Portland Filmmaker Anthony Orkin Combines Romance and Mystery With a Fake Gilbert and Sullivan Musical in “Hello From Nowhere”

“I wanted people who were good sports, and hiring unknown actors is good for that because they can’t afford to be divas. I’m giving them a shot.”

Portland-based filmmaker Anthony Orkin has been editing film since he found clippings in the garage next to his father’s office as a child in 1972. That led him to an 18-year career as a film editor in New York City—and paved the way for him to direct his own material.

Filmed at Camp Baldwin, Orkin’s second feature, Hello From Nowhere, centers on two couples, John and Lanie (John Armour and Summer Rain Menkee) and Brendan and Denise (G. Scott Brown and Denah Angel), whose relationship tensions are manipulated by a mysterious hiker (Sean Paul Ross)…against the backdrop of an imaginary Gilbert and Sullivan musical.

WW spoke with Orkin, who shared some of his experience for the benefit of any filmmakers who may follow in his footsteps, like a stranger in the woods.

WW: I read that your wife challenged you to write the cheapest feature you could. Being so budget conscious, what would you look back on as your biggest misstep in that area?

Anthony Orkin: I thought it would be cheaper to shoot in the woods, which was a fatal flaw. Because, of course, where do you put people…when they’re in the woods? I had this naive notion we’d all have this big camping trip/film production. But people actually want fresh toilets and things like that. So we had to come up with a place that looked like the woods but was close enough to civilization so that people could check their email and clean themselves up after a day’s production.

The whimsically symphonic score created such an interesting aesthetic. What was the inspiration behind this “imaginary Gilbert and Sullivan” sound?

The funny thing is, I could have used the actual Gilbert and Sullivan because all that stuff is in the public domain. I started to do so, and then, as I was working away on it, I realized, I hate Gilbert and Sullivan. That was the whole reason I was making the movie. So, I threw that out.

I wrote my own imaginary musical in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan. And then, when I approached my composer, Jay Martin, I asked him to do a symphonic score in the style of music of days gone by. But really, he just took it and ran with it. So, what you get is a score which is, at points, somewhat antiquated but quite modern.

Knowing that nature can be uncooperative at times, what was the biggest unexpected obstacle you faced during the shoot relating to the elements?

As far as challenging the elements, the biggest difficulty I think was that we ran out of time and the sun started to come up. And we were shooting the climax, the big climactic scene where all is revealed at the end—and my poor lead actor, Sean Paul, had been waiting around for hours to do the scene…and he only got one take because the sun was literally creeping up. Which was challenging to work around, but we made that one take work!

What steps in casting and hiring did you take to ensure you had the most optimal work environment?

I wanted people who were good sports, and hiring unknown actors is good for that because they can’t afford to be divas. I’m giving them a shot. One of the keys to that was hiring people who didn’t come with a retinue of stylists, their agent and whatnot, demanding a trailer.

I read that you adopted the script from a short you’d written. What elements did you expound on to make it a feature-length production?

For one thing, I expanded it from three characters to five characters. I’m a fan of working with odd numbers because there’s a dynamic inherent in an odd number in that it doesn’t allow you to pair people off easily. And the other thing I did was move it from a small Brooklyn apartment to the Great North Woods.

SEE IT: Hello From Nowhere is available on demand.