The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s heart. The only thing that can do that is a good story.
NORTH STAR is a story based on my own experiences of being in a same-sex, multi-cultural relationship. Writing it required a truth and vulnerability that was, quite frankly, frightening to expose.
Here, I’ve imagined a middle-aged gay couple living in a rural-American ranch setting. James is a patriotic man of color, a good partner, and hard-working rancher with a husband, Craig, who is dying of degenerative ailments. This story unites themes of loss, dedication, isolation and family, while using love as its true North.
I’ve found the script to be a sort of Rorschach test, allowing people to project their own beliefs and experiences onto the story in ways that opens a dialogue about the dignity of marriage, choices made in families and the power of love.
NORTH STAR has brought together an exceptional dreamteam of talented and notable filmmakers who believe strongly in the film’s potential to touch audiences. NORTH STAR is a film that is meant to bring deep-seated blind spots in all of us into focus.
This is a movie I needed as a kid. It would have changed my life, knowing that there are people in the world like me – that I could grow up to have relationships that reflect who I am.
And now, as a filmmaker, I get to make the movies I needed, so anyone else who needs them can have them, too.
This story is not about ‘those people.’ It’s about all of us.
A rural rancher and his ailing husband, struggling against poverty and isolation, make a heartbreaking decision in order to preserve the dignity of their marriage.
A quiet and secluded ranch surrounded by mountains sits nearby a modest and aging house. James feeds his last horse, a beautiful Palomino named North Star, before letting her out to graze in the meadow.
Back in the house, stacks of overdraft letters, foreclosure warnings and default notices sit on the counter. There are several photos of a happy man proudly riding North Star. In the bedroom, Craig lays awake connected to an oxygen tube. He is now only a shadow of the man he was in the photos with North Star.
Craig’s sister, Erin, stops by for a surprise visit, greeting her brother with prescription bottles and IV bags. She administers the drugs for Craig, acting as his nurse. Because of her religious views, Erin does not accept James and Craig’s marriage and to her, James is not family. She complains that Craig should be living closer to his real family.
Frustrated, James goes to the barn outside. Still in the house, Erin flips through the TV channels, settling on “He is Risen! with Owen & Jess,” a morning talk show hosted by televangelists, Dr. Owen Broderick and Jess Broderick.
Outside, a truck pulls a long horse trailer up the drive. Mike, a younger, fresh-faced rancher, helps James load North Star’s saddles into the truck. Craig watches from the window as the televangelists drone on.
As Erin cleans, she notices the stack of foreclosure notices. She rushes out to confront James only to discover that North Star is being sold to Mike. James offers her the sale money to pay for Craig’s prescriptions but she refuses, saying she will not be blamed for this. She knows the money from selling North Star will not be enough to keep Craig alive. Erin drives off the ranch in a fury, as James meets Craig’s gaze in the window. They are each other’s family.
The ranch is quiet once again. Empty.
Hollywood Critics Association winner, Independent Spirit Award Nominee, Drama Desk and NAACP Theatre Award Nominee
Celebrated for his award winning body of work on stage, television and film including IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, LINCOLN, SELMA, BIRTH OF A NATION, and FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD.
Obie Award Winner and Tony Award Nominee
A career of decades spanning across film, TV and theatre, Gets is known for his work in CAROLINE IN THE CITY and HBO’s GREY GARDENS.
SAG Award Winner
Featured in over 200 titles across film, TV, voice over and commercial, known for her SAG Award winning work in MAD MEN and RED with Bruce Willis.
Starting at a young age in Disney’s THE ROOKIE, Chris has since appeared in THE MAZE RUNNER and THE STANFORD EXPERIMENT on NETFLIX.
SAG Award Winner and Three-Time Primetime Emmy Nominee
Known for her award-winning portrayal of Dr. Kerry Weaver on the long-running series ER and her roles in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and DEEP IMPACT.
Golden Globe Winner and Two-Time SAG Award Winner
From DINER, FOOTLOOSE, A FEW GOOD MEN and APOLLO 13 to his series I LOVE DICK and CITY ON A HILL, Kevin’s work has been celebrated for decades.
Award-winning writer and indie filmmaker. He is an alumni of the Edinburgh Film Festival Director’s Lab and the Artist-in-Residency project with the National Steinbeck Center. He is a writer/director of several documentaries including THE GRAPES OF WRATH: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY. His narrative projects include GHOSTED LIFE, a drama series he created of short-form stories set in New York. His spec historical drama pilot script, BACK ON CANNERY ROW, which continues to win awards and is rated an 8 on the Blacklist (top 5% of scripts). And P.J. is the series producer on the ground-breaking, critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning LGBTQ+ drama series, ANYONE BUT ME, with 4 seasons on Hulu.
Raised in the rural mountains of Northern California, P.J. now splits his time between New York City and Santa Monica, CA.
Award-winning producer, director and writer, Haffey’s credits include the feature film BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE and a documentary on THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
Director of the Discovery+ flagship series HOMEGROWN. Emily directs, produces and manages productions for global brands including, APPLE MUSIC, ADIDAS and MAILCHIMP.
A bi-national cinematographer known for his notable work on Guillermo Del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM and Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.
With over 15 years of casting experience in film and TV, Gafner is best known for his work on IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA.
An Academy Award nominated and BAFTA nominated Sound Designer known for his work on the acclaimed films BLACK PANTHER and A QUIET PLACE.
Emmy Award winning Editor known for his work on Showtime’s DEXTER.
A multi-award winning record producer, composer & songwriter, Altham has been awarded Best Original Score, Best Soundtrack, Best Song, Best Main Theme, and receiving International Honours for Outstanding Musical Achievement.
