Twenty months after filming on location in Southampton, independent film “Refuge” had its world premiere Saturday morning at the Hamptons International Film Festival to a packed house at East Hampton Cinema.
Written and directed by Jessica Goldberg, the feature-length film is about a young woman named Amy who has been raising her siblings since their parents skipped town. Things are shaken up for the family when Amy picks up a drifter in a bar who decides to stay in town and become involved in their lives.
Goldberg adapted the script from a play she had written that debuted at off-Broadway theater Playwrights Horizons in the late 1990s. From there, it was staged all over the country and the world, including Germany, Sweden and Spain.
The story centers on the year-rounders who make a town run, Goldberg said. "The people on the fringe you don't always see."
It is the only narrative movie in the festival to be filmed locally, a point of pride for producers Jack Heller and Dallas Sonnier, whose Caliber Media Co. has filmed one movie in the Hamptons in each of the past three years. Sonnier said Saturday they expect to return next year for another film, and for years to come, just as they said they would when they shot horror flick "Enter Nowhere" in 2010.
"Refuge" stars Krysten Ritter ("Breaking Bad," "Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23") as Amy, Madeleine Martin ("Californication") as younger sister Lucy, Logan Huffman ("V") as brain damaged brother Nat, and Brian Geraghty ("The Hurt Locker," "Jarhead") as Sam, the drifter.
Goldberg said Saturday — during the premiere after-party at The Blue Parrot in East Hampton — that she admired Ritter's work on acclaimed television series "Breaking Bad" and thought her a perfect fit for the role of Amy.
In addition to being on-screen lovers, Ritter and Geraghty are dating in real life.
Geraghty told Patch on Saturday that Ritter had been looking for a dramatic project, and "Refuge" fit the bill. And when he learned of the role of Sam, he couldn't resist — "Who doesn't want to play a drifter living in his car who drinks all day?"
Sam is a character who's had a tough life and is looking for something solid, Geraghty said. "And he gets that with Amy's family."
While filming in Southampton for just over a month, he enjoyed the small-town vibe of the Hamptons, he said, particularly in the winter. He had lived in New York City for seven years without ever visiting the East End, but "Refuge" fulfilled his desire to make a movie in a shore town, having grown up on the shore in New Jersey.
Geraghty watched "Refuge" with an audience for the first time Saturday. He said he was proud of the film, made on hardly any budget, and excited for the reaction it got. "It's like doing a play in a sense," he said. "You don't know till you put it in front of people."
For his co-star Martin, her first time viewing the film with an audience will be Monday, during the second festival screening in East Hampton.
Martin didn’t make it to the “Refuge” premiere Saturday morning because she is currently performing in “Harper Regan” in Chelsea at the Linda Gross Theater with the Atlantic Theater Company. (Next she will be on Broadway with Roundabout Theatre Company in William Inge's "Picnic.")
Goldberg said that Martin, like her on-screen brother Huffman, walked into the room for her audition and got the part on the spot.
During a phone interview Friday, Martin described her character Lucy as a girl who is confused about her identity, and trying to figure out what she wants.
While Lucy is a rebellious teen, she also wants someone in her life who cares enough about her to be upset if she stays out late partying or brings hard drugs into the house.
The role was a change of pace for Martin, who since 2007 has portrayed Becca Moody in Showtime’s “Californication.” While David Duchovny plays Becca’s father, it is often Becca who is the responsible, parental one in the relationship.
“It was very different to actually get to be the kid for once,” Martin said.
Her “Refuge” character was originally called Becca as well, but the name was changed after Martin landed the part.
Martin was excited when she learned the script called for her to dance in a scene. She studies ballet, and said it was nice to be asked to do something she is experienced in, because oftentimes her work on "Californication" requires her to only pretend to have a particular talent.
When she came to Southampton to film “Refuge,” it was her second time in the Hamptons, she said. Martin’s first time in the area, while staying with a friend’s family, was during the busy summertime. But she said it was a different experience this trip, as “Refuge” filmed during the dead of winter, in February 2011.
For the duration of the shoot, which took a little longer than a month, she stayed at Heller’s family home in Southampton, with others in the cast and crew.
“It was my first time on location without my mom, which was unusual,” the 19-year-old actress said.
Martin said she had a fun time with her castmates, hanging out and watching bad TV at the house. “I never spent that much time in the Hamptons before, and I really fell in love with it,” she added.
When she attends the second festival screening on Monday at 4 p.m. at East Hampton Cinema, she expects to stay for a Q&A with the audience after.
Martin also co-stars in a second film having its world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival, "The Discoverers," about a dysfunctional family on a Lewis and Clark trek. Catch the second screening Monday at 6 p.m. at East Hampton Cinema.
Filming in Southampton
There are many places seen in “Refuge” that will be instantly recognizable to Southampton locals — and many faces, as well.
Frequent trips are made to Catena’s Market, and the inside of Fellingham’s was used for several bar scenes — though Blue Collar Bar on County Road 39 is used for the exterior shots.
Vic Finalborgo of Catena’s, which also catered the film, has a cameo as a doctor, and Millie Fellingham played a bar patron. Local actors from East End theater companies have small roles, including Phil Eberhardt, Joe Pallister, Billy Paterson and Alan Stewart.
Shelter Island teen Juliet Garrett has a larger part, as Lucy’s best friend, and Martin said she had a great time working together with her.
For those who commute on County Road 39, another familiar face in "Refuge" is anti-illegal immigration protestor Tom Wedell, who is seen in passing holding a "deport illegals" sign.
Meadow Lane’s Munn Point is the setting for a pivotal scene, and if viewers blink they might miss B&M Automotive, Southampton Hospital Thrift Shop and Shippy’s in the background.
To make the town appear rundown, small pockmarks of blight were singled out. For instance, the Rhodes House on Windmill Lane — which has since been repainted after the Southampton Village Board threatened to condemn the building.
Goldberg said they had to hunt for a modest house in Southampton to serve as the home of the film's struggling family. It was hard to find the right location among so many big houses, she said, and sometime after they shot the film the house was razed to make way for a bigger one.