Whidbey Island takes center stage in a haunting short film that is available to stream for free via Vimeo through Jan. 16.
“The Hour After Westerly” is based on a short story by Robert M. Coates that was published by The New Yorker magazine in 1947. It’s about a traveling salesman who mysteriously loses an hour driving home one night, sees visions and meets a strange woman who acts like she knows him. He’s later mystified when the woman seemingly disappears.
Ray Bradbury included the story in his anthology, “Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow,” published in 1952.
The story’s “Twilight Zone”-esque intrigue is what drew in Los Angeles-based filmmaker Nate Bell. After developing the story with his wife, Bell partnered with Andrew Morehouse to write the script, produce and direct the 30-minute film. Locals will recognize Admiralty Head Lighthouse, the Fort Casey Inn, Coupeville Auto Repair and many shots of open Island County roads.
You may also recognize lead actor Peter Jacobson who portrayed Dr. Chris Taub on TV’s “House” and lead actress Shannyn Sossaman from her role as Lady Jocelyn opposite Heath Ledger’s William Thatcher in the 2001 movie “A Knight’s Tale.”
Bell’s family visits his wife’s parents in Coupeville every year, and Whidbey seemed like the right place to make the short film.
“It seemed like a no-brainer when we saw how beautiful it was, and the convenience about having people you know already living there,” he said.
Bell’s father-in-law helped with preparations for the shoot and even recruited one of the actors.
The row of white houses at the Fort Casey Inn and “that kind of light you can only get in the Pacific Northwest” sold the duo on Whidbey as their location, Bell said.
Some of the logistics were easier here, too.
“Southern California has been my home all of my life, and it’s very difficult in some ways to shoot down here because there’s so many permits, and it’s very expensive,” Bell said. “Moving out of the city in a place where we could cut through some of that red tape — it was a totally different feeling shooting up on Whidbey Island than shooting in Los Angeles.”
The movie was filmed in 2018 and premiered at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles in 2019. It was entered into 20 film festivals, with Jacobson scoring Best Actor in a Short Film at FirstGlance Film Festival Los Angeles. Since coronavirus restrictions postponed several of the film festivals, and the filmmakers were eager to release it, so they decided to post it online.
“We eventually got impatient waiting to share it with everyone,” Bell said, adding that the movie received a warm welcome at the Whidbey Island Film Festival last year.
The link to watch “The Hour After Westerly” will be removed on Jan. 17 so that the film is still eligible for film festivals.
Right now, Bell is working on another project brought to him by the film’s lead actress, Sossaman, that could bring the director back to the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s definitely in consideration,” he said. “We don’t have a fixed location for this story yet, but we’d welcome any opportunity to go back to Whidbey.”
If you stream
Watch the 2019 short film “The Hour After Westerly” via Vimeo through Jan. 16 for free. The “Twilight Zone”-esque movie based on a short story by Robert M. Coates was filmed on Whidbey Island and features shots of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, the Fort Casey Inn and Coupeville Auto Repair. The movie’s link — vimeo.com/492609784/718dd1bce2 — expires on Jan. 17 so that it is still eligible for film festivals.