About the Film
About the Film
Header Photo: © Gail D. Dodge
Harry Tappan Heher (Writer, Director, Producer) grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and graduated from Connecticut College, and also studied at New York University, the Sorbonne and the École du Louvre in Paris. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa, and has been a producer for still photography shoots; an assistant to Motion Picture agents at International Creative Management (ICM) in Beverly Hills and New York; a Creative Executive at Eclectic Pictures in Los Angeles; and an event producer for TED. His second film, BENEDICTIONS FROM MALI, is coming soon, as is DU CAP, a script he co-wrote that is being produced by Eclectic Pictures. He is a former resident of West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard and Los Angeles, and is currently based in New York City. The Mistover Tale is his first film.
Michael McDonough, ASC (Director of Photography), is a Brooklyn-based native of Paisley, Scotland, whose cinematographer credits include WINTER’S BONE (director Debra Granik, starring Jennifer Lawrence), ALBERT NOBBS (director Rodrigo Garcia, starring Glenn Close), and the upcoming ELSA & FRED (director Michael Radford, starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer). He was nominated for a 2011 Independent Spirit Award, and won the Chlotrudis Award, for Best Cinematography for WINTER’S BONE.
James Demer (Boom Operator), is a Falmouth, Maine native, whose credits as Sound Mixer include WINTER’S BONE, HIGHER GROUND (director and star Vera Farmiga), and on many episodes of reality television series, including “Survivor”, and “The Apprentice”. His daughter Ava, at age 3, played Tamsin and Ned’s daughter in THE MISTOVER TALE.
Tyler B. Stephens (Sound) is based in Portland, Oregon. His sound and boom operator credits include WENDY & LUCY (director Kelly Reichardt, starring Michelle Williams), GONE (director Heitor Dhalia, starring Amanda Seyfried), and many dramatic and documentary series for television, including “Grimm”, “Leverage”, “Nature”, and “Nova”.
Petra Lent (Co-Editor), lives on Martha’s Vineyard, where she is an editor and producer for the island-based social documentary production company Galen Films. She has an M.A. in Victorian English Literature from Columbia University. Her credits include the Len and Georgia Morris-directed documentaries STOLEN CHILDHOODS (narrated by Meryl Streep), RESCUING EMMANUEL (starring Wangari Maathai and Desmond Tutu), and the upcoming THE SAME HEART (featuring President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, and Jeffrey Sachs).
Loïc de Lame (Co-Editor, Additional Camera) is a Brooklyn-based Belgian, whose editing, directing, and camera department/cinematography (including SteadiCam) credits include MISTRESS AMERICAN and WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (directed by Noah Baumbach), STUCK, the Bert Shapiro-directed SPEAKING FOR MYSELF and ELLIOTT SHARP: DOING THE DON’T, the web series “Wrapped”, and many advertising, music video and rock concert shoots.
Jérôme Leroy (Music Composer), a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, is a native of Paris. Through his partnership with film composer William Ross, he was music programmer for THE HUNGER GAMES (director Gary Ross, starring Jennifer Lawrence), and he has written additional music for A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS (director Todd Strauss-Shulson, starring Kal Penn and John Cho) , and was orchestrator on THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (director Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen). He also has many indie film, shorts, and television credits.
Jimmy Parr (Sound Mixer), is an accomplished Martha’s Vineyard-based sound producer, mixer and musician. His credits include music videos, albums and songs for Carly Simon and James Taylor, book narrations for Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite, audio books for six Pulitzer Prize-winning authors including David McCullough, sound mixes for the documentaries of Galen Films, and many indie albums, music videos and films.
Gail D. Dodge (Production Designer), grew up in Rockport, Maine, and is a commercial and architectural photographer based outside of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the University of the Pacific, and of the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara.
Roshelle Berliner (Set Decorator), is a Los Angeles-based production designer with numerous credits including CHINESE PUZZLE (“Casse-tête Chinois”; director Cédric Klapisch, starring Romain Duris and Audrey Tatou), PRECIOUS (director Lee Daniels, starring Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’nique), and LIFE DURING WARTIME (director Todd Solondz, starring Shirley Henderson and Allison Janney).
Chesca Rynn (Costumes), is based in Moorestown, New Jersey and is a designer, textile restorer, knitter and costumer. She graduated from Connecticut College. Cliona’s groovy vintage 70s duds and Scottish kilt, and Redmond’s work clothes, came direct from the cedar closet of her parents, the Old Saybrook, Connecticut-based antiques dealers, Stephen and Carol Huber.
Jeremy Mayhew (Camera Assistant, Additional Camera), is a Martha’s Vineyard-based cinematographer, editor and director. His cinematography and directing credits include STRIKER’S PASSING, a documentary about his father, one of the island’s last harpoon swordfishermen, as well as many commercial and promo pieces.
Jonathan Manzo (Line Producer), is based in San Francisco, where he is an architect and designer. He graduated from Connecticut College. His Line Producer credits include CHASING THE DRAGON (director Alexander Samaan) and HAPPY HERE AND NOW (director Michael Almereyda).
