Visions of Life and Death: SRQ chats with Nor’Easter writer and director Andrew Brotzman

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A gloomy inverse of the Easter story will hit the big screen at the Sarasota Film Festival next weekend. Writer and director of the film Nor’Easter, Andrew Brotzman shares his background, inspiration, and the unique aesthetics behind the production of the award-winning piece. 

Nor’Easter is a tale about a young priest named Erik Angstrom (David Call, Gossip Girl) who takes a new position as a Priest at a local Catholic church on a small island off the coast of Maine. After a really poorly attended mass, the unsure Priest looks for anything to reaffirm his faith. When Ellen Green visits him, he learns that her marriage is running is course due to the strain and worry of her missing son Joshua who hasn’t been seen in 5 years. Convinced that the family needs some type of religious closure, they agree to hold a symbolic funeral, in hopes to move on.

News of the funeral became public and the missing child returns to the island unharmed and well. Erik believes this is a sign from God and begins to involve himself in the family’s affairs to help the family recuperate. But his actions lead him to a very dark place, causing more harm than the good he intended.

This 85 minute film was shot in a couple of coastal towns off the coast Maine and the island Vinalhaven, a place where Brotzman’s father once lived. Growing up in Maine along with his father’s guidance aided in the production of the film, not to mention, the desire Brotzman had to showcase Maine in winter.

As the winner of Woodtock’s Best Cinematography award it was only fitting for SRQ to find out some of his aesthetic techniques. “Ironically the most important thing we did in creating the look of the film was free, actually. One thing that’s often overlooked about cinematography is location choice, production design and the time of day you shoot at. Production design is not free but location choice and time of day—those are things you can plan for…” Brotzman tells SRQ, “How do we create the look? A lot of it is preparation, but we tried to stay true to what life is like in coastal Maine while also choosing locations that were the most aesthetically pleasing.”

Though his drive to see Maine in the winter was his main aesthetic inspiration, “who people are and what they consider to be, the defining element of their life,’ was the other force that inspired his writing.  Brotzman goes on to say “one of the things about religion is that its so closely tied to how people identify themselves. Who am I? What is it that separates me from other people? Religion is very close to the top of the list. You have gender, you have race, maybe you have certain socio-political things like income, etc. but really I think your vision of life and death and your visions about what happens when you die is really close to the definition of who you are.“

Brotzman confesses that he wasn’t very religious in his upbringing. “I chose the topic specifically because I didn’t know very much about it. However my mother was a musician and organist in churches so she has ad a relatively unique experience in that she sees almost all religions and she experiences them first hand,“ says Brotzman, “because of that she has an extremely holistic inclusive understanding in faith. She’s seen first hand what everyone thinks. It was quite interesting to talk with her because she’s so non- exclusionary and she feels everyone is aimed at the same thing.”

Uncover Andrew Brotzman’s interpretation of religion and peoples desires to discover their true definition of self in Nor’Easter. Catch the screening at the Regal Hollywood 20 on Saturday April 13 at 2pm or Sunday April 14 @ 2:30pm.

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