In New Bedford, Mass., Dartmouth native Jay Burke is shooting the appropriately named low-budget film “Whaling City”. It’s described on the movie’s website http://whalingcityfilm.com/ as “a dramatic narrative feature film set in New Bedford, Mass., in the rapidly changing world of the modern fishing industry.”
It’s a project that’s been a decade in the making. The screenplay was workshopped at Columbia University’s graduate film program from 1999 to 2002. It won the 2005 Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting Award and the 2007 Sloan Feature Film Production Grant.
According to the website, “Whaling City” is “the story of a third-generation independent commercial fisherman, struggling to keep a grasp on his way of life — and a long-held family boat — as costs rise and the heavily regulated fishing industry is pushed towards a corporate model of efficiency. While developing an unlikely relationship with a marine biologist, he is tempted to do whatever it takes to keep his boat.”
Wait — there’s a romance between a fisherman and a government fisheries scientist? I don’t think marine scientists are feeling a lot of love from commercial fishermen these days, but stranger things have happened.
But more importantly, the approximately 100-minute-long film, which is in production this fall, is attempting to tell the story of what’s happening to commercial fishing in New England, and why the average American should care. You can have your ghosts, goblins, vampires, witches and werewolves. The scariest thing I can think of is an honorable and historic 400-year-old industry vanishing before our very eyes.