James is dead. Sarah stole his ashes. They're both gonna have a long day.
Unmoored is the story of a couple with one afternoon left to get things right.
On a late summer's day in 2008, Marie Brown and Cary Wolinsky were discussing the idea of making a film. At the time, Marie was a graduate student in the University of Texas at Austin Theater program, but very interested in learning more about filmmaking. They decided to try and produce a short in the few weeks left before she returned to Texas and her studies. They immediately began the process of finding a script, cast, and crew. The film would be produced by Trillium Studios and co-directed by Marie Brown and Yari Wolinsky.
When the requests for stories went out to the writers, the team asked for the ideas to be restricted to certain locations and motifs that were already accessible within the time frame of the summer. One of these places was the Emmel Family cabin in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. After reading a number of scripts, the team decided upon Jenny Connell's Unmoored , an ambiguous ghost story about guilt, blame, and love. Jenny had carefully integrated the cabin and nearby lake into the plot, creating a wonderfully visual and emotional story.
Cinematographer Ryan Nelsen and sound recordist Richard Stack, both of whom had worked with Trillium Studios on several previous projects, and actors Stacey Cabaj and Mark Scheibmeir, joined the producers and directors. Stacey had auditioned for the role of Sarah at a casting call in Boston, and Jenny Connell wrote the part of James for Mark and then persuaded him to fly up to Massachusetts from where he was studying in Texas.
Unmoored was a labor of love. Everyone was along for the learning
experience and shared the responsibilities. The crew was small and
the equipment requirements kept as low as possible without compromising the quality
of the film. Filming took place over six days. Though it was cramped, cast and crew lived on location.
In an interview with the Online New England Film Festival, Marie Brown described the cinematography:
We framed each shot like it could be a gorgeous still photograph. And thus the cinematography had a beauty as well as stillness that served to set the eerie weight of the piece. We also had a very urgent need for instability in the piece as well. We discovered in the editing room that we wanted more POV and hand-held shots to help give the sharp contrast to the powerful calm. So we went back to re-shoot a few moments. I think composed together these two styles worked will to helped build both tension and forward momentum in tandem with the rise in tension of Sarah's emotional state.
Several scenes of Unmoored were filmed on the cabin dock or in the lake itself. Despite being summer, the weather during the week of shooting was cool and gray. This made filming in the water slower and harder on Stacey and Mark, who had to take a break between shots to warm up.
The final day of shooting took place at the top of a mountain in a nearby reservation. We asked Mark to climb up into a very old tree for a haunting scene between him and Stacey.
Jenny Connell wrote about the process of filming Unmoored on her blog:
We shot on the porch, we shot in the lake, we hiked to the top of a mountain with all our equipment for a day of shooting. Everyone chipped in ideas about everything. The movie had TWO directors, Marie and Yari, and they managed to get along marvelously. I bunked with our lead actress. We had our actress jump in and out of the lake approximately three hundred times over the course of the week. We had to dry her (AND her costume) between takes. Mark, our actor, looked like a frickin’ Hugo Boss ad in his suit...in the water, and in a tree. We were up at dawn, we shot all day, we pitched in where we could, we ate fabulous meals, we kayaked, we swam between takes, we held bounce boards up for hours in bathing suits and fleeces, knee-deep in lake water, we taught Marie’s daughter new words, we napped when we could, and we ended our evenings curled up on the porch.
I could go on an on about the people, on and on about the beautiful shots we got. But for me, the last week will go down in the memory books as one of the best I ever spent.
The GOAL is to be the kind of person who can create the time and space in which that kind of experience can happen.
Unmoored played at the 2009 Dances with Films festival, the 2009 Woods Hole Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Dramatic Short, the 2009 Woodstock Film Festival, the 2010 360|365 George Eastman House Film Festival, and the 2010 Online New England Film Festival.
Cast: Stacey Cabaj, Mark Scheibmeir
Producers: Cary & Babs Wolinsky
Directors: Marie Brown, Yari Wolinsky
Screenplay: Jenny Connell, Erica Saleh
Editor: Yari Wolinsky
Cinematography: Ryan Nelsen
Sound Recordist: Rich Stack
Music Composers: John Kusiak, P. Andrew Willis