Telling The Stories of “Castaways”
February 5, 2021
What happens when former college roommates combine their artistic vision and show business acumen to make their debut narrative feature film? The women behind “Castaways,” a film depicting the story of a Massachusetts teen in a program for wayward youth are in the process of finding out! FC is proud to be among those helping to guide members Ciara Crocker and Katherine Hart along this journey.
Katherine Hart is a novice filmmaker who is bringing her skills as a Reality TV producer to the silver screen. She understands how to manipulate story lines, budgets, schedules, and talent like a boss. Hopefully, the world of actors, closed sets, and long form narrative doesn’t throw her off. Katherine looks at each collaboration like a puzzle; it’s fun to work on finding the right fit for each piece, and everyone looks forward to seeing the final picture once it’s done. In this project, Katherine is excited to connect with her long time friend Ciara, and to be a part of a project that doesn’t require Housewives.
Ciara recently shared with us how the idea for the film originated and where things stand in her and Katherine’s journey to share it with the world.
How did you come to work together on this particular project?
Katherine and I were roommates during our freshman year in college. When the pandemic hit, both our careers in media shut down and we suddenly had plenty of time to reconnect with each other. Our conversations naturally turned to discussing the passion projects that we’ve always wanted to do, and we realized that if we team up we can combine our talents and make those projects happen. “Castaways” was one of those ideas. Given our shared love for New England, we’re excited to push this project forward and dive into the history of our home.
How did you come to choose this topic for your film?
Back in the summer of 2015, I was having lunch with my family at The Landfall restaurant in Wood’s Hole. We were seated near a window facing the water, and I noticed a ferry docked outside with a group of people waiting to board. When the waiter came by with our food, I asked him where this ferry went and he told me about the Elizabeth Islands. Now, I don’t know if its because my mother has the same name or if this new discovery was just an exciting novelty, but I was instantly enamored by this waiter’s description of the Elizabeth Islands. And my research only enhanced the romance of it all- a string of islands, each with an interesting story. The first island, a fishing island, was made famous twice over by two men, both named Charles. They each caught record worthy 73 pound striped bass, generations apart, in 1919 and 1967.
The largest island, Naushon, is owned by the Forbes family, and after that comes a cluster of three small islands: Weepecket, Weeweepecket, and Weeweeweepecket named in descending order of size. Weepecket, the largest, was used by the military for bomb, rocket, and machine gun practice.
And falling at the end of the line is Penikese Island. Once home to a leper colony and more recently a reformatory school for delinquent boys, the mission of this secluded rock is to contain societal outcasts. Without a doubt, Penikese Island had the most fascinating story of them all.
What issues/story points are you most hoping viewers will take away from the film?
I think everyone might take something a little bit different away from the film. I don’t want to manipulate the audience’s experience by talking about the themes before they see it. That being said, I’ve been researching The Penikese Island school for nearly 6 years now, and I find it to be a remarkably deep well of stories about human nature and social impact to explore. This operation of 38 years is such a unique moment in history- our own Massachusetts history- that hadn’t existed before and I don’t think will ever exist again. It impacted the lives of thousands of students, but this monumental effort largely goes unnoticed due to the internal nature of the work there. More than anything, we want to memorialize this experimental effort of The Penikese Island School and all of its complexities on film.
Can you share an update on where things stand with production and fundraising for the project?
“Castaways” is currently in pre-production. The script is under edit, and we are about to start the casting process. Last week former New England Patriots player, and current CBS Sports personality, Ted Johnson, joined the film as an Executive Producer. Fundraising is in its early stages and we really want to get the word out about this film to make sure all those that want to be involved are able to help. Any tax-deductible donations through the FC website are very much appreciated!
How are you approaching scripting and casting?
“Castaways” is a historical fiction piece largely based on true events. Last summer I met George Cadwalader, founder of The Penikese Island School, at his home in Wood’s Hole. We spoke at length about the school in that initial meeting, and he gave me a stack of old annual reports from the school to use in my writing process. They proved to be an invaluable resource, as they gave me years of stories about the students and faculty, daily life on the island, detailed environmental descriptions, and outlined the struggles the program and people faced within every level of the school’s operation. I continue to work in collaboration with George on the development of the script to make sure our story honors and reflects reality. I’m also workshopping the story with the Harvard Square Script Writers group.
We’ll be beginning our casting process this month! We are planning to film on Penikese Island. The historical weight and atmosphere felt on the island will be an invaluable asset to the tone and success of our film. We invite all who might be able to assist or facilitate this in any way! Please reach out to Katherine Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get involved in fundraising or production. And those interested in contributing to this project are encouraged to visit this page: https://filmmakerscollab.networkforgood.com/projects/53359-filmmakers-collaborative-castaways