Central Whidbey takes center stage in a haunting short film that is now available to stream for free for a limited time.
“The Hour After Westerly” is based on a short story by Robert M. Coates that was published by The New Yorker magazine in 1947. It’s about a traveling salesman who mysteriously loses an hour driving home one night, sees visions and meets a strange woman who acts like she knows him. He’s later mystified when the woman seemingly disappears.
Ray Bradbury included the story in his anthology, “Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow,” published in 1952.
The story’s Twilight Zone-esque intrigue is what drew in Los Angeles-based filmmaker Nate Bell. After developing the story with his wife, Bell and his creative partner and friend, Andrew Morehouse wrote the script, produced and directed the 30-minute film. Locals will recognize Admiralty Head Lighthouse, the Fort Casey Inn, Coupeville Auto Repair and many shots of open county roads.
The audience may recognize lead actor Peter Jacobson from the TV drama “House” and lead actress Shannyn Sossaman from her role opposite Heath Ledger in the movie “A Knight’s Tale.”
Bell’s family visits his wife’s parents in Coupeville every year, and Whidbey seemed like the right place to make the short film.
“It seemed like a no-brainer when we saw how beautiful it was, and the convenience about having people you know already living there,” he said.
Bell’s father-in-law helped with preparations for the shoot and even recruited one of the actors.
The row of white houses at the Fort Casey Inn and “that kind of light you can only get in the Pacific Northwest” sold the duo on Whidbey as their location, Bell said.
Some of the logistics were easier here, too.
“Southern California has been my home all of my life, and it’s very difficult in some ways to shoot down here because there’s so many permits, and it’s very expensive,” Bell explained. “Moving out of the city in a place where we could cut through some of that red tape — it was a totally different feeling shooting up on Whidbey Island than shooting in Los Angeles.”
The movie was filmed in the fall of 2018 and premiered at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles in the spring of 2019. It was entered into 20 film festivals, and it scored Best Actor — Short Film at FirstGlance Film Festival Los Angeles for Jacobson. Coronavirus restrictions resulted in the postponement of several film festivals, and the filmmakers were eager to release it to the public, so they posted it online. It is free to view until Jan. 17.
“We eventually got impatient waiting to share it with everyone,” Bell said.
The link will be removed so the film is still eligible for film festivals, he added.
It received a warm welcome at the Whidbey Island Film Festival last year, and Bell thanked the community for its support before and after the premiere.
He is currently working on another project brought to him by the film’s lead actress, Sossaman, that could bring the director back to the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s definitely in consideration,” he said. “We don’t have a fixed location for this story yet, but we’d welcome any opportunity to go back to Whidbey.”
•Watch “The Hour After Westerly” until Jan. 17 at https://vimeo.com/492609784/718dd1bce2.