Independent film: the filmmaker turns family pain into “Broken Petals”

Filmmaker Cody Alexander Curtis and Wallace Douglas play siblings in “Broken Petals.” Photo by Travis Harden

The trailer for Bath filmmaker Cody Alexander Curtis’ latest short, ‘Broken Petals’, doesn’t say a word.

A synopsis for the film says it’s about a pair of adult siblings (played by Curtis and Boston-based actress Wallace Douglas) meeting at the summer cabin in Maine where they suffered a childhood. abused at the hands of their father, whose recent death prompts the duo’s rocky reunion. The trailer, echoing composer and assistant cameraman Gabe Hirst’s delicate piano score, suggests all that and more with the siblings’ averted gazes, Curtis’ ubiquitous bottle, and Douglas’ solitary wandering through the woods surrounding the cabin, all of Maine dappled with sunlight, and the lapping of the lakeside waves deepen the sense that the story contains a unique sadness beyond the bare bones of the plot.

It’s an evocative teaser for a film that, as Curtis says, was born out of recent and deep family pain. “This year in terms of projects has been great. In terms of relationships with some family members, it was a bit difficult.

Since that’s what storytellers and filmmakers do, Curtis set to work turning personal experience into art, bringing together the small group of Maine film professionals and friends he’s worked with for several years. . The resulting 27-minute film is now heading to the world, as Curtis and company prepare to submit the short to film festivals across the country. For Curtis, the prospect of sending such a deeply felt and personal story out for public consumption and judgment is not so daunting. Maybe it’s because the energetic and industrious Curtis isn’t intimidated by much.

“‘Broken Petals’ came out of a conversation I had with my mom,” Curtis said during our phone call, hugging in an interview about a long drive to his next filming location in Bangor. “I don’t want to go into too much detail, but he was a very close member of our family, someone I had had a very good relationship with growing up, but not so good now. In the movie, my character Todd’s vices are a bit different from that family member, but it’s still a dynamic based on my life.

For Curtis, “Broken Petals” was also about developing his connections with the Maine movie collaborators he came to trust and lean on during his budding career. After directing 2021’s harrowing relationship drama “Suffocation,” Curtis found his two-day shoot making the shorter but no less intense “Broken Petals” a comparative breeze, thanks to teamwork and a good old generosity of Maine.

“I went to Facebook and basically sent out a call for the type of location we needed,” Curtis said. “This great guy named Jerry Walker told us about his camp at Standish, and we said we’d love to check it out. We weren’t sure what we were expecting, but the place had it all – the cabin, the trails in the back, and it’s right on Sebago Lake, with Jerry letting us film on his dock right on the lake and he’d been involved in the arts his whole career and wanted to give back, and so we got this fully cinematic location all for free I consider it an absolute blessing that we have this place.”

Of course, Maine has no shortage of scenic spots for filmmakers to set up a tripod, but Curtis insists his two-day shoot in Standish was like a dream of fruitful collaboration and professionalism from his young small but dedicated cast and crew.

“We turned a page and a half on Day 1,” he said, “and then 13 pages in six hours on Day 2. It was very focused on everyone’s time and attention in all of the different departments. Everyone was very focused on what they were supposed to do, so we were able to complete the shoot very efficiently and quickly. We are all very proud of that.

For multi-talented Curtis, who acts as well as writes and directs this time around, “Broken Petals” meant delegating and trusting his team. “Our assistant directors, Stephen Bennett and Maverick Keegan, are amazing. They’re so organized and able to cut things that aren’t specifically needed to get where we needed them.

This efficiency is the quality that can make or break a low-budget film (“Broken Petals” cost around $3,000), with Curtis similarly praising mixer and editor Ronney Clement, gaffer Henry Riley (who also reunited the kit film’s impressive professional press), Zach Wheaton’s cinematography and Hirst’s score. He’s especially grateful to Bennett, who conveyed some tough love about Curtis’ own performance.

“On ‘Suffocation,’ there was such a great cast and crew with so many moving parts and I felt I wasn’t able to focus as much as I wanted to. Here, the cast and crew were so small in comparison, and everyone was so confident in their work that I was able to let go of the reins completely and not worry about anything but acting and directing. As for Steve, we have known each other for 2018, and I trusted him so much that I knew I could trust him to watch over my performance. He said to me, ‘If your performance doesn’t feel real and authentic, I’m going to do it again, even if there are 10 seconds in the socket.’ ”

Now that this Maine-made story is testing the waters of the festival, Curtis is generally optimistic that all that hard work will connect with a huge audience.

“Whether it’s a personal story like this or any type of film, there’s always a sense of pressure that it won’t reach people the way it should, or they’ll be surprised by this and you won’t get the kind of reception you’re looking for But we had our cast and crew screening last week, and I’m not ashamed to say it brought me to tears Wallace Douglas is so amazing in the movie, and even though people can’t relate to the Maine setting or certain elements, I think the main story – about family, about relationships – is going to have an impact on the people.

For the busy Curtis, the next few months will see him and his team submit “Broken Petals” to various film festivals and use location-based pre-submission publicity to build interest in the film. He, Bennett and Keegan are also gearing up for the third installment of their cheeky title “(Expletive) in the Dirt Film Festival,” a celebration of low-budget and no-budget filmmakers, which will screen at Portland’s Apohadion Theater on December 16.

For busy Curtis, being a Maine filmmaker is all about excitement, teamwork, and seemingly limitless energy. As he proudly says of his own family of filmmakers, “This movie doesn’t feel like it was made by a group of people in their mid-to-early twenties. Looks like it was made by a group of professionals.

For more on Cody Alexander Curtis and “Broken Petals,” check out the filmmaker’s website, codyalexandercurtis.com.


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