Off a dirt road in West Tisbury, 18 people slept in a four-bedroom house. Five beds in one room, three in another. But it was not high summer. It was not even June. It was the Off Season.
Off Season is the name of an independent film that just finished shooting on the Island. The writer of the movie, Erik Lieblein, is familiar with the Vineyard’s quiet season. For most the cast and crew, though, it was their first experience with the empty beaches, quiet roads and closed restaurants of the Vineyard in early spring. For some it was their first visit to the Island during any season.
“When I brought everybody out to the farm they were like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Mr. Lieblein said of the crew’s reaction to Flat Point Farm in West Tisbury where the majority of the movie was filmed. “People from New York and New Jersey, they’d never seen anything like it. It’s one thing to see the Vineyard but another thing to see that farm.”
In the movie Flat Point Farm serves as the home for a couple and their daughter who operate a landscaping company. The premise of the thriller-drama revolves around the family’s past and their relationships with the Island, including the “summer people” gardening crew and a young woman they host at the farm who ends up staying longer than planned.
About 20 ago, Mr. Lieblein worked summers for Arnold Fischer Jr., the owner of Flat Point Farm. Mr. Lieblein stayed through to autumn, his favorite part of the year, and eventually into the offseason a few times. Later he turned his attention to screenwriting and about six years ago a friend convinced him to write a slasher film, a potentially easy sell in the movie business.
“I thought, I know the Vineyard in the offseason is a weird place. So how about people die with a bunch of different landscaping tools? But through the years the story developed so much.”
Through mutual friends he met Robert Cole, the director for Off Season, who also runs a production company in New York city. Together the two men softened the story from a cold-blooded slasher genre vehicle to a sentimental thriller, with threads of love and quirkiness weaved in between.
During shooting the crew traveled around the farm in a caravan of vintage buses, from the pastures to the pig pens to the oyster shack, and once even off the farm all the way out to Al’s Package Store. While the majority of the actors came from off-Island, the lead role of the farmer’s daughter was played by nine-year-old Braedyn Clark, recruited from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. Countless locals helped make the movie happen, including Adam Petkus, who not only housed the crew and cast but played a role as an obnoxious athlete on the landscaping crew. “We were really short-staffed,” Mr. Cole said of the original five-person crew. “We had an amazing amount of good will and eager, thoughtful help along the way.” Whether it was landowners granting access to particular pieces of property, the Scottish Bakehouse catering goodies or people holding extra booms on set, the community made an impression on Off Season’s crew.
“Martha’s Vineyard is such a unique place,” Mr. Cole said. “The sense of community is really strong, with a respect for the arts that seems deeply woven into all the social pockets I was exposed to. There is a desire to pull together and help with something. The local support was unbelievable.”
“The Island was the biggest and most majestic character,” Mr. Lieblein said. “The Island was the star.”