A new short film, “Day 90,” will be filmed in early December here on the Vineyard. The film might run as long as 30 minutes and take less than two weeks to shoot, but getting to the filming stage has been a much longer process.
Written and directed by Mara Ditchfield of Edgartown, the movie is her thesis film for a Masters of Fine Arts from New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia (NYU). It is the story of a young, quick-witted mom who struggles through her final day of court-ordered, mandatory sobriety in order to gain visitation rights to her daughter.
The script developed from an idea Ms. Ditchfield had four years ago.
“Nettie Harper, the protagonist, came to me then. I never shot that short film because I choose to attend NYU’s program in Singapore and the script was very American in style,” she said. “But Nettie stayed with me, tugging on my shirtsleeves like a little sister begging to be brought along to the playground with my older friends.”
It wasn’t until December of last year, when she was home for Christmas and was in a rush, that she began working on the film. Another film Ms. Ditchfield had made, “Black Horn Night Heron,” the year before in Cambodia, had been elected to premiere at the Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin. “In order to go to Berlin and pass my classes I needed to submit a draft of a short screenplay,” she said. “I just sat at the computer and threw up the whole thing, ‘Day 90,’ in a day.”
While the genesis of the film took only a day, the pre-production process has taken months. “I have been working on the script for the last six months. Other than the lead character the script has absolutely nothing to do with the original draft. It’s really just a teaser film for a feature length film I hope to make,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a very consolidated version of that. I would love to be shooting the feature version in a year and a half but there are a lot of steps between now and then. I can only focus on the short version right now.”
The film is about drug rehabilitation, specifically on the Vineyard, a community she knows well. “I am so happy to be working on the Island. It is very much a Vineyard film. I think of the Vineyard as being another character in the script,” she said. “We are looking at 18 different shooting locations.”
To date, the project has been financed with credit cards and frequent flyer miles in addition to a small amount of seed money the script garnered by placing second in a school competition. The film will not be cheap to make. Transporting the main crew of seven is one significant expense. The crew are coming from India, China, California, New York, and Massachusetts. Most of them are from her class at NYU and worked on “Black Horn, Night Heron,” and are volunteering their time to work on the film. Ms. Ditchfield said she is scrambling to cover their transportation and lodging expenses.
Then there’s the equipment: Some of the equipment and cameras are from NYU, but Ms. Ditchfield said that she must pay for insuring it all.
Ms. Ditchfield is using Indiegogo, an international crowd-funding site, to help raise funds. The project has also received fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas, a web-based nonprofit that enables “Day 90″ to receive tax deductible donations.
The filmmaker is a member of a talented art-centric Vineyard family. She moved to Martha’s Vineyard with her parents when she was two, went to the Edgartown School and graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) in 1998. Her dad, Michael, was a psychologist, has written plays, and currently writes novels. Her mom, Lynn, taught Spanish at MVRHS and now runs the Adult and Community Education Program (ACE) on the Island. Her brother, Brian, is the managing director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival and a filmmaker in his own right.
After high school, she majored in theater studies with a concentration in playwriting at Boston University College of Fine Arts, in their conservatory program, graduating in 2002 before entering NYU.
Auditions for “Day 90″ have been held in New York and Boston, and more are planned for the Vineyard to fill out the cast and for extras. Ms. Ditchfield is hoping to find someone on the Island to compose original music. “‘Day 90′ will use as much local crew as we can muster,” she said. “We still need a hand on many levels: local unit production manager, boom operator, a production assistant, craft services, and many other positions.”
Lily Lubin, a senior at MVRHS, is assisting with the production. Brooke Hardman, Ms. Ditchfield’s sister-in-law and founder of the New Writers, New Plays program on the Island, is also helping out. “We are hoping to recruit a lot more Island help because like everything else good in this world and on this Island in particular, filmmaking flourishes in community collaboration,” Ms. Ditchfield said. “It is such an amazing pleasure for me to be making a film in the supportive community of my childhood.”
For more information about the film, or to donate, visit mditchfield.wordpress.com.