Cast and crew from the the film set at a long bar
Finn's Irish Pub in Ellsworth plans to reopen. Credit: Courtesy of Whisky Wolf Media

Former patrons of a popular Main Street pub in Ellsworth might get a chance to see the bar’s distinctive interior while the owners of the shuttered business continue to look for a buyer.

Owners Lorena Stearns and Paul Markosian have been searching for a buyer for the pub and restaurant since Finn’s Irish Pub closed last summer. They had some suitors at the end of 2022, but those offers fell through. Now they are hopeful that another potential buyer will come along with plans to re-open the bar this summer.

But the bar of the business, an art deco former train dining car, has not been completely quiet in 2023. A couple of weeks ago, an adaptation of a Stephen King short story, “One for the Road,” came to life inside when an independent filmmaker and about a dozen other people shot some scenes inside the bar.

“I was so grateful they let us film there,” said film director David Jester. “It has that 1930s O’Mahony dining car inside. It has a cozy feel. It was gold as a movie set. You can’t get that in most places.”

The film Jester is making is an adaptation of the sequel to King’s novel “Salem’s Lot.” In the sequel, a family from New York is traveling through Maine but has car trouble. The husband of the family walks off on foot to get help and finds a bar and, well, typically scary Stephen King things happen after that.

The film is being made through King’s Dollar Baby program. In the program, King lets filmmakers submit proposals for a dollar to make adaptations of his work. If he likes the proposal, he lets them make a film no more than 45 minutes long as long as it is not sold commercially and does not turn a profit.

The program gives aspiring and unproven filmmakers the opportunity to build up their portfolios, Jester said, and can help lead to better paying film work. Film director Frank Darabont was picked to direct the 1994 Hollywood film “The Shawshank Redemption” after first making a Dollar Baby film of King’s short story “The Woman in the Room.”

Jester, a firefighter and paramedic for the Portland Fire Department, said he had long frequented Finn’s before it closed last July. He summered in the area with his family, and his parents now live in the area.

“I’ve been going to Finn’s ever since they first opened [in 2010],” Jester said. “The area is quite familiar to me.”

He said he knew the layout of Finn’s, which has a long counter in the bar and a parallel hallway separated from the bar by windows, was well suited for the film. The story is set in the 1980s and takes place around Christmas, so set designers decked out the bar with holiday decorations. Despite Finn’s location in the middle of downtown Ellsworth, in the story the bar is set in “the middle of nowhere,” so they had to make it feel more rural.

And, being a Stephen King story, the designers wanted to give a slight creepiness to it, to amplify some of the tension in the film. To achieve that, they also put up a taxidermied bat on the wall as well as a mounted boar’s head and deer heads and some old tin signs.

They also shot other scenes in Hancock County, he said. They used the old Mariaville Grange for the bar’s exterior shots, and shot the car breakdown scene on Eagle Road, at the south end of Graham Lake in Ellsworth. Another scene was shot in a friend’s apartment in downtown Brunswick, Jester said.

“We just finished filming last week,” Jester said.

In addition to directing the film and writing the screenplay, Jester served as co-executive producer of the film along with collaborator Leigh Doran. Roger Cropley III, editor of the Hollywood feature film “Blood and Money,” which was set and filmed in Maine, is editing “One for the Road,” Jester said.

He expects the finished product to be about 20 minutes long. His goal is to get the film screened at some Maine film festivals this summer and maybe at festivals outside Maine too, though he did not specify which ones.

Markosian said he and Stearns were excited to have the movie scene shot in their bar. He said the added decorations “looked beautiful” and that the crew put everything back exactly the way it was when they were done.

As for selling the business and building, he and Stearns are optimistic they will get an offer soon.

“We hope that with spring on the horizon something will materialize soon,” Markosian said.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....