Located ten miles off the coast of mainland New Hampshire, the Oceanic Hotel is the grand, yet far-from-modern home to the thousands of guests who brave the choppy seas to visit during the warmer spring and summer months. Off-season, the hotel and the 43-acre Star Island on which it sits is home to one woman – its winter caretaker who braves the colder, darker months of inclement weather by embracing the solitude and finding inspiration, and life, in what would otherwise be considered the ‘bones’ of winter.
Interview with Director/Producer Brian Bolster
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Winter’s Watch is part of an anthology of short films I’ve been working on over the past several years, about people who have chosen largely (sometimes exclusively) ‘off-the-grid’ jobs. I’ve also always had a particular interest in jobs or situations in which people have immersive relationships with the environment that surrounds them. Most of the posts profiled in my series are seasonal, and Winter’s Watch is, not surprisingly, my Winter installment. The film profiles Alexandra de Steiguer, the Winter Caretaker on Star Island, Maine, situated ten miles off the coast of New England. For the past twenty years, Alex spends five months of the year looking after the Oceanic Hotel, a seasonal resort open from June to late October.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
My documentary style in this film series is definitely more experiential, versus narrative, so I’ve similarly filmed and edited Winter’s Watch with the hope of transporting viewers not just to, but into a world and lifestyle that they will likely never have the opportunity to explore themselves. Alex’s job is unique. She spends five months in almost complete isolation – a challenging, perhaps unbearable situation for some, but a welcome source of artistic inspiration for Alex. I hope all viewers walk away with a taste of what those same five months might be for them.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I’ve made seven short documentary films, and all of them films touch on this topic of one’s relationship with their surroundings. Whether that be a solitary job as a fire lookout in Montana during the summer months (The Lookout), or a more personal documentary about my own living situation in New York City apartment (One Year Lease).
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I’ve been wanting to make a winter caretaker documentary for several years, and I had originally planned to profile a caretaker at the Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. Due to a variety of roadblocks, however, that opportunity never materialized, but during some research a few years later, I stumbled across Alex and her work on Star Island. I was immediately drawn to the geography of her post, her enduring relationship with the island and her work as a photographer
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Winter’s Watch premiered at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana last month, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have three of the four films in this anthology screen there. So far the audience reaction as has been very positive with lots of great, insightful questions. The film is headed to Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April, with hopefully many more on the horizon.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
A wider audience and to have the opportunity to continue telling more unique stories. I have been very fortunate to have most of my work featured on online platforms, and Winter’s Watch is no exception. I’ve recently been offered online distribution, but I’d like the film to continue with its festival run for a bit longer before I release it to a larger audience.
Would you like to add anything else?
I’d like viewers to embrace the idea of solitude and find inspiration like Alex has. In conversations and Q&As, a lot of people will say they could never spend so much time alone or in isolation. I hope the film encourages others to experience, or at least be open to the idea of, living a life unconnected because it’s not as threatening as it may seem.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on finding a subject and/or topic for my first feature length documentary as I continue to screen Winter’s Watch at film festivals.
Interview: March 2017
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Located ten miles off the coast of mainland New England, the Oceanic Hotel is the grand, yet far-from-modern home to the thousands of guests who brave the choppy seas to visit during the warmer spring and summer months. Off-season, the hotel and the 43-acre Star Island on which it sits is home to one woman – its winter caretaker who braves the colder, darker months of inclement weather by embracing the solitude and finding inspiration, and life, in what would otherwise be considered the ‘bones’ of winter.
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Brian Bolster
BIO: Brian grew up in suburban Boston, MA before attending and graduating from the film program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. His short documentary films have screened at over seventy international film festivals including Sundance Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, Outfest, Slamdance Film Festival and Traverse City Film Festival, and have also been distributed by The Atlantic Video, Aeon Video, and United Airlines among other channels. His most recent film The Tricks List won Best Director at the 2016 Tacoma Film Festival, and in 2014 his short documentary One Year Lease won the award for Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival and was a Cinema Eye Honors 2015 nominee for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking. He is a three-time alumnus of Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and his short documentary The Lookout won the festival’s Big Sky Award in 2012. Brian also holds an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has worked in several public and private schools in New York City, and as an educational researcher for Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues. After a 25+ year stint as a resident of Manhattan, he’s recently relocated to Hollywood CA.
CAST: Alexandra de Steiguer