Hamptons International Film Festival attendees will have an opportunity to see the world premiere of Only the Wind Is Listening, a poignant short film created by Montauk filmmaker Emily Anderson, in East Hampton on Saturday.
Part of HIFF’s Views from Long Island program, the 12-minute film, which highlights the stark beauty of Montauk in the offseason, as well as a loneliness familiar to many in the colder months, stars veteran actress and Springs resident Jennifer Ferrin (Sneaky Pete, Hell on Wheels, The Knick) and real Montauk fisherman Thomas Marmorowski, acting for the first time in his life.
Set against the gunmetal skies, whipping winds and dark waters of Montauk’s winter, the lives of a fisherman and a writer intertwine as they each struggle and stagnate in their increasingly remote existence. The fisherman, (Marmorowski) goes about his daily work, grieving the loss of what appears to be a wife and child, and drinking away his nights, while the writer (Ferrin) spends her time suffering some sort of writer’s block and drinking wine to soothe her frustrated mind. Eventually, their lives intersect and a shared moment, with a small but pure act of kindness, gives the viewer a sense of hope and promise for what’s to come.
“It’s not a love story,” Anderson says of the film, which she wrote, directed and edited over the past year. “We wanted it to have a hopeful ending—it’s a beginning for them.”
A native of Brighton in England who splits her time between New York City and Montauk, Anderson explains that Only the Wind Is Listening is her first truly narrative film outside her job directing projects for companies such as J.Crew, American Express, ESPN, NASCAR, Patagonia, Urban Outfitters and many others, though she has created personal projects, such as her recent sea shanty video using dozens of Montauk boat names for lyrics. “I usually make commercials and documentaries, and you have to give the viewer a product or an answer,” she says, pointing out that this film is more contemplative.
The short focuses heavily on Montauk, capturing an array of recognizable locations, often symbolic of the hamlet’s very different face once the last tourists have moved on—a deserted beach parking lot, closed restaurant (the Lobster Roll, aka “Lunch,” sign reminds us they won’t reopen until May), and a nearly empty bar. We see the local liquor store, the fish market, bluffs, jettis, deer and, of course, the sea, all in a wide, anamorphic style. “I wanted the place to feel endless,” Anderson says.
From her first frame, seen lying on a carpet, wavy locks spread out around her head, Ferrin makes for a compelling subject. The skilled actress tells a story with her eyes and expressions. Notably, so does Marmorowski, who had absolutely no background in film or theater.
“I’m most proud of how well Thomas did,” Anderson says. “We kind of threw him in the deep end.” But, the filmmaker explains, she felt something special about the fisherman the moment she met him. “He was so spunky and honest, and so totally in love with his job; I warmed to him right away.”
Anderson acknowledges that her past working with real people for documentary films helped her “a million percent” with getting a great performance out of Marmorowski. Combining him with the well-versed Ferrin was a risk, she says, but the actress also helped him, and it paid off in the end.
“She’s been a really great friend for years,” Anderson says of Ferrin. “I’ve always wanted to write something she could be in,” she adds, noting that Ferrin’s experience working with directors on shows such as The Following, Mosaic and Homeland, to name just a few, was invaluable while making this film. “She helped get the best out of me, and I her,” Anderson says, grateful for the collaboration.
After photography was complete, “the editing process was really hard,” Anderson says. She hired Quogue musician and composer Karl Westman to create an original score and, in time, Only the Wind Is Listening took shape as brief but moving and human story. It’s also a bit of a love letter to a Montauk far fewer people know—the one not seen in Bravo TV shows or vacation blogs. It’s the true Montauk, many locals would argue.
“I find it an incredibly emotional place,” Anderson says, explaining that nowhere in the world gets her as excited as she is when arriving in Montauk. “It’s such a powerful place,” she adds. “There’s something about everybody I interact with that makes me feel at home.”
Anderson hopes to delve further into her subjects from Only the Wind Is Listening, perhaps turning it into a full-length feature. “I’ve only just begun to explore this in film,” she says.
Only the Wind Is Listening premieres as part of the Hamptons International Film Festival’s Views from Long Island program at United Artists East Hampton Cinema (30 Main Street) on Saturday, October 6 at 3 p.m. A second screening is scheduled at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (76 Main Street) on Sunday, October 7 at 3:45 p.m.
Learn more about Emily Anderson at littleenglishgenius.com.