While filming on location at Mt Si Tavern in North Bend for his latest movie this fall, Seattle-based director John Helde covered up the historic bar’s front facing sign, replacing it with the name of the fictional “Ed’s Tavern.”
While change was temporary, it didn’t stop a few residents from posting online, with strong emotions, asking if that change was real.
For Helde, the quick concern for the nearly century-old tavern is a sign of what it means to the community and is at the heart of what he’s trying to address in his latest film, “Marcie’s.”
Helde’s film tells the story of Marcie, a bartender and den-mother at a small town dive bar, Ed’s Tavern, that faces the threat of extinction from a new development.
“There’s been a resurgence in the belief of community and independent businesses that foster connection to the community,” he said. “I’m interested in what makes a community thrive and what we hang onto that keeps us connected to people in a real way at a time when we’re so much relying on digital connection.”
Filming for the movie was split between two locations shot over just 17 days. Exterior shots were done at Mt Si Tavern and around North Bend, while the interior shots were done at Waterwheel Lounge in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Helde is currently editing the film, but hopes to release it at local film festivals and the North Bend Theater in the spring or summer of next year. Those looking for updates on the film can check marciesmovie.com.
The film began in 2019, after Helde cast a group of eight actors to fill out the film’s main cast. Beginning with a blank slate and no clear plan, he worked with each actor over a six-month period in 2019, to improvise their characters and develop a backstory.
Over time, the actors’ characters were introduced to each other, and Helde used that collaboration to write the final script.
For Helde, who got his start making documentaries in New York, and is perhaps best known for his documentary film “Made in China,” the approach resembles the spontaneity of a nonfiction project and allows him to involve the actors more in the story creation process.
“The most exciting part about it is you open yourself up to surprises that I don’t think one brain could come up with,” he said. “Part of the reason I work this way in fiction is that I like the unexpectedness of documentaries. We try to bring that to the story creation to give it that intimacy.”
Having started the project in 2019, Helde was just getting into the writing phase at the onset of the pandemic, when production of the film was halted and delayed. During that time the cast met over Zoom, continuing to fine-tune and rehearse the script.
Three years after it began, the film shot its final scene this month.
“It’s been quite a journey waiting and wondering when we are going to be able to get back together,” he said. “It all finally worked out.”