Award-winning producer of film, television and Broadway, Carlberg produced SKIN, the winner of the 2019 OSCAR for Live Action Short and produced the 2020 OSCAR nominated short, FEELING THROUGH.
30 years of experience of writing, acting and producing for film, Broadway, off-Broadway and TV has made Colman one of the most prolific creators in the entertainment industry.
A writer, director, producer and graduate of Chapman University, Caroline is producer of the feature films BLISS and MYSTERY SPOT.
Writer and producer of feature-length projects including TRIPLE NICKLES and WALKING IN MOCCASINS, both currently in development.
Lindsey’s journey in the industry began as an actor and has evolved into 15 years of growth in the film industry. Lindsey is the co-creator, writer and producer on the TV pilot project OBIT and the docuseries UNCLAIMED. She is a producing partner with Revelations Entertainment, and recently sold her first podcast to iHeart Media.
President of Parce Productions, an entertainment finance and production company, Heather was a director of Redwood Creek Holdings, which provides custom financing for theatre productions. She also brings previous experience in sustainable development and policy, and design.
President and CEO of Fig Street Entertainment, Cynthia moved her businesses from LA to a horse farm in rural Alabama on unceded Mvskoke land a few years back. She specializes in corporate marketing for the tech and entertainment industries.
VP/Director for Fig Street Entertainment, working on unceded Tongva land in Venice, California, Zelda helped to produce/write/ direct/crew some of the first streaming shows in independent television back in the early aughts.
Like many films, North Star has been a long journey from first inspiration to completed movie. With more twists and turns in the making of the film than I could have possibly forseen. I knew going in that it would be a challenge with remote locations, animals, and a limited budget. So, I laid out my vision with dozens of mood-boards on every detail for locations, colors, prop and set decorations ideas, picture vehicles, wardrobe references, and shot and lighting references for every scene in the script.
From the beginning I had actor Colman Domingo on the casting vision-board to play the lead character, JAMES. Colman and I had no previous connection, but having seen his work, I was certain he would be pitch-perfect for the role.
Jeffrey Gafner, our casting director, knew Colman’s talent representatives. So, I wrote the most compelling letter I could to convince him to come spend a week, basically off the grid, in a remote corner of Northern California’s mountains to shoot a short film for little to nothing other than doing me a solid and maybe the experience of doing it. The answer back from his reps was quick and clear: it was a PASS. He was booked solid for the next 3 years. No need for him to read it.
Jeffrey had a wonderful idea, let’s try for Corey Reynolds. He too was booked on a TV series, but had a hiatus coming up. Corey and I met, and we hit it off like best friends. He came on board with a fire and enthusiasm that made my soul soar to great heights of optimism.
Corey was incredible at our staged-reading fundraiser. He also came on as an Executive Producer, and personally got the script to Kevin Bacon. We filmed Kevin and Laura Innes in November of 2019 in LA. And we were all set after 3 years of pre-production to shoot the rest of the film a few months later in March of 2020, after the snow melted and we could get up the mountain roads. We were just days away from traveling to location when COVID-19 shut down the State of California. Like all productions, we were in a strange state of uncertainty. We had to push our dates indefinitely even though we had spent all of our money with locations and rentals. But we didn’t give up. We worked diligently with SAG-AFTRA and the County Health Departments to create COVID protocols for our remote location shoot. We were one of the first productions to be prepping a shoot during the pandemic, this was uncharted water. Eventually, we had ourselves a 64-page COVID plan worked out that included a reduced crew size, no air-travel, only one talent per vehicle with one driver for the 12-hour drive from L.A. to the location, heavy and constant PCR testing, production ‘zones’ and the entire production in a bubble with no one to come or go for the entire shoot. This required that we raise much more money and add days to our shooting schedule. After months of negotiating, we were finally green lit by the Unions, County and State to shoot in November, 2020. This was our last chance.
It was 10 days before shooting. I was at the location casting the horse when I got the call that there was a schedule conflict with Corey’s series. And that he would not be able to shoot with us.
I called Jeffrey and told him we had lost the film. Ever optimistic, he suggested that I go back to Colman. But I argued that they had already said no. He reminded me that I had nothing to lose. So I typed out a new letter. And stood next to the one tree for miles that somehow had cell service near it, and emailed the letter off. I went to my cabin and laid in bed trying to come to terms with having to give up.
The next morning, I went over to the tree to check my instagram (as one does). And I had a direct message from…Colman Domingo. It was just a photograph of him riding a horse. I couldn’t believe it. Then his phone number popped up with a note: “call me.” He said on the phone: “P.J., I just want you to hear it from me: I will be on your set in 10 days.” “Colman,” I said, “You don’t even know me.” He said: “P.J., the script is beautiful. I called my agents and told them that projects like these are why we got into this industry. I’m doing it.” “But Colman, It’s a 12-hour car ride from Los Angeles. One-way!” “No worries. I’m in Austin. It’s like 20 hours from here.” He laughed his great big laugh. Told me not to worry about him. He had two weeks off from his show. Perfect timing for him. We are making this movie.
And 10 days later, our driver pulled up to our remote location. Out stepped Colman, straight off my vision board and into this movie. He crushed it.
Sometimes I think I don’t know how a movie gets made. You get it going, then ride that wave no matter what. You don’t give up. Do what you have to. But keep going.
And from that, I now have my film made. And I have gained dear friends in Corey and Colman. And we are all now zero degrees of Kevin Bacon too.
Making movies is magic.
P.J Palmer, Director/Writer