Rebecca Howland, a 2002 graduate of Fryeburg Academy, is a sunny, outgoing person — not that you'd know this from her latest acting job in the film “Witch Way,” which is having its premiere Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m. at the Red River Theater in Concord, N.H.
“I would describe her [my character] as awkward and anti-social,” Howland said. “I've always had friends, and she is a character who never had any.”
In “Witch Way” a group of college students have their minds set on solving the 100-year-old mystery of the Clifton witch and of the supposed curse she left behind. Howland's Danielle has access to the haunted estate in question.
“Everyone on the set believed she was like her character because she stayed in the character the whole making of the film,” said Mary Wicca, the director of the film.
“She really got into the method acting, which really gave her some amazing creep out scenes.”
Of course this level of commitment did have its downside too.
“She isolated and she felt bad,” said Wicca. “She got her feelings hurt because they didn't include her in some things because they thought that's how she really was.”
Howland, who currently lives in Concord, admits that at times it was a depressing process, but ultimately she enjoys playing different types of characters and exploring different emotions.
“I always describe acting as therapy,” Howland said. “We've all had times where we feel lonely and I just played that up and it forced me to deal with those emotions.”
The movie is officially opening in October and will be shown at the Flagship Theater cinema chain as well as at some affiliated theaters. This distribution deal was established before the film was even made and was the impetus behind the making of the film.
“The film was inspired by a friend of mine who owns a chain of theaters who was telling me about a screenplay he was writing and I was in the middle of writing a book,” Wicca said. “I put my book on hold because I asked him, 'If I make a film will you play it your theaters?' And he said, 'Absolutely.' So, I got cracking on it.”
Wicca based the film on true events surrounding a haunted house she grew up in. She visited a nearby graveyard and did research on who was doing the haunting.
“I kind of took the story of the two people that haunted the place and fictionalized and blew it up with exaggeration and made a really interesting story,” Wicca said.
Wicca structured the script in such way that there was not much scripted dialogue. Throughout the production there were secrets she gave to the actors to deploy at certain times to get naturalistic reactions from her cast.
“They had a basic script, a basic storyline,” Wicca said. “I didn't want anyone memorizing lines or force acting, so what I did was I gave them a lot of freedom to do a lot of improv.”
For Howland, this chance to improvise within a character was an exciting opportunity.
“I thought it was actually pretty cool,” Howland said. “Because I really like certain TV shows like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'It Is Always Sunny in Philadelphia' and stuff like that where it is not really scripted, so it was kind of exciting for me because you just get into your character and just go with it.”
Although Howland has always enjoyed acting, she did the so-called right thing and studied something more practical in college.
“My parents don't have a lot of money so I thought I would be responsible and go to school for something that I may have had better luck getting a job in,” Howland said.
“But I got out of college and, I hate to sound negative, but I saw people who literally had their GED getting jobs over me and getting paid more, so I though what the hell, you only live once. So I started auditioning for things.”
“Witch Way” is the fifth project and the fourth feature-length film Howland has been involved with, but in terms of the size of the film's red carpet premiere, the press coverage and the film's distribution this is the biggest project she's been involved with to date.
Howland became involved in the film the same way most of the cast did, through a listing on the classifieds Website Craigslist. The cast that came together formed lasting bonds and friendships.
“We all connect really well and we've all kept in touch,” Jeff Gabbard, one of the actors and the unofficial spokesperson for the film, said. I actually just worked on a FX pilot with [cast mates] Sarah Newcomb, Heidi Nicole and Ashley Caron.”
Gabbard, of Wakefield, N.H., and a former employee of the Black Bear Cafe in Ossipee, actual suggested that Newcomb join the cast of “Witch Way” after working with her previously on a short film.
“It is really nice in the small acting community in New England; a lot of us help each other out and tell each other when a good audition is coming up or a cool project and we try all to get on it together,” Newcomb, of Wolfeboro, N.H., said. “It is nice little community like that.”
“Witch Way” is the first film in a proposed trilogy, with Wicca and the cast all returning in the fall to begin work on the second film. Everyone involved hopes the first film will grab the attention of potential investors.
“We're really hoping with this movie people will be able to look at it and say, 'Well, this is what they could do with absolutely no budget,'” Howland said. “Because it came out pretty well for that fact that we pretty much had no budget and there wasn't very much experience in terms of everyone involved in it.”
For more information visit www.witchwaymovie.com.