Lights! Camera! Cape Cod! Hollywood Brings ‘A Year By The Sea’ to Dennis

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Hollywood came to the Cape Thursday night for a screening of “A Year By The Sea,” the big-screen version of Harwichport writer Joan Anderson’s memoir of leaving her husband to spend a year on the Cape finding herself.

Star Karen Allen of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Animal House” fame, director Alexander Janko, producer Laura Goodenow and Anderson hosted a reception and benefit for WE CAN, the Cape women’s empowerment organization, at the Cape Cinema in Dennis.

“It’s a gift, really, to share this movie with Cape Cod,” said Janko, who filmed the story last April in Orleans, Chatham, Wellfleet and Eastham. “It’s nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time to show it to a Cape audience who appreciate that the Cape is a character in the film and get all the nautical jokes.”

Allen, who lives in western Massachusetts, said she had never spent much time on the Cape until she made the film over six weeks last spring.

“It was an extraordinary experience for me to first read this script… then to spend time here in Joan’s world of magic,” she said. “It was a privilege for me to be a part of this and to step into her most extraordinary shoes.”

In addition to Allen, the flick stars “Law & Order” cop S. Epatha Merkerson, Michael Cristofer of “Mr. Robot,” Yannick Bisson of the Canadian series “Murdoch Mysteries” and Celia Imrie of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

It tells the true tale of the year Anderson moved to Cape Cod instead of following her husband to Kansas, where his job had been relocated. She worked in a local fish market, made new friends, and, amid the Cape’s dunes and shores, she reclaimed her life. The book struck a chord with baby boomers. It was on The New York Times Best Sellers list for 32 weeks and has been translated into 17 languages.

The Cape Cinema audience was filled to capacity with fans of Anderson’s work, locals who appeared as extras in the film, and staff and clients of WE CAN. A silent auction of props from the film — everything from a rowboat Allen used to get to her Cape shack and an antique bicycle built for two — was auctioned off

“It was a deep honor for us to be included in the film,” said the organization’s director Andi Genser.

Pam Beaubien of Harwichport, who had a role in the flick as a customer in the fish market where Anderson worked during her marital hiatus, said she couldn’t wait to see the finished film.

“I have 18 words,” she laughed. “But I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card!”

Anderson said she was thrilled to bring her book to the screen to “take it to the next level.”

“Watching them film last spring was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “And I’m grateful that it will further the message in the book, that it’s never too late to reclaim your life and I hope that’s the message you got tonight.”

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