Though many a cinematic tale has been set on Cape Cod, few moviemakers have actually ventured to Massachusetts’ world-famous peninsula to shoot there. Daniel Adams is the exception. In adapting Joseph Crosby Lincoln’s 1904 novel, Cap’n Eri, for the big screen, the Boston native knew that shooting on the Cape could add more than just authenticity to the tale, but an entirely new character.
As the film begins its theatrical roll-out after breaking all records at a Cape Cod theater in 2008, MM spoke with Adams about the challenges of shooting outside of Hollywood and why baby-boomers the world over will want to see this movie.
Jennifer M. Wood (MM): Cape Cod has been the setting for many movies in the past, but not a lot of movies have actually shot there. Why was it so important for you to keep the location authentic?
Daniel Adams (DA): To me, Cape Cod is the main character in the movie. Having authentic backgrounds keeps alive the “suspension of disbelief” and enhances the characters in the film. It also helps me when I direct the actors; they can feel, and not just imagine, the surrounding their characters would have felt living in that place at that time. I’ve seen other films that take place on Cape Cod but, for expedient reasons, were shot elsewhere. To me, those other films fall flat, whereas The Golden Boys has a Cape Cod richness that can’t be duplicated using another location.
MM: Considering the fact that there’s not yet a ton of production in the area, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in successfully shooting here?
DA: Some of the issues that we thought were going to be challenges, such as a dearth of experienced cast and crew or the lack of local support because of the unfamiliarity of the needs of a film production, actually turned out to be assets and/or no problems at all. There is an ample supply of experienced film personnel from Boston and Providence, and the Boston SAG office has some wonderful actors to choose from. And the local governments and vendors ended up bending over backwards to support us, reveling in the novelty of having a film shoot in their respective towns.
MM: The film is a period piece—set in 1905; how difficult was it for you and your crew to create an “early century” Cape?
DA: The great thing about Cape Cod is that if you’re shooting a period piece, the exterior locations are sets already half-dressed. Houses, buildings, beaches and even some people still look like they did 100 years ago. A little paint, a few signs, a couple of horses and props, some dirt to cover the pavement and you have an authentic 1905 Cape Cod town.
MM: As Massachusetts as a whole becomes much more production-savvy, how do you see the amount of production happening outside of Boston changing? How will the new studios—Plymouth Rock in Plymouth and SouthField in Weymouth—augment this?
DA: If the state legislature decides to ignore the recent negative rhetoric about the tax credit program, and gives some indication that it will continue the policy, then we will see major changes. The Plymouth and Weymouth projects would move forward at a much more rapid pace, and that will trigger an expansion of the film production workforce. Because pre-production and post-production facilities will eventually be available, we’ll see a great deal more productions being done in the state. From a personal standpoint, I love being able to spend a long day shooting, knowing I can go home to my family each night. I hope I can continue the practice for many years to come!
MM: The film is being released theatrically now but actually played at the Cape Cinema in Dennis last summer and broke all previous records in the theater’s 77-year history. What does that tell you about the local audience? About distribution at a grassroots level?
DA: The same conclusions I reached regarding the local audience also extend to the nationwide audience: In the last few years, several movies were shot on Cape Cod that also had test screenings at the same theater, and none had anywhere near the success that The Golden Boys enjoyed. What this tells me is that there is a huge market for old-fashioned cinematic storytelling—films without the foul language and violence so prevalent in the majority of films produced today. Keep in mind that I have no political agenda here; I just feel that baby-boomers—the largest movie-going audience in history—are grossly under-served, and they yearn for films that are made in the tradition of John Ford and Frank Capra. I just think that because Cape Cod has a higher-than-usual baby-boomer-plus population, the film just struck a chord with them. I’m hoping to see the same pattern nationwide.
MM: Your upcoming film, The Lightkeepers, is also set on Cape Cod. What lessons did you learn on The Golden Boys that you’ll take with you into the new film?
DA: On The Golden Boys, I learned that that if you feature Cape Cod, treating it as another lead character or actor, you greatly enhance the production value of the film. Using Cape Cod settings and backdrops give the movie a depth that is usually not seen in independent films, giving it a “look” that even mega-budgeted films have a hard time reproducing. I plan to feature our locations even more prominently in The Lightkeepers.
The Golden Boys, starring David Carradine, Rip Torn, Charles Durning and Mariel Hemingway, is in theaters nationwide now. Visit www.thegoldenboysmovie.com for more information.