By Sarah Davin
“One of the things we really wanted to bring into this film, and one of the reasons why we wanted to set it here, is because we have a lot of nostalgia for home and we wanted to show people into that world.”
A deep passion for the Green Mountain State lies at the heart of the movie Soulmate(s), the filming of which in Vermont just concluded. The film stars Stephanie Lynn and Alexandra Case, who also cowrote the film and are Vermont natives. Lynn grew up in Montpelier and graduated from Montpelier High School, and Case grew up in the Windsor County town of Brownsville. Both looked forward to capturing their home state on film. “To set it in our home state is something really special and a bit of a love story to Vermont,” said Case.
The film is a female buddy comedy about two young Vermont women, Samantha Templeton (Case) and Jessamine Burr (Lynn), who live together in a “marriage-like” friendship in which they live and do everything together. This relationship is challenged by the arrival of Jess’s out-of-state fiancé and the potential threat of maple syrup corporatization. Over the course of the movie, the characters are challenged to grow up and apart in order to grow together.
When talking with Lynn and Case, their love for Vermont rings loud and clear. Although they both live in Los Angeles now, their ties to Vermont remain strong, and they often visit family here. This personal connection to the state translates into a special attention to honestly portraying the state, which is refreshing because Vermont has a history of being misrepresented in movies. Case remarked, “We’ve all seen the Hallmark movie called A Christmas in Vermont (2016), where they’re all wearing reindeer sweaters, way too much makeup, and it’s filmed on a soundstage that they’re trying to make look like a barn, and it’s horrible.”
The dedication of Case and Lynn to authenticity is also demonstrated by their determination to film in the state. “Our first week, we shot at a home in Williston that was a 200-year-old house. So, something like that, you can’t quite get in Los Angeles or some sort of a Hallmark movie. There is a sort of aesthetic and flavor that it brings that you just can’t really cheat. You can’t build that on some studio,” said Lynn. The film also includes shots of Burlington, St. Albans, Jericho, Richmond, Montpelier, Shelburne, Waterbury, and other towns. Lynn and Case have also incorporated moments of Vermont’s culture into the film, including scenes taking place at a fall harvest festival, at a corn maze, sugar on snow, and lots of maple.
The film not only centers on Vermonters, the filmmaking crew also highlights local talent. “We have some students from Champlain College who are working on the crew, but also interning and getting course credit for that,” said Case. “We are happy to be able to bring that opportunity to them.”
Not only are there Vermonters behind the scenes, but there will be Vermont comedic talent on screen as well. Comedian and actor Rusty DeWees, best known for his stand-up character, the Logger, will appear in the film. “We wrote the role of ‘Rusty,’ the general store owner, with DeWees in mind. His Vermont accent is so brilliant,” Lynn said. In addition, Carhartt will be doing the outfitting for the film. Other sponsors include Morse Farm, Solmate Socks, and Switchback Brewing Co.
For some of the Los Angeles members of the crew, filming this movie meant experiencing Vermont for the first time. “It’s been amazing to watch people discover Vermont,” said Case. “I’m seeing Vermont through the new eyes of our cast and crew who are coming from Los Angeles. I’m from here, my family is from here, and my friends are from here, so we’ve all seen it a million times. They thought Burlington was the small town. One, that was wrong. Then we took them to a real small town and they were like, ‘Oh my God!’ To see Vermont through their eyes for the first time has been really lovely.”
In the past, a film with Vermont as its setting and women at its center might have struggled to gain the support it needed. Fortunately, the industry has started opening up to new ideas. “We came at a good time because there has definitely been a big shift in the last couple of years with people being very open to female-driven films and especially female-driven comedies,” Lynn reflected. “In film, you see a lot of girlfriend friendships based on cosmos, shoes, or a guy they both like and are fighting over. In my life, I don’t really know anyone like that. I have wonderful friends who are supportive of each other and work together. We want to show something a bit more raw and real with a country-esque feel for this film specifically about a female friendship,” said Lynn. While this is a buddy movie, Case and Lynn are also seeking to veer away from the bevy of “fart and poop jokes” that fill the genre.
While the buddy movie is a classic form, Soulmate(s)’ embrace of the female perspective and rural location promises to make this film unique. For Lynn and Case, using their talents to bring Vermont to life on screen is a dream come true. “For me, it’s combining my two favorite things. Being on set in my dream state, the best state of all time. It’s not going to get better than that,” said Case.