Fay Dearborn (Script Supervisor), is a Boston native, now based in San Francisco, where she is the documentary programmer for SFIndieFest. She also wrote RETREAT (director Brad Jacques, starring Alicia Brockwell), a thriller set on Cape Cod.
Jonathan Goldman (Additional Camera), is a Woods Hole-based filmmaker, animator and media artist. He graduated from Connecticut College, and has a Master of Science degree in Visual Studies from MIT. Jon has produced documentaries and an Emmy-nominated short form animation for organizations such as Al Jazeera International, WGBH-BOSTON, and the Discovery Channel. He is currently directing and producing a documentary, OIL IN THE FAMILY.
Thomas Mayhew (Additional Sound), is a Martha’s Vineyard-based videographer, writer, editor, location scout and producer, with many island credits. He graduated from Connecticut College, and like his distant cousin Jeremy (also on the crew list), he is descended from the island’s original English settler.
Denise Fitzgerland (Casting), is a New York-based casting director. Her credits include PI (director Darren Aronofsky) and HARLEM ARIA (director William Jennings, starring Damon Wayans).
Sarah Nevin (Additional Casting), lives on Martha’s Vineyard, where she has been involved in island theatre, including productions directed by Lee Fierro, for many years. A Scarsdale, New York native, she studied at the University of California at Berkeley. She is a metaphysical psychic and channel based in Edgartown.
Molly Peters (Photographer), is a Martha’s Vineyard native, and a graduate of the Photography Program at Bard College, where she studied under Stephen Shore and Larry Fink. Molly grew up at the farm where THE MISTOVER TALE was mainly filmed. For more information about her work, visit her website at www.mollypetersphoto.com.
Garrick Gott (Graphic Designer), is a well-known New York-based graphic designer, with a focus on book design. His clients include Rizzoli, the Whitney Museum, Gagosian Gallery, and Friends of the High Line, and many book and magazine publications.
Jack Kamhaji (Trailer Editor; Master Creation), a producer, editor, and post-production supervisor, is the owner of CrafTV Productions in New York City. Jack’s many credits include creating trailers and promos for PBS, Merchant Ivory Films, Sony Pictures Classics, and Tribeca Film Festival, as well as branded entertainment for HBO Latino, Food Network, and Pepsi.
The germination of this project was a choice: do I go to film school or make a film? I chose to make a feature-length film, and one that was quirky, moody, and unique. It would bring to life one of my favorite novels, Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, in a modern American context, and be influenced by 1970s French and Scandinavian cinema.
I reread Hardy’s novel several times to create the script, and it became clear to me that the most important, intriguing character in the novel was not Eustacia Vye or Clym Yeobright or the other inhabitants of Egdon Heath, but rather the heath itself. I love the island of Martha's Vineyard, where I have spent both joyful and melancholy times with family and friends on a remote farm. This place was the inspiration for a new Egdon Heath, with open plains, wild moors and ocean beaches. In the script I tried to transmute the people of the very English Egdon Heath onto a very American island. I re-imagined Hardy’s heath folk as native islanders and “summer visitors” of Martha’s Vineyard, and adapted their situations and choices to modern lifestyles. Social tension would be created by making some characters WASP establishment “summer people”, and others islanders of Irish Catholic descent, to light upon that historical discrimination in New England. The farm’s stark landscapes would exemplify and influence the emotional distances and isolation of the characters.
In the novel, Hardy seemed to say that humans are very small players in an ancient, changing landscape. Nature will continue on, humans will not. Hardy's description of the Heath sums up this concept: "...its Titanic form seemed to await something; but it had waited thus, unmoved, during so many centuries, through the crises of so many things..." Hardy’s Egdon Heath was a symbol of both the brute force and the tranquility of Nature, and as a portal to the greater authority of pagan gods.
In technical terms, Nature guides and shapes this film. In some scenes, the viewer is meant to see from nature’s perspective: the characters are seen from a physical, and therefore emotional, distance. Under the looming sky and at times a circling osprey, their intense struggles and passions are trivialized, and exposed as vain.
These wide shots reflect this creative decision, and the viewer may not be too sympathetic to the characters: neither is Nature. Hardy created characters that represent humans in all their flawed glory. The strong and vibrant actors brought the modern characters to life. Cliona whines and rages. Ned sabotages himself through addiction. Henry wavers between loyalty to mother or his headstrong wife. Tamsin loves an unreliable man. Mrs Goodrich is bound by status and a closed mind. Redmond pines for a woman beyond his social standing. They are small town legends. The natural world around them could impart wisdom and insight, through the cycles of the seasons, omens and signs, birds and animals. Some choose to live with fervor and fury, others mildly, as thunderstorms or sunny days. Nature offers them all a lesson of humility through their narcissism, should they could grasp it. This lack of vision twists their individual fates. Several characters fail to see beyond themselves, and pay dearly for it. Some carry on, with resigned serenity. One sees…in the final moment.
