So, you live in Maine, and your first novel becomes your first movie, which spawns your first screenplay, which leads to your first job as an executive producer in Hollywood — and it all ends up winning at the Cannes Film Festival.
Four out of five isn’t bad, as they say, but that dream of boats full of international cinema laurels could still wait for groundbreaking Midcoast novelist Kay Stephens – everything else is done.
Never mind that she started the book at 33 and is now 53, her first novel, ‘The Ghost Trap’, is being made into a movie in towns and ports from Warren to Camden . It is also the film company‘s first feature film.
The story and the filmmakers have also attracted big names from Hollywood.
The main role, Jamie, will be played by Zak Steiner from the famous television series “Euphoria”. Anja will be actress Greer Grammer, who starred in 2019’s ‘Roe v. Wade’ and is the daughter of TV sitcom star Kelsey Grammer of ‘Frasier’ and ‘Cheers’, as well as Sarah Catherine Hook and Steven Ogg.
The other performers are actress and former Miss Utah Rachel Slawson and actor Taylor Takahashi, who was in the 2021 Hollywood production of “Boogie.”
Because the book is all about lobster farming in Maine, Stephens, a Midcoast resident for 29 years, and a cohort of friends, a handful of local film professionals, and very serious filmmakers imported from Hollywood have been shooting since weeks in places that include Rockport. , Rockland Breakwater, Samoset Resort, Warren and Pushaw Trading Post in Hope.
“The Ghost Trap” is a story of love and found and lost lobsters, and a bitter war between rival lobster clans, a kind of watery version of the Hatfields and McCoys feud from American folklore, Stephens explained during filming. in a rustic house in Garenne.
The house is the imaginary home of the film’s hero, Jamie. At 27, he becomes embroiled in a nasty territorial fight with another lobster family – and is emotionally torn apart when the love of his life suffers a horrific head injury.
“He goes from being a fiancé to being a caretaker,” Stephens said.
The book attempts to authentically portray Maine’s lobster culture, and that’s also what the film aims for, she said.
Ghost trap is a lobster term. It refers to wooden or wire cages that are baited and driven under the waves to catch critters, while suspended from colorful buoys. When they are abandoned or come loose from the buoy, they are called ghost traps.
It’s a metaphor for life and what happens in the book, the overall theme, “Life doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to,” Stephens said.
That seems to be what happened to Stephens and his novel, in a good way – but not at first.
“The Ghost Trap” was published in 2009 by Leapfrog Press. Sales did not jump. After languishing on the hard sell list for years, the cinematic opportunity came unexpectedly for the PenBay Pilot writer, artist and journalist.
“Some people’s novels sell like hot cakes, mine was the opposite,” Stephens said. “It’s a little regional novel, not a bestseller.”
Indeed, the number of copies sold since publication is less than 5,000, she said.
All of that could change because of a chance encounter of a paperback copy with a filmmaker heading to a Maine ferry.
Maine-born Peter Couture is a partner of Hollywood filmmaker James Khanlarian at a relatively new film production company, Khanlarian Entertainment.
Couture, a resident of North Carolina, and Khanlarian, a resident of Los Angeles, were looking for a book to make their first film; four years ago it happened in Couture’s old backyard where he still visits his parents in Northport with his wife and children.
Couture was born and raised in Watertown, Mass. He was vacationing in Maine when, just before boarding a ferry, he grabbed a handful of novels from a “local authors” table in Lincolnville – ironically, it turns out, just across the street. of an Atlantic Highway restaurant called The Lobster Pound, he said.
At first he thought it was a horror story, because of the title. Not only did he find out differently, he loved the book and immediately saw its potential for the big screen.
“That was it,” he said. “I thought it would go really well.”
Without reading the novel and relying solely on Couture’s enthusiasm, Khanlarian said, he was on board to opt for the novel’s rights to the book by the unknown author — and move on to filmmaking.
That’s when the whole thing almost turned into a horror show; Couture emailed Stephens but she thought the offer wasn’t real and didn’t respond, she recalls.
“I almost ruined my whole career,” she laughed in hindsight.
But the deal was eventually done, and by dint of a writers’ strike in Hollywood, Couture and Khanlarian offered Stephens the job as screenwriter.
The script she produced is “incredible,” Khanlarian told Warren on the spot.
And because she quickly became the company’s go-to link to all things Midcoast and all things lobster culture — in this case, from traps and boats to lipstick and high heels — Stephens became the film’s executive producer.
“It’s a huge labor of love,” she said, smiling, but adding that she doesn’t get much sleep anymore due to the difficult filming schedule.
She credited the expertise and friendliness of Midcoast Mainers for the success of the project so far.
Wife and husband Cheri Savage and Ryan Post are just two examples. Hired as local lobster experts, they were quickly elevated to co-producers, a radical departure from their usual work.
Lobster fishermen to the core, the Rockport pair work 800 traps from their 2015 vintage, 40ft boat, High tails, of Spruce Head. Too new to be the movie hero’s lobster boat, the High tails has been transformed into a camera, crew and speed boat for filming on the water.
“You wouldn’t have a movie without local support,” Post said.
Like Couture and Khanlarian, Stephens echoed that observation, calling the expertise of supporting locals and communities, largely voluntary, “absolutely integral” to the filmmakers’ ability to do what they do so far from Hollywood, the hub of the world of cinema. and is home to so many film professionals.
Post also accompanied Stephens for months as she traveled the state promoting the book, with the former vouching for its authenticity.
Regarding the lobster fishery, the captain of the boat said, “It’s the story of my life.
Savage is also no stranger to the lifestyle; she spent time on lobster boats as a child and for years was co-captain of the couple’s boat, she said.
Stephens said of her gloved and tenacious friend, “She’s the only lobster girl with a pink mirror on the boat and high heels.”
Local production work is also a rare opportunity for Maine, according to Stephens and his filmmaking partners. Indeed, when it comes to making Hollywood movies, Maine is pretty much an empty lobster pot, they said.
“No movie has been shot here since ‘Island Zero,'” Stephens said, referring to the 2018 film starring Laila Robbins, Adam Wade McLaughlin and Teri Reeves. This is a fishing community on the island of Maine whose inhabitants begin to disappear after the island is cut off from the outside world.
Yes, there is a Maine Film Board, according to Couture and Khanlarian, but compared to other states, like Georgia, and countries like Canada, Maine doesn’t offer many incentives, like rebates, to the film industry to film here.
“So nobody wants to film here,” Khanlarian said, adding that for a movie like “The Ghost Trap,” Nova Scotia would have offered a lot more in terms of economic incentives. It was the people of Midcoast Maine who made all the difference, he said.
Khanlarian, Couture and novelist Stephens hope to wrap up and complete post-production in a few months, then head off to a series of film festivals and find a distributor for “The Ghost Trap.”
Among the festivals currently on this list — ayuh, Cannes.
The Camden Windjammer Festival has arrived