Camden Actress Comes Home to Shoot a Movie
Local “Kid” Back in Town, making movies
Thursday, July 14, 2011 9:28 AM
Camden may be far from LA, New York and other film meccas, but it does have a Topsider-clad foot in the door: The Camden International Film Festival, returning for its seventh season in September, is ranked in the top 20 of documentary festivals; and Camdenite Caitlin FitzGerald, a young actor who appeared with Meryl Streep in 2010's "It's Complicated," a romantic comedy that also starred Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. FitzGerald played Streep's eldest daughter, the fiancée of John Krasinski.
Left to right, front: Caitlin Fitzgerald; Emily Best, producer, actor; Emily Alexander-Wilmeth, production supervisor. Back, Susan Main, actress; Caroline von Kuhn, co-writer, director
FitzGerald, daughter of Camden's Des FitzGerald and Pam Allen of Portland, attended Camden schools and, as she puts it, was acting in community drama groups since she was 8. She graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and stayed on in New York because she wanted to be a theater actress, but it took a year for her to book her first acting job, "four lines in a really low-budget film. It takes a long time to find a way; a lot of people drop out," FitzGerald says of her chosen career.
She had another role on "Law & Order" in 2008, but she credits a stint as Juliette in a Santa Cruz, California, outdoor Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliette as helping her to secure the part in "It's Complicated," because it was a huge role and required a lot of her.
She auditioned for six months for "It's Complicated," reading with Krasinski and the actors playing the other siblings. The film had already started shooting when she was invited to "come down and meet Meryl" and learned she had the part.
Most recently FitzGerald starred, along with Ed Burns, in "Newlyweds," Burns' faux-documentary about a young couple whose honeymoon is ruined by the arrival of other family members, which closed the Tribeca Film Festival this past April.
"Newlyweds," which was shot almost exclusively in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood using a $3,000 camera and wireless mics, was a far different experience for FitzGerald than working on a major Hollywood movie, where "there are usually 50 people watching you." FitzGerald says the film "has issues, but is charming. It feels sweet and intimate."
Working with Burns, who is both an actor and veteran filmmaker, FitzGerald became excited about the possibilities of low-budget filmmaking. Burns let her voice her opinions and expand the script's dialogue. In one four-month period, FitzGerald says, they shot enough footage for two films because the cast added so much to the original script.
"I nearly drove the 'Newlyweds' cameraman crazy, I asked so many questions," FitzGerald said, "and he gave me great advice."
In December FitzGerald started talking to a group of friends about writing their own script, to be shot on location in Camden. The group, all women, were able to clear their schedules for a four-week shoot, which begins this week.
Because the midcoast is so beautiful in July, said FitzGerald, a bigger camera and more crew and equipment will be needed in order to fully show the region (think "In the Bedroom," also shot in the Camden-Rockland area). Shooting will take place at her father's camp in Jefferson and home in Camden, Cuzzy's Bar and High Mountain Hall, also in Camden, at the Riley School in Glen Cove, and at a residence in Tenants Harbor.
"We reached out to the community and they to us," FitzGerald says of the support she and her crew have received. Many items on the film's wish list have been donated- from lobsters and bug spray to financial support and housing actors in their homes.
The story, which FitzGerald is co-writing with Caroline von Kuhn, who is also the film's director, is about Charlie, a young woman journalist who is in Colombia writing about the drug trade. She returns home to write the eulogy for a close friend who died suddenly, sequestering herself in the woods while she struggles to understand what has happened.
The story is based on FitzGerald's own experience losing a friend while in their early 20s.
"This community has lost a lot of young people," FitzGerald recalls. "That first moment when you lose someone is a real coming of age." Many people helped FitzGerald when her friend died, and that support is echoed in the story. There is as yet no working title for the script, but the crew is hoping a bolt from the blue will strike and they'll have it.
FitzGerald has never written a film script before, and, in addition, she will be in almost every scene as its star.
"I've never felt such fear," she says of the experience, although she describes her career as "a constant interaction with fear - it's what I like about acting." Playing the lead in every single scene "is like a marathon," FitzGerald says, "you have to conserve energy as you go." But in the end, she says, "It's great to be a filmmaker and not an actor."