Eliot filmmaker looks to bring ‘Just Say Love’ to the big screen

Bill Humphreys, an Eliot-based filmmaker, is hoping to parlay the recent stage success of the play “Just Say Love” into a hit feature film.

Humphreys, who is currently in Tilton preparing to film a screen adaptation of the play with producer-writer David J. Mauriello, said the movie will be shot entirely in an enclosed “black box” soundstage. Humphreys said he and Mauriello decided to forgo the typical on-location settings of regular feature films and incorporate the theatrical techniques of stage plays by using a bare-bones set. The pair said the minimalist style was partly inspired by Lars von Trier’s “Dogville,” a 2003 film that contained few set pieces and used painted outlines to indicate scenery.

“Our focus on style is to really try and make a marriage between live theater and the cinema,” said Mauriello, a Wakefield, Mass., native.

Humphreys, who grew up in California before moving to Eliot 20 years ago, wrote the screenplay for the film based on Mauriello’s original stage script.

“Just Say Love” explores the physical and spiritual bonds between two men, Guy and Doug, who eventually find enlightenment through their relationship, according to Mauriello.

“It’s a male love story,” he said. “It transcends the normal way we look at relationships.”

“I’ve never had anyone complain about the subject matter,” he continued. “It’s an amazing phenomenon.”

Since premiering at the Player’s Ring theater in Portsmouth last June, “Just Say Love” went on to play at the Boston Center for the Arts in Massachusetts and is scheduled to be produced in venues across the country in the coming months, according to Mauriello. The play was nominated for Best New Play by the Independent Reviewers of New England and Best Original Script by the Spotlight on Arts awards.

For the movie version, Stagewright Films, a New Hampshire-based production company, landed Los Angeles actors Matthew Jaeger and Robert Mammana for the lead roles. Jaeger has appeared in the film “Room Service” with Howie Mandel; Mammana has appeared in “Flightplan” with Jodie Foster, as well as the television shows “Numbers,” “The OC” and “Charmed.”

The film will be shot in the Granite Media Center in Tilton from May 5-22. The actors and crew are staying at the Lord Hampshire hotel in Tilton.

“We’ve taken over the place,” Humphreys said.

After post-production work is complete, the film will be distributed by the Los Angeles-based Funny Boy Films.

Mauriello originally wrote the first draft of the play in 1992 and didn’t revisit it until 2005, when he cut out much of the “philosophy” language.

“Kind of like a boiling-down process, where what’s left is the stew,” he said.

Mauriello credited the play’s success with the publicity it gained after premiering at the Player’s Ring.

“Without these small theaters that are willing to do original plays by people who are completely unknown, these works would never get out to the audience,” Mauriello said. “It shows how important it is for all of us (playwrights) to have an outlet.”

By JASON CLAFFEY
jclaffey@fosters.com

Article Date: Thursday, May 1, 2008