The film, like the novel, is a pastoral, spiritual work. At the end of the novel Hardy made Clym Yeobright (the “Henry Goodrich” character in THE MISTOVER TALE) a broken man, transformed by his losses, but alive to hope. I think Hardy meant to convey that our natural environment, or our perception of it, can become our fate. Eustacia (“Cliona”) railed at the Heath as her stern exacting jailer, whose life force diminished hers. Clym (“Henry”) saw beyond its fury to its gentleness, and it gave him a different destiny. Nature ever reminds us that our joy and despair, however wonderful or overwhelming, are fleeting and cyclical. In natural cycles, darkness always recedes in time, and then there is Light.
Ideally, this film should be viewed in a theatre: it was made to envelop the viewer. The wonderful cinematographer Michael McDonough ensured the beauty of the PAL video shots. TV and computer screens may not present it to its best advantage. We purposefully gave the film a slightly misty retro look and aura, to conjure a sense of the recent past. The wild nature sounds, all recorded on location, are intended to surround and transport the viewer - as is the soundtrack by Jérôme Leroy, which expertly captures the characters’ pathos and ephemeral joys, and this grand, active landscape. The editors Petra Lent and Loïc de Lame had a formidable task: the first cut echoed the novel-inspired script’s plot closely, and they whittled away to create a streamlined version for this visual medium. The emphasis was placed on faithful storytelling, and setting an ethereal mood. We worked in stages, with life events and other work delaying our progress. There are imperfections in this film that some viewers may not see beyond, but I don’t regret that it is not glossy. My hope is that the film will find its audience among emotional, contemplative, or moody types who appreciate a good story, when not roaming in lonely places and communing with nature.
The years it took the complete this film have taught me many important life and work lessons, and the final version of the film, with added scenes at the end, speaks to my own journey. I was a different person when I began this film, and with the cast and crew I lived through the hurricane of its creation. In a sense I have been transformed by it, as Henry has in the film’s last scene. There is a lightness is sharing this film with the world, and solace in knowing that I stayed true to my original vision. I hope you enjoy it.
– Harry Tappan Heher
The Mistover Tale was at once inspired by Thomas Hardy’s novel The Return of the Native, but also by the island where it was filmed, Martha’s Vineyard.
The “Vineyard”, as it known to locals and “summer visitors”, was originally called Noepe by the island’s true natives, the Wampanoag Tribe. The Wampanoags have a reservation on the island to this day. Their stories of the island continue on, and one in particular also inspired the film.
The novel that inspired The Mistover Tale, Thomas Hardy’s The Return Of The Native was first published in London in 1878, in excerpt form in the magazine Belgravia.
This ancient legend also influenced the writing of the script for The Mistover Tale, which was filmed on and around "the Plains", where both tragedies are set. [Please excuse some of the politically incorrect and antiquated manner of speech.]
The Legend of Katama.
From "Martha's Vineyard, History, Legends and Stories" by Henry Franklin Norton, first published by The Pyne Printery, Hartford, Connecticut, in 1923.
"Katama was a beautiful Indian maiden who lived in the village of Wintucket, three miles below Edgartown, with her father Nashamois, chief of the tribe. She was sought after by many young braves, but her father had promised her to Ahquampacha, chief of an allied tribe whom she hated. She busied herself making mats and baskets for the wigwam, where she expected to live an unhappy life.
One day she went to Quanomiqua in her little canoe to get grasses, which grew more luxuriant and beautiful there than anywhere else on Noepe. While she was picking out the ones she wished a shadow fell on her. Looking up she saw a handsome young Indian who told her that his name was Mattakessett, chief of a neighboring tribe. He was so respectful and handsome that before they parted she had promised to be his queen. She paddled back to her wigwam greatly troubled, because she knew that her people were enemies of her lover's tribe, and her father with the help of Ahquampacha would make war on him as soon as they knew of the love affair.
Mattakessett and his tribe raised corn on "the Plains" and were envied by all the neighboring tribes. The tribes of Pohoganut, Ahquampacha, and Nashamois planned to make a raid and rob the fields of their golden harvest. They selected a moonless night and the tribes were detailed for attack. Some crept along the South Beach, some by Shockamosset, and others by Wishshackett, to surround "the Plains", and to make escape impossible.
When Katama heard the plans she slipped away early and warned her lover of the threatened attack. Mattakessett poised his warriors for battle. At dusk he sent the squaws, papooses, and old people to Chappaquiddick for safety. He awaited his foes. The battle was fierce, and Mattakessett being overwhelmed by a greater number of warriors, his braves were all soon killed or captured. He stood on the beach alone with Katama. After seeing the result of the battle, they stepped into her little canoe and paddled quickly towards Chappaquiddick.
In the middle of the bay, where the tide sweeps around the eastern point of the channel, the canoe was upset in the whirl of the tide, and the lovers found themselves swimming for life. They could have gained the western shore, but they knew that death awaited them by the hands of Nashamois and Ahquampacha. Katama's strength failed her. Mattakessett took her in his arms and tried to reach the other shore, but in vain. So they both lost their lives."
Header Photo: © Molly Peters
We are immensely grateful to the generous donors who supported The Mistover Tale's IndieGoGo campaign.
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