When he was scouting locations for his new project, “Laketown,” Whidbey Island quickly became the logical choice, said Seattle filmmaker Tyler Hill.
A small town “extra-natural” drama, “Laketown” is about a father who disappears for 20 years after the accidental drowning of his young daughter. Upon his return to Laketown, the father reconnects with his daughter’s best friend whose own mother is dying from cancer.
What nobody knows is that his daughter, 20-years dead but all-grown-up, has returned with him. It seems she has been with him the entire time.
“It’s a story about family and letting go,” Hill said. “An underlying theme is sometimes there are things that can’t be explained.”
Because of its scenic beauty, Whidbey Island is a natural choice for the production.
“This place has magic,” Hill said. “And it’s a magical kind of script.”
“A lot of times films will be shot with plain background and then special effects are used to create a certain feel,” he said. “I’m much more interested in finding a place that had that feel naturally.”
“The film will be shot on anamorphic lenses so it’s going to be shot really well,” Hill added.
“Whidbey is going to look really great.”
While still in “pre-pre production,” Hill said he and his crew are visiting the island and scouting locations, talking to businesses and getting the groundwork laid for anticipated filming in April or May of 2018.
“There are a lot of locations we’re interested in from south to north,” Hill said.
The script calls for scenes to be shot in a coffee shop, bar and flower shop, but a lot of the script takes place inside and outside the characters’ homes.
During an early scouting trip, the team looked up every coffee shop on the island and checked them out.
“The script calls for a particular kind of coffee shop,” Hill said.
“When we got to Knead &Feed (in Coupeville), we were sold.”
Hill said the coffee shop location will be a major filming location.
Businesses on the south end of the island were also approached about being locations in the film, but nothing is firmed up at this point.
Knead &Feed owner Doug Kroon confirmed he’s had a preliminary conversation with Hill about filming in his restaurant and is open to the idea, but said nothing is solid at this point.
“It just depends on what kind of accommodations they make for us,” Kroon said. “If we have to shut down for any length of time, what kind of compensation are they offering.
“Until he starts talking dollars, I haven’t agreed to anything.”
Knead &Feed is no stranger to film production. It was used during the major motion picture “Practical Magic,” which brought A-list stars Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest to Coupeville for filming during 1998.
During that time, Kroon said his sister handled negotiations. Also, with his siblings being co-owners of the business, he must consult with them.
Right now, “Laketown” is partially funded. Hill said he anticipates completely funding the film, which will be distributed through Sony Pictures.
“We’re a small budget film, but no longer a micro-budget film,” Hill said, adding he is getting his funding via traditional routes.
Executive producer Tanya Hill, who’s funded other films, including the upcoming “Will Gardner,” starring Gary Sinise and Dermot Mulroney, has agreed to put up the initial funding.
Hill said he has a meeting next week he hopes will net him the rest of the money he needs.
Veteran actor Ryan O’Quinn is a secondary producer and will have a supporting role in the film. He had roles in the movies “That Thing You Do,” “Starship Troopers” and “Beverly Hills 90210.”
With a film crew of about 20-25 people, filming on the island is expected to last about 25 days.
“Because we’re not a $30 million film, we wanted to stay as least impactful as possible,” Hill said.
There will be a need for extras when filming starts, and Hill said he hopes to use locals if possible. Calls for extras will be publicized locally.
A number of Whidbey Island residents served as extras for “Practical Magic.”
Hill said one of the things his production team tries to do is engage and give back to the community.
Once filming is completed, any clips of the island not used in the film and not including the actors will be given as a gift to Whidbey Island.
For example, if the crew shoots footage of Deception Pass, but it’s not in the film, it could conceivably be used by the tourism board for promotional purposes.
“We’re always looking for ways to contribute and give back,” Hill said.
“It’s more pronounced here because of how friendly and welcoming everyone has been to us.”