‘Witches’ brew in Portland: Maine native brings Hollywood home

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PORTLAND — It was a dark and stormy night Monday at the Miss Portland Diner.

Rain pounded the windows and people huddled inside the Marginal Way restaurant.

The perfect setup for a scary movie.

Which was fine with those huddled in the diner, since they were all there to film a scary movie.

Maine native and Los Angeles-based writer-director Kyle Rankin was at the diner with his production team shooting “The Witch Files.” Production began April 30, and is taking place in Portland, Brunswick and Bath.

“It’s the story of five young women who form a witches coven and get in over their heads,” Rankin said while sitting in one of the diner’s booths.

He said “The Witch Files” is a “found footage” kind of movie, meaning it’s set up as if the film is actually discovered videotape footage. Actress Holly Taylor, known for her work as Paige Jennings in the FX drama “The Americans,” plays the lead character, who videotapes the experiences.

During a break in filming, Taylor, who lives in New Jersey and works in New York, and the rest of the cast all spoke enthusiastically of their time in Maine.

“Maine has been really good,” Taylor said, adding she had particularly enjoyed all the open space. “It’s a perfect place for me.”

All five of the film’s young “witches” said they’ve found Mainers friendly, and have been impressed by the area’s history. They noted the architecture they had seen, particularly Morse High School in Bath, where they filmed Sunday.

Britt Flatmo, who appeared in the Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams film “Super 8,” and the comedy “Life As We Know It,” said playing a teenage witch, and acting in general, is a fun career.

“You don’t have to be the same person every single week,” she said.

The film also stars Paget Brewster, of Fox’s “Grandfathered” and formerly of the CBS drama “Criminal Minds,” as well as Los Angeles actresses Alice Ziolkoski, Tara Robinson and Adrienne Rose White.

The film isn’t all scare tactics. It has its comedic moments; Robinson said it’s like “The Breakfast Club” meets “Harry Potter.”

Producer Scott Taylor, a Brunswick native, said the second day of shooting at Morse High School in Bath was both “beautiful and creepy.” He said the building was “perfect for a witch movie.”

“The Witch Files” isn’t Rankin’s first Maine film. He directed the zombie-themed romantic comedy “Night of the Living Deb,” which was released in 2015. He said Maine is too beautiful not be used in film.

“I knew I wanted to come back and shoot here,” Rankin said.

The film, Taylor said, is “100 percent locally financed.” Corporate sponsors include Coffee By Design, Miss Portland Diner, Gelato Fiasco, Salvage BBQ, Rosemont Bakery, Allagash Brewing, Brunswick, Bath, Waynflete School, Morse High School, and others.

“It may be the first shooting in Portland at this level that’s locally financed,” he said.

Taylor said they will be filming in Maine through May 23, and hope to be finished in September. He said they are aiming for a release date of Halloween 2017, but first hope to have screenings on the festival circuit.

“It’s a really funny script, (and) a great cast,” Taylor said. “I hope it’s successful.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Miss Portland Diner on Marginal Way is lit for filming of “The Witch Files”on Monday, May 2. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

Kyle Rankin, a Maine native and director of “The Witch Files,” sets up a scene at Miss Portland Diner in Portland on Monday, May 2. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

“The Witch Files” actresses Tara Robinson, left, Britt Flatmo, Adrienne Rose White, Alice Ziolkoski and Holly Taylor on location at the Miss Portland Diner in Portland on Monday, May 2. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.
  • StateOfME

    Welcome To Maine, Ladies …