Screenwriters and film directors often have a contentious relationship -- many directors alter scripts without consulting the writer, and some ban writers from the set. But that wasn't the case with Lifetime's new film, "Lost Boy," where director Tara Miele and screenwriter Jennifer Maisel realized they were both Long Islanders: Miele grew up in Lindenhurst and Maisel in East Rockaway.
"We had such an easy working relationship, and I think part of it was because we share these roots," says Maisel.
"There's something about having the tribe of Long Island in your blood," Miele agrees. "It's a certain level of groundedness, feeling the importance of family. Maybe it comes from the containment of the place -- it's an island. People still live with family all around them. You don't see that everywhere else."
That sense of family fuels "Lost Boy," premiering July 25 at 8 p.m. The psychological thriller stars Virginia Madsen as Laura Harris, a mother whose young son, Mitchell, goes missing on a beach. Years pass -- her marriage disintegrates, her husband (Mark Valley) remarries, but she never gives up hope. Then a young man (Matthew Fahey) appears -- wounded, wary, maybe even dangerous -- claiming to be her long-lost son. But is he?
The idea came to Maisel on a beach in California, when a small child disappeared. The child was found safe shortly thereafter, but Maisel, who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 13-year-old daughter, was hooked.
"This is a great start to a movie," she recalls thinking. "You're in a place that feels absolutely safe, where you think you don't have to be hypervigilant the way we all are nowadays. Then there's that moment of, 'Wait -- ohmygod, where's my kid?' "
Miele recalls being immediately gripped by the script, and thought it was important she and Maisel were moms (Miele has two young girls; she and her husband also live in Los Angeles). But it was the Long Island connection, she says, that added a special resonance to the film.
"This drama unfolds, all about layers of family -- an ex-husband, his new wife, all interacting," says Miele. "I remember some of the actors were like, 'Would this happen?' and I really did think -- Long Island. Where there are all these crazy, messy, extended families that never leave each other alone. It's something . . . Jen and I completely understand."