Girl on the Bridge is a documentary film about the unsolved murder of Mary Ellen Tanner. It examines how her violent death in July of 1978 changed the lives of her family, friends and the Town of Kennebunk, Maine. It is the story of a time in a small New England town where people looked out for one another, they never locked their doors and children played without fear.

It is the story of how optimism and hope flourishes in the face of senseless tragedy, and how modern technology has enabled the search for answers to a nearly 40-year-old mystery. Many of Mary’s friends, just kids like her in 1978,  grew up thinking that someone they know may have killed her.

Their search for justice, Justice For Mary, a group that began on Facebook, became a movement in the hope that someone holds the key to the identity of the person or persons who killed Mary Tanner and left her body on a remote grass air strip known as Gracie Evans Field.

We are making this film because we believe that it will give a voice to all the Mary Tanners of the world, that it will speak on behalf of all victims and survivors of violence, that the efforts of Mary’s friends will serve as an example for others who seek justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The production will be a work of independent documentary journalism. It is based on the story “Who Killed Mary Tanner,” written by Rik O’Neal, which appeared in the May 2013 issue of The Village magazine, published by Current Publications of Westbrook, Maine.

Where are we going with this? Film festivals have become the venue of choice for independent filmmakers around the world, and we will submit to many, as well as broadcast, DVD, VOD and special screenings.  We will match or exceed the high production values set by others in the industry, using the latest in cinematic technology to create a work that finds audiences wherever they are, from wide-screen theaters to cell phones.

The Filmmakers

R.D. O’Neal, writer/director

In my 40 years as a journalist and writer, I have never found a story as compelling as Mary’s, as complex and challenging to tell. It remains to be seen how successful this film will be, but the effort has been worth it.

The force behind this film is Mary herself. How could someone described as a pretty typical kid be so deeply remembered?  Even people who never met her have strong feelings about her. She is “Kennebunk’s child” as it says on her memorial bench in Rotary Park. She was everyone’s friend, sister, daughter and a perfect girlfriend. She has come to symbolize the cherished joy of youth as well as the terrible darkness of human depravity.

The efforts of her friends to keep her memory alive dramatizes the fact that in every tragedy can be found the hope, courage and inner strength that moves people  to seek their higher selves,

The very act of remembering does not change the facts, but the fact that we remember, how we remember, can change how we feel.

In this story, Mary Tanner is leading people to a place where she is remembered not as a victim, but a source of joyful recollection.

Roger McCord, photography/editing

I have intertwined writing and visual imagery throughout my career as a photographer/writer/journalist and filmmaker. Trained in the “old-school” ways and attitudes, I have welcomed and embraced the advent of digital imagery as well as the new visual techniques of storytelling.

I also applaud the wonderfully democratic arenas of publishing now available online, most notably Facebook and YouTube. Indeed, practically anyone can publish his or her voice in pictures and words.

In the last few years I actively submitted video films to the Portland Phoenix Short Film Festival. In 2009 and 2010 I received several first-place awards for documentary works and in 2011 I received the festival’s Film of the Year for “Everything In Between,” a 10-minute piece about the humble joys of being part of a family. If ever there was a labor of love, that was it for me.

My goal artistically, after a fairly long career, is to capture and present ideas and images in ways that are new and different to my familiar sensibilities.  I don’t eschew “tried-and-true.” I just want to explore.

Mary Tanner’s story is both specific and universal. The overarching theme is found in the stories of those left behind, who have carried on a cause that is unusually vivid and steadfast. With camera in hand, it is an interesting challenge to help capture those stories, with an eye toward contributing some small part to their cause for justice and peace.

The Production Companies

Carry Water Films When we first proposed doing this film, we told early supporters that we would  “chop wood and carry water” until it was finished.

Switchback Productions LLC is registered in the State of Maine as a full-service video production company founded in 2002 to produce short films, informational and corporate videos, web video for small business and documentaries for general audiences. Dramatic short films include “She’s The One” (2002), “Life Insurance” (2006), and “Her Alibi” (2011).

RogerThat! Media Productions has won several first-place awards for documentary works, including “Ball Hawk” and “The Car-Boat” and the Phoenix Short Film Festival’s Film of the Year award for “Everything In Between,” a 10-minute piece about the humble joys of being part of a family.