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Thursday, May 26, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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"Ferry" tale to premiere tonight on Seattle-Bainbridge run

Seattle Times staff reporter

A "ferry" tale will be told on Puget Sound tonight.

Really.

The tale is a movie that is debuting at 8:10 p.m. aboard the state ferry Wenatchee, between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. It's about two strangers who, after exchanging glances for years, meet and strike up a relationship on, well, a ferry boat.

Titled "Hello," it tells the story of a Bainbridge Island commuter, Max, who hopes that by simply saying hello to another commuter, Rory, his life could change.

The 20-minute film focuses on the couple's blossoming relationship, which includes the creation of a contract that sets out what Max and Rory can and can't say to each other. (Rory is an attorney, after all.)

Things are going swell between Max and Rory, but their romantic reverie is interrupted when Rory's longtime boyfriend asks her to marry him.

Rory is played by actress Susanna Thompson. Her boyfriend, Donald, is played by Kevin Tighe, while Eric Stolz has the role of Max.

David Black, the ferry system's former director of operations, appears as one of those book-reading passengers.

The film, written and directed by Seattle resident John Helde, was made in December 2003 aboard the ferry Kaleetan on the Bremerton route.

Helde, who considers the film both a comedy and a tragedy, said he was inspired to write the script when his wife, a bus commuter from Ballard, told him about the people she saw on the bus every day.

"She said you may feel like you know them, but you don't know them at all," he said. "It stuck in my head and I transposed it to the ferry, like a little floating womb where everyone gets put together."

The film is sprinkled with comic touches, such as a commuter engrossed in the book, "Building Self Esteem with Firearms."

The world created in the movie is true to what happens on most ferries: one where people read books, magazines and newspapers and strangers don't talk with each other, Helde said.

He was able to make the film after winning a short-film competition in 2003, which led to him getting financial help for production equipment including cameras, lighting and film.

Helde, who shot on the ferry for four days, said it reflects his passion for the ferries.

Does the film have a message?

"It was inspired by trying to connect with people you may not know," Helde said. "It's not a boy meets girl, but two people who need each other for a moment in time."

Helde is now working on a feature-length documentary on the story of his father and other Americans who grew up in China before World War II and his journey to China to find his roots.

"Hello" will be shown next month at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Along with the 8:10 p.m. showing, the movie will be played at 8:55 p.m. on the return trip to Seattle.

It will be shown again on Saturday on the 3 p.m. ferry to Bremerton and the 4:15 p.m. ferry to Seattle. Other showings may be scheduled, ferry system officials said.

Tonight's movie will be shown near the galley end of the boat. The ferry system is providing free popcorn and soda.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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