck would be ideal,” he said.

Local businesses that have provided in-kind donations include the Lord Camden Inn and Penobscot Island Air. Anyone interested in making this kind of investment in the film is encouraged to contact Strunk at

Strunk said there already are a couple of distributors showing interest in the finished film and there is a possibility his team can put together clips to submit for the next season of film festivals. The team does have an on-site editor, but post-production details have yet to be worked out.

“Right now, I am totally focused and committed to getting it filmed,” said Strunk.

Source: Herald Gazette

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