The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Academy Award nominee Genevieve Bujold and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Moonrise Kingdom) in Jay Craven’s film, Northern Borders. Willow O’Feral photo.

See Northern Borders

Wilton Town Hall Theatre (40 Main St., Wilton): Thursday, Aug. 7, at 7:30 p.m.
Henniker Community Center (17 Main St., Henniker): Friday, Aug. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Red River Theatres (11 S. Main St., Concord): Thursday, Aug. 21, through Sunday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. (Craven will attend Aug. 21)
Warner Town Hall (15 Flanders Memorial Road, Weare): Saturday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m.
For more New Hampshire showings, visit

Stories of us
Northern Borders keeps it in New England

By Kelly Sennott

 “If we rely on Hollywood to tell all stories, they won’t tell stories about us,” said Northern Borders screenwriter and director Jay Craven in a phone interview last week. “I feel like we have good stories in New England and that we can make good films in New England.”

In his filmmaking, Craven tells New England stories in New England places. At the time of the call, he was readying for a 100-town New England tour for his film based on the book Northern Borders by Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher. The movie was shot in New England and New Hampshire, and the tour hits our region starting in Wilton Aug. 7. 
The film stars Academy Award nominees Bruce Dern (from Nebraska, who later said Northern Borders helped him cinch that role), Geneviève Bujold (Anne of a Thousand Days, King of Hearts) and Seamus Davey Fitzpatrick (Moonrise Kingdom and Before Midnight).
Northern Borders is a coming-of-age film about 10-year-old Austen Kittredge, who is sent to live on his grandparents’ Vermont farm in 1956. The area is popping with eccentric people (including his grandparents, whose marriage is known as the Forty Years War). Kittredge, after a failed escape attempt, finds himself with no choice but to endure life here — but ends up experiencing wild adventures and uncovering family secrets.
This marks Craven’s sixth feature film, his fourth based on a Mosher book. Craven admires the author’s work for his larger-than-life characters, ironic humor and sense of place.
“He is also respected and known, and it opens doors for people willing to donate and come see the movie because some of them read the books,” Craven said.
Craven, who teaches at Marlboro College in Vermont, tried a new tactic in making this film. Past methods, he decided, wouldn’t cut it.
“In 2007, I made a film [called Disappearances]. The film was distributed pretty well,” Craven said. “I made it on a budget of $2 million and got a return of $300,000, despite the fact of it having a good release.”
This time around, Craven formed a collaboration between his nonprofit, Kingdom County Productions, and Marlboro College. He created a semester-long intensive, and alongside 20 film professionals, he invited 34 students from 15 colleges to be part of the project. Marlboro put up half the budget and supplied the dorms the cast and crew slept in during filming. Craven raised the rest.
The semester started at the Sundance Film Festival and was followed by seven weeks of literature, film study, production management, screenwriting and directing classes, which prepared for the film’s making in 2012.
“It’s a new mode of production for me, based on the idea of sustainable, place-based Northern New England filmmaking, which is a tough concept. It combined two things that are very important to me [filmmaking and teaching], and I was thrilled with the process and the outcome,” Craven said. (In fact, he shot his next film, Peter and John, the same way in Nantucket. It hasn’t yet been released.)
Craven’s new method cut costs significantly. Northern Borders cost $500,000 to make.
“That was huge,” Craven said. “But I was also working alongside students and professionals committed to the students, which I think was the most rewarding. Nobody went in thinking they knew everything.” 
There isn’t a program like it in the country — the students weren’t getting coffee, but were sound mixers, costume designers and camera operators. 
“I think it gave the actors a new energy as well. For them, it wasn’t just a gig; it became a process they found pretty interesting. Bruce Dern is a guy who loves to tell stories, and he’d be telling stories to students all the time,” Craven said. “We really formed a dynamic and open-minded, creative community that in many ways felt fresh and productive.” 
As seen in the August 7, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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