Taylor Toole: On the other side of the camera
"It was quite an experience," says Taylor Toole, about the five years he spent developing the idea for "Mow Crew," his new feature-length comedy about young Vineyarders working as landscapers or hairdressers, but dreaming about music careers.
The Martha's Vineyard native caught the acting bug in third grade, when he appeared in a Vineyard Playhouse production of Adam Wilson's play, "Children of Divorce." After high school, he switched to working behind the camera and won the Senior Screenwriting Award at Emerson College.
In Los Angeles after college, Mr. Toole interned on the TV show, "NYPD Blue," and worked as an assistant to producer/writer David Milch on the HBO series, "Deadwood."
"Mow Crew" had its world premiere last month at the Boston International Film Festival. "It was a really good turnout," Mr. Toole says. Vanguard, actor Aaron Lloyd Barr's (Eric) New York band, performed at the opening party. The director has submitted the film to nine more festivals.
Logistics for filming "Mow Crew" were daunting. With 53 speaking parts, the director had to juggle many characters. Viewers will recognize many Vineyarders, including Paul Munafo as Sage's dad, Charlie; Taffy McCarthy as Eric's mom; Rob Myers as the head of the rival mow crew; Jill Macy as the woman in the Chilmark Store; and Tristan Israel as himself.
"People embraced us," Mr. Toole says. Not only did they open their pocketbooks to help him fund the $215,000 Independent production, but they also gave him an access to Island locations that he calls unprecedented since the filming of Steven Spielberg's blockbuster, "Jaws."
Martha's Vineyard Hospital appears in one scene of the film, as does a room in Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard's offices. Thanks to the director's mother, Marney Toole, who works for Community Services' Early Education program, 33 three-year-olds turned out for a birthday party scene.
The filmmaker's dad, Richard Toole, a former Martha's Vineyard Commissioner who works as a carpenter and caretaker, arranged with some of his customers for use of their houses as sets. The senior Tooles' home provided the setting for where Sage and Eric, the two central characters, live. Patrons of the Lampost will recognize scenes of the two singing at the Oak Bluffs hangout.
"The whole thing was such a big education for me," Mr. Toole says. One of the challenges was performing in a leadership position, which meant keeping the crew and cast interested and focused. "My leadership muscles got a lot of use."
Mr. Toole, who has four more scripts in various stages of development, is optimistic about finding a distributor for "Mow Crew." He says, "I think there is an audience for it. I think we have a pretty good shot at getting the investors' money back."