Husband and wife filmmakers Matt Cascella and Jennifer Cordery moved to Portland from New York a few years ago and immediately felt inspired.
They drew inspiration from their new home and its energy to write a comedy-drama titled “Hangdog,” which centers on a couple who recently moved to Portland.
The film is filming across the city this month, including Peaks Island, Munjoy Hill, the Old Port, downtown and along the waterfront. The filmmakers say it will be subject to film festivals later this year and hope to have festival screenings scheduled for early 2023, followed by streaming.
“When we moved here, we were really exhausted from New York. Creating your own work there is so hard, there’s so much competition and so many obstacles,” Cordery, 40, said. we met such wonderful people and we both had such a jolt of creative inspiration.
The film’s action centers on Walt, an anxious 30-something who loses his girlfriend Wendy’s dog. He searches for him all over the city, which he doesn’t yet know very well, encountering various characters and situations along the way. Although Walt and Wendy have recently moved to Portland, like Cascella and Cordery, the story is not strictly autobiographical.
“We kind of blurred our feelings and our traits in between,” said Cascella, 36, the film’s director. “We have a dog and the love of our dog is inspirational.”
The film’s cast includes several veterans of Hollywood movies and TV shows. Desmin Borges, who plays Walt, was one of the stars of the comedy-drama series “You’re The Worst,” which aired on cable network FX. Barbara Rosenblat, who plays Walt and Wendy’s neighbor, played inmate Miss Rosa Cisneros in the Netflix prison drama “Orange is the New Black.”
Catherine Curtin, who plays a character named Buffy, was also in “Orange is the New Black,” as well as the Netflix sci-fi series “Stranger Things.” Fellow cast member Steve Coulter had recurring roles on the Paramount series “Yellowstone,” the Netflix series “House of Cards” and “The Walking Dead” on AMC.
Maine-based actor Matthew Delamater, who recently starred in the George Clooney-directed film “The Tender Bar,” is also part of the cast. At least half of the crew is based in Maine, including cinematographer Nathan Golon. The film is being made for under $500,000 with funding from filmmakers, friends and family. Filming began in early April and is expected to wrap this week after shooting scenes on the East Promenade and Munjoy Hill.
While based in New York, Cascella and Cordery worked primarily on documentaries, Cascella as an editor and director and Cordery as a producer and in various production roles. Cascella’s credits include editing a short Netflix documentary called “Long Shot,” about a man arrested for murder who uses footage shot for the TV show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to prove his innocence. Cordery was production coordinator for the documentary miniseries “Belief,” hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
They moved to Portland from Brooklyn in September 2020 after the pandemic shut down nearly all film production. They were already interested in living elsewhere, but the pandemic and subsequent increase in remote work for filmmakers convinced them to move on. They knew Golon, who already lived in Portland, and he praised the charms of the city.
They say they were amazed at how open and friendly the people of Maine were, both welcoming them as neighbors and helping out with the film. Their backyard neighbor, Jess Gillman, gave them tomatoes to welcome them to the Munjoy Hill neighborhood. She’s partly the inspiration for the backyard neighbor in the film, and the filmmakers will be using her porch for a scene this week. Gillman, an artist, also creates a miniature outbuilding to use in filming. But she does not want to say what her purpose is, for fear of revealing the plot too much.
“When they told me they had written this, I was excited. It made sense to me that they would work together on something creative like this,” Gillman said.
Cordery and Cascella say they met many people who offered to help with the film. Several businesses, including Bangs Island Mussels on Portland’s waterfront and Brad’s Bike Shop on Peaks Island, were used as filming locations, as was a boat near DiMillo’s floating restaurant in Portland. While looking to film a cannabis dispensary, they walked into the newly opened Meowy Jane on Market Street in the Old Port, and the owners happily agreed to be part of the shoot.
The film crew also spent around eight days on Peaks Island, where they used Illustration Institute cottages on the northern end of the island as their base of operations and filming location. Cascella had met illustrator and institute co-founder Scott Nash at a get-together last year, and Nash said he’d like to help with the filming. Nash, who made a cameo in the film as a worker in the bike shop, said he liked the story and how the script portrayed Peaks Island and Portland.
“They had done their research and really seemed to have the vibe of the place,” Nash said.
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