Jane Ackermann was cast as the lead in “Neptune” by Maine director Derek Kimball when she was 13 and filmed the movie for the next three years.

About a girl raised by a priest on Maine island whose world is rocked by a classmate’s sudden disappearance, “Neptune” is now on the festival circuit. It scored great reviews at Slamdance Film Festival in Utah last month and now heads to the Emerge Film Festival next month.

After that: Graduating high school and then, the Big Apple.

Name: Jane Ackermann

Age: 17

Lives: Portland

You’ve been performing since you were 3? I started dancing when I was little — that didn’t go so well because I’m not the most coordinated person in the world — but then I started doing theater at Portland Stage Co. Working in Portland with all those amazing people at Portland Stage gave me a sense of going to work everyday and having something to do; it was pretty incredible. I wanted to do that more.

How did you connect with Derek? I was listed with an agency in Boston and a casting website in Boston and he saw my head shot through them. He thought I was from Boston, but he decided to reach out to me anyway. He emailed me and was like, “I hope you can come to this audition, but if you can’t, I understand,” and it turned out we lived across the street from each other, which is pretty crazy. I auditioned with a ton of other girls. I think Derek and I just clicked at the beginning.

Why did filming take three years? I think it was mostly just money and scheduling. The film is supposed to take place over the course of a couple weeks in the summer. It was pretty lucky that I looked the same for three years and I didn’t have any crazy growth spurts or anything.

What’s the festival circuit experience been like? Obviously, I’ve been proud of (“Neptune”) and I was optimistic about where it was going — I had a lot of faith in Derek and all of the crew and the cast — but I never expected it to go to Slamdance. It was so incredible. Meeting these people from all over the world has been amazing.

The biggest challenge of filming? Initially, I thought the biggest challenge was going to be keeping in character or having a character in mind for three years and not losing that. But I think after working so closely with Derek and Allen (Baldwin), the producer, and the actors Tony (Reilly) and Bill (McDonough III), who play the priest and the lobsterman respectively, I think the three years added to the performance for all of us. We all got so close and so comfortable in the roles. Money is always a challenge, especially in a state with not a lot of film infrastructure and a ton of talent. It was kind of hard to stay optimistic about finishing it when it’s taking three years, but we had so much support.

The highlight of filming? Working with everybody and getting to travel around Maine and see all these cute little coastal towns. I kind of felt like I grew up on the set. Just getting to be with all these people that are so knowledgeable about what they do and love it so much was so inspiring.

I heard there was one scene in the movie that took 42 takes? It’s a really emotionally intense scene that takes place in a closet — not to spoil anything — but it was just one of those days. I think it was one of the first interior shoots we did. The lighting wasn’t working and the sound wasn’t working, or it was working and it wasn’t all coming together. Tony and I were having to maintain our performances at the same level for 42 takes and people were crawling on the ground, trying to get the boom in to get the sound. It was not a good day for any of us, but, you know, we lived.

Last movie recommended to a friend: “Mean Streets.” I love the sound track and Robert DeNiro is so good and funny, he’s such a good character actor. Or “On the Waterfront” — I’m a huge fan of “On the Waterfront.” Also “Chinatown.” I love “Chinatown.” I’m a big movie watcher.

Last album recommended to a friend: A collection by Blind Lemon Jefferson. He’s got this really great song called “Hot Dogs,” which is really funny. He’s kind of talking, playing the guitar and picking it. It’s got a nice soul to it.

Last book recommended to a friend: I’m reading “In Our Time” by Ernest Hemingway right now, which I’m liking a lot. I like short stories. It’s broken up really nicely. It goes from America to Europe, it does war stories and home stories. I like the contrast that it develops.

What do you hope “Neptune” leads to? I’m moving to New York in the fall, I’m going to college there. I hope it leads to more film roles and more stage roles. I love it so much it’s really what I want to do. There’s nothing like it. When I’m doing it, it just feels really right.

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This story was updated on March 30 at 9:17 a.m.


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