Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Happy 2014 everyone! To kick off the New Year I’ve decided to publish another installment of my film location spotlight series. This is my favorite series I’m running on this blog and this month I’ve decided to turn the lens to my hometown of Portland, Maine and the surrounding metropolitan area. -Eric
Southern Maine includes a variety of locations from natural inland scenery to cobblestone and brick old town backdrops along with a medium sized urban environment that is Portland and the surrounding metropolitan area. This is all before you get to Maine’s iconic rocky coast with historical lighthouses and the famous Calendar Islands of Casco Bay.
Maine is the northeastern most state in the United States and one of the original New England states. Originally a part of the Massachusetts colony, Maine is bordered by New Hampshire to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Canada to the north. The Canadian provinces it borders are Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is also within reach of Nova Scotia.
The area of southern Maine this article will focus on is largely the Portland Metropolitan Area, Casco Bay and a few locations of interest peppered around the outside of this general area.
From Wikipedia: Casco Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Maine on the southern coast of Maine. Its easternmost approach is Cape Small and its westernmost approach is Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth. The city of Portland sits along its southern edge and the Port of Portland lies within.
The Calendar Islands gets its name because there are 365 islands peppered throughout the vast bay (including every rock & ledge) and while some of the islands are inhabited by local residents, summer visitors and their guests, there are many islands that are not inhabited at all. There are also a number of abandoned military forts and other structures that can be explored provided the filmmaker has a boat. One fort of interest is Fort Gorges which sits on Hog Island ledge, practically its own island. To obtain filming permits, I suggest you begin the process by reaching out to the Maine Film Office.
Inhabited islands include Little Diamond Island, Great Diamond Island (with the private Diamond Cove resort), Cliff Island, the Town of Long Island (not New York’s LI), the Town of Chebeague Island and Peaks Island which is a part of the City of Portland. They all offer different views, scenery and of course have different levels of friendliness as it pertains to film production. Each island is at least worth a scout and if you think you are interested in one of the islands, reach out to local residents and community leaders to see how welcomed your crew might be.
Many of the islands can be reached by public ferry, which depart from the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal. An interesting fact about the terminal: outside of Casco Bay Lines there is a large bell buoy on display. This is a prop from the film The Whales of August, which was shot entirely on Cliff Island and stars Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Vincent Price, Mary Steenburgen, Harry Carey Jr. and many other Hollywood legends.
The coat of Maine is famous for how rocky it is and imagery of the shoreline is often quite recognizable to well traveled audiences. The Maine Coast is one of those visually specific locations that cannot be replicated in any other area of the world. The coast has a variety of historical lighthouses, included Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, which is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Portland Head was commissioned by George Washington and sits at the entrance to Portland Harbor.
Portland is Maine’s largest city (on top of being the biggest US city east of Boston). While it suffers from identity crises thanks to the more popular Portland, Oregon, Portland, Maine is quite a bit different and unique both visually and in attitude.
Nearby Areas of Interest
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is only about an hour away (by car) and Mount Washington isn’t much further. In fact you can see Mount Washington, from certain areas of Portland, on a clear day. Other scene specific locations southern Maine offers include: Scarborough Downs Race Track, Funtown/Splashtown USA (amusement & waterpark), the Maine Mall and quaint rural scenery to boot.
The next time you’re looking for a unique American location to set your story, consider southern Maine.
Films made in Maine: The Man Without A Face, The Cider House Rules, In The Bedroom, Messsage In A Bottle, Jumanji, The Preacher’s Wife, Casper & the previously mentioned The Whales of August. These are merely the mainstream films. A vast list of of independent films have also been produced in the State of Maine and more specifically southern Maine.