The Village by the Sea is coming to the silver screen.
Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is, fittingly, set to premiere in Langley at The Clyde Theatre at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7.
For years, writer Andrew Fersch had been honing the idea for an independent film. Like many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, he found himself with abundant free time to pursue his creative outlets – and to watch the Netflix documentary series “Tiger King.”
“I watched that whole thing tragically in my basement on a stationary bike, and the whole time I was saying, ‘Is this the best we can create?’” Fersch said.
Fersch spent a short stint – just under a year – on Whidbey Island as a teacher at the South Whidbey School District for the Alternative Learning Experience program. It was then that the cameras finally began rolling for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave.”
From October 2021 to July 2022, Fersch, director Michael Frye and a cast mostly from Seattle spent the weekends filming. Discerning locals will recognize a variety of familiar locations in Langley, including the Machine Shop, a beloved pinball arcade owned by Tim Leonard that closed in 2022. The Clyde itself also makes an appearance.
Yet place is a somewhat nebulous topic in the film, and the characters never mention that they’re on South Whidbey.
Fersch has always been a fan of the John Hughes era of heartwarming, storytelling filmography. He loves the idea of having a story that’s a comedy or a drama, or often a mix of two, that says something about the way people live.
Though he’s hesitant to use the word, he thinks his film falls solidly under the “dramedy” genre. Three main characters are at a crossroads in life, and they must choose a different way to find a purpose, whether it’s through a job, a relationship or a hobby.
Fersch plays Andy, a character who tries to fix his career and ends up working at a group home. Gretchen Hahn plays Sara, one of the other main characters, and Freeland resident Justin Silva plays Frank.
Fersch and Silva met as new teachers on Whidbey Island and quickly became friends. Though Silva had no acting experience, Fersch suggested that he co-star in his film.
“How many people are going to offer me a part in a movie?” Silva remembers thinking. His character, Frank, has a crisis of conscience.
“Andrew is a really interesting guy in that he takes projects and goes in whatever different direction he can,” Silva said of Fersch.
Fersch wrote and recorded an entire album of music, which serves as the soundtrack for one location in the film. He described it as “punk rockish, loudish, yelly.”
He hopes his humble 70-minute film with a modest budget appeals to moviegoers, when they might be distracted by other recent big successes such as “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.”
“To me it kind of embodies what Whidbey is about, not necessarily what the film is about but the fact that a bunch of people came together to make this in their free time,” Silva said.
Though Fersch now lives in Maine, he won’t soon forget his time on South Whidbey.
“This is, in some ways, a little love letter to a place that we really enjoyed,” he said.
The Whidbey audience will have the first chance to view “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave.” Tickets will be available for $10 each at the door of The Clyde on the day of the show. Fersch himself plans to show up to the premiere. After the film, a panel of people involved in the film’s creation will answer questions.
The film will also run at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8 at El Corazon in Seattle. Tickets are $15 to $25 and are available at wl.seetickets.us/event/movie-premiere:-a-momentary-diversion/566648?afflky=ElCorazon.