The serene yet diverse landscapes of an island inspired Wilmette native Sean Ackerman to produce and direct The Diary of Preston Plummer.
Set on Amelia Island, off the northeast coast of Florida, The Diary of Preston Plummer takes a look at a college graduate’s journey as he falls in love with a beautiful but troubled woman, and how he struggles with the relationship when he uncovers her family’s dark past.
“The island is quite compact, it’s 17-miles long and only a mile wide, but you have a lot of different cultures and landscapes in one place,” Ackerman said. "When you are standing at a gas station in the middle of town, you could be standing behind a stranger, who’s standing behind a Fortune 500 CEO, who’s standing behind a meth-head -- you just had this interesting combination of cultures set in a truly beautiful and cinematically beautiful place."
The 34-year-old currently interns in a child psychiatry program in Burlington, Vermont and plans to spend his life working as a physician. He says he is happier in the hospital than on set but plans to make a movie every five to 10 years.
Working with a Small Budget
Ackerman completed the first draft of the screenplay for The Diary of Preston Plummer in 2001 but it went through numerous changes before becoming the final movie, which finished filming in summer 2011.
“The film had more of a coming-of-age element in the beginning. Now it has a philosophical love-story element to it,” Ackerman said.
One of Ackerman's biggest challenges during the production process, was shooting quickly to save on food and housing costs. Shot in 20 days on Amelia Island, the movie cost about $125,000 to produce.
“Instead of having just one job, everybody had two to 10 jobs,” he said.
Rather than spend $50,000 to shoot underwater sequences, Ackerman’s crew shot the scenes in a deep pool with a black tarp as background.
“We stuck the camera underwater briefly in the ocean and shot just some blank ocean scenery, and we overlaid that with the footage we got of the actors in the pool,” he said. “It looks totally good. Everyone thinks it looks like the ocean and it costs us $50.”
Making Movies to Stay Sane
Ackerman, whose family still lives in Wilmette, says he's excited to have one of his movies screened in his hometown.
“The Wilmette Theatre is such an awesome theatre, it truly has an indie feel to it," he said. "It’s not easy to be a theater owner and make money as a little guy, so I really respect what the owners are doing over there.”
The Diary of Preston Plummer is Ackerman’s second film. His first feature, Straight Line, premiered at the 2005 South by Southwest Film Festival.
“I only have five or six movies in me,” Ackerman said. “Knowing that, I’m trying to focus on things that have more philosophical underpinning.”
Some of the topics that interest Ackerman include how people are shaped to see the world in the lightest or darkest possible way.
“I make movies almost as a compulsion. I feel like it’s something that I need to do to stay sane, but at the same if I did it all the time I would be miserable and psychotic,” he said.
For more about the movie, cast and crew, visit: www.TheDiaryofPrestonPlummer.com
For show times, visit: www.WilmetteTheatre.com