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National distributor picks up Portland producers' latest film

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National distributor picks up Portland producers' latest film

PORTLAND — Two local film producers are continuing their climb up the movie-making mountain with their first nationally distributed film. 

Portland residents Aaron Duffey and Jim Cole, who made names for themselves in 2005 with "Sundowning," are celebrating the national release of their new film, "Three Priests," which will also be distributed internationally.

"Three Priests" was an official selection at the 2008 Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, Calif. Cinequest decided to sign on as the national distributor and the film is now available from Blockbuster, Amazon, Netflix and others.

Cole, who grew up in Falmouth and later moved to Portland, wrote and directed the film. The title comes from an American Indian legend in Montana, where the film was shot. 

"Three Priests" tells the story of two half-brothers, Dustin (Alexander Martin) and Joe (Aaron Duffey), torn apart by their mutual love for a beautiful woman and childhood friend, Abby (Julie Jones). Throughout the movie, wildfires threaten the family's ranch as the love plot thickens, ultimately leading to a fatal conclusion.

The film also stars Olivia Hussey ("Romeo and Juliet"), Michael Parks ("Kill Bill" and "From Dawn to Dusk") and Wes Studi ("Dances with Wolves" and "The Last of the Mohicans"). 

Duffey, who grew up in Gorham before moving to Portland, said he hopes the success of landing a national distribution deal will give the duo credibility in the movie industry.

"We finished on time and on budget," Duffey said. "It's gone through the process and we have seen it through. I'm hoping this will set us apart."

Cole said "Sundowning" was produced with a budget of less than $15,000. The success of that film attracted the interest of local investors for "Three Priests," which was produced on a budget of less than $500,000. Both films were made by GumSpirits Productions, the dou's company on Munjoy Hill that also produces corporate videos and commercials. 

The filming of "Three Priests" was relatively short, Cole said, because the film includes higher-priced Hollywood talent. Duffey said the Pierce Atwood law firm's Catalyst program, which helps small start-ups with legal advice, was critical to negotiating contracts with the stars.

Cole, who wrote the script in about three weeks, said "Three Priests" took only 18 days to film in October 2005. He and Duffey took a crew of five friends to Montana a month before the shoot to renovate an abandoned ranch. They were later joined by a crew of 23 people to shoot the film. The movie was edited by Cole over the course of a year.

For Cole, 29, "Three Priests" was his first chance to direct Hollywood stars and for Duffy, 26, his first chance to act along side them. Both were impressed with the dedication and earnestness with which each approached the film.

Although the director said he would have preferred to have more time, Cole said the compressed scheduled may have helped in at least one regard.

"I didn't have enough time to get nervous," Cole said. "When the rubber hit the road, I had to forget who (the stars) were and deal with them."

Cole and Duffey said they already have ideas for two more films, including a comedy set in Cawker City, Kan., the home of the world's largest ball of twine.

Unlike "Sundowning," which was filmed at locations throughout Maine, the dou's latest films are being shot out of state, but they consider all of their work Maine-made films and want local audiences to take note.

"We want people in Maine to watch ('Three Priests')," Duffey said. "We want to keep producing movies here in Maine."

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net