While writing her latest novel, “We Only Know So Much,” author Elizabeth Crane had imagined very clearly what the fictional, small and bucolic setting—a town coming to life before her eyes—looked like.She wrote her novel—which focuses on one family’s struggle to survive in less-than-ideal circumstances—without a specific place in mind, but with the values of small-town life. And when the author first stepped foot on the East End last week, her vision jumped off the page and into reality while on the set of a film based on her novel.
“It was perfect,” the Manhattan resident gushed, standing outside Old Whalers’ Church on Union Street in Sag Harbor last Wednesday. “It is better than even I imagined.”
The 15-day shoot, which is slated to wrap on Tuesday, November 25, will feature the East End as the picturesque background for the film, directed by Ms. Crane’s longtime friend, and former Sag Harbor resident, Donal Lardner Ward. The family-centered “dramedy” revolving around the inner workings of three generations is Ms. Crane’s first book to be adapted for the screen, a project Mr. Ward approached the author about just six months after it was published in June 2012. They have been running with the idea ever since, she said.
“I trust him completely with my story,” she said of Mr. Ward. “He is a great filmmaker, and I instantly thought, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”
For the next several months, the pair—who first met 20 years ago, when she worked as his assistant—modified the book into an eponymous screenplay and set out to make Mr. Ward’s fourth feature film.
Initially, the production team scouted several locations in New York before settling on the East End, where Mr. Ward lived for more than 10 years and said he has always felt a strong connection to.
“I was looking for a project that could be done on a small budget that was really character driven,” Mr. Ward said on set, taking a break from shooting. “And when my good friend published this novel, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for.
“I love the book and the characters,” he continued. “I love story and the family. I have spent so much time here over the last 25 years that I knew I wanted to do it here. I just love it here.”
The majority of the film takes place inside a Bridgehampton residence, he said, while other locations include Sag Harbor businesses, such as Bay Burger, Around Again and Schiavoni’s Market, as well as the Milk Pail Orchard in Water Mill, all of which opened their doors free of charge.
“When you are doing a low-budget film, you really rely on favors and people doing stuff to help you out,” Mr. Ward said. “We have gotten tremendous support from everyone here in the community. There will be a lot of local flair.”
The film centers on Jean Copeland, portrayed by HBO’s “Big Love” alumni Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Gordon Copeland, played by Damian Young, best known for his roles in the feature films “Unbreakable” and “Everybody’s Fine.” When the Copelands and their two children move into Mr. Copeland’s childhood home to help his father cope with Parkinson’s disease, personalities and selfish desires clash and evolve in a way only family can understand.
“It is about a group of people afraid of losing something, or not getting something that they wanted, and that speaks to a lot of people these days,” Mr. Ward said. “I feel that, societally, we are caught up in those sort of fears these days, so the movie will ultimately be about embracing what you have.”
Since arriving on the East End, Mr. Ward and Associate Producer Noelle Parker agree they have hit the ground running, considering they are shooting a full feature film in roughly two weeks with a minuscule budget, which they declined to disclose.
“It has been pretty ambitious,” Ms. Parker said. “But so far it has been going great and everyone is doing well.”
While this is Mr. Ward’s first time shooting on the East End, his films are no stranger to the area. His first feature film, “My Life’s In Turnaround,” screened during the first-ever Hamptons International Film Festival in 1993, followed by his next film, “The Suburbans,” during the festival’s now-defunct summer series.
“I had lived in Sag Harbor for 10 years and I have spent a lot of time out here,” Mr. Ward said. “I love it here, so I wanted to show that.”