Several local residents, including Chip Morrison and Tom Platz, wheel a gurney down a hallway Saturday evening at the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston during the filming of a movie. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Beth Morrison, an Auburn native who started her theater career at the Community Little Theatre and worked her way to forming her own opera and music theater production company, is returning home to shoot scenes for a movie 10 years in the making.

For the next 10 days, Morrison and a production crew of 20 will be shooting scenes for their opera film “Black Lodge” at the Bates Mill Complex.

Morrison, the daughter of former Auburn city manager Chip Morrison, said that the idea for “Black Lodge” began in 2011 as she was looking to commission someone to write an opera about the popular television show “Twin Peaks,” which ran for two seasons in 1990 and returned in 2017 for a third season.

Beth Morrison, left and composer David T. Little, right, on the set during the filming of “Black Lodge” in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston Saturday night. This is the third opera-theatre work of his that Morrison has produced. The others are Soldier Songs” and “Dog Days.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I’ve been obsessed with ‘Twin Peaks’ for my whole life,” Morrison said. “At the time, (composer David T. Little) was reading Antonin Artaud and William S. Burroughs, and he knew of David Lynch, (who created Twin Peaks.) David did some philosophical thinking around these three people and what they had in common.”

Little and Morrison reached out to Anne Waldman, an award-winning poet who knew William S. Burroughs, about being the librettist, or person writing the text or lyrics for an opera, for the project.

Auburn native Beth Morrison stands in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston as a scene is being filmed in the background Saturday night. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Morrison said that “Black Lodge” centers around the ideas of Artaud, Burroughs and Lynch interacting with one another in the Black Lodge, a notable location in the universe of “Twin Peaks,” but with its roots in theosophic writings from the early 20th century.

The film is directed by Michael McQuilken, who has experience in theater and cinema, and the music is being performed by Timur and the Dime Museum, a band that has roots in alternative rock, punk, and classical music.

Originally, “Black Lodge” was meant to premiere on stage in fall 2021, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions placed on social gatherings, Morrison said “it made a lot of sense to turn this into a film.”

Transitioning “Black Lodge” from a theater piece to a film was “very easy,” according to Morrison.

“The creative team we had assembled for the theater piece also happens to be a film team,” Morrison said. “It made the transition pretty seamless.”

Morrison and her company faced another complication at the end of February after plans for their initial filming location fell through.

Morrison said that she and her 20-person production crew were supposed to film in a New Jersey complex with several warehouses.

“We received a call saying that the warehouse wasn’t structurally sound, so they weren’t able to honor our reservation,” Morrison said. “It’s very hard to find a warehouse in the New York tri-state area that is affordable during COVID times.”

Black Lodge movie director Michael McQuilken on the set in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston during a break in filming Saturday night. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Morrison said that she was visiting her parents in Auburn recently and knew that her father was close with Tom Platz, whose company owns most of the Bates Mill Complex.

“We started talking and I wondered if Tom would be open to us using the mills to film ‘Black Lodge,’” Morrison said. “I met with Tom, we toured the mills, and he told me he’d love for us to film the movie at the mill.”

For 10 days, Morrison and her crew of 20 will be shooting at the mill, although some of the scenes will also be shot at her parents’ house in Auburn.

She added that her father, along with Platz and Christopher Schario, executive artistic director of the Public Theatre in Lewiston, are all serving as extras in the film.

“My dad is actually in costume right now and getting ready to film a scene,” Morrison added with a laugh.

Morrison said that Schario has been “incredibly generous with us by providing scenic elements and props.”

Other members of the Lewiston-Auburn community who helped Morrison included St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, which arranged daily COVID-19 rapid testing through Stephen Costello and Beverly Stratton, and Jim and Jaime Pittman of Rent-It in Auburn, who donated an old Edsel vehicle to be used during filming.

Morrison said that once the filming is complete, the post-production process will take place over the next four or five months.

“The plan is for us to do a premiere in the fall in New York,” Morrison said.


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