Todd Field’s Favorite Maine Place

The Oscar-nominated director finds the essence of community at the Rockport post office.

Rockport Post Office
Photo by Dave Waddell
Todd Field
The other Portland. “It was a sleepy cow town then. Outside of town was all green, all dairy farms and orchards. There was a feeling here very familiar to me from my boyhood.”
Best Picture and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, for 2001’s In the Bedroom; Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, for 2006’s Little Children.
Though Tár chronicles the unraveling of a world-class orchestra conductor, Field’s first love is jazz.
By Brian Kevin
From our March 2023 issue

A few years ago, Todd Field and his wife, Serena Rathbun, took a trip to Cuba — and uncharacteristically left their phones and other devices behind. “Ten days felt like four months,” recalls Field, who wrote and directed last year’s psychological drama Tár, which has garnered six Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and for Field as Best Director. “When we left, we turned to each other and said, ‘We’d forgotten what it was like.’” 

It was a similar feeling of reprieve, Field says, when he and his family moved to midcoast Maine, in 1998. At the time, Field had written but not yet made his breakout film, 2001’s Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom, but he was more than a decade into a Hollywood career as an actor and director of acclaimed festival-circuit shorts. He and Rathbun also had a young family, and Maine, where Field’s mother’s family settled in the mid–17th century, had been a lodestar and source of family lore since his own childhood, in Oregon. “We wanted to experience our day-to-day life with our children in a way that we couldn’t before,” Field says. “When we first visited, I remember saying to Serena, ‘I’m home. I know this place. I know these people.’ I felt like a salmon swimming upstream or something.”

Some stories Field heard growing up concerned his great-grandad, once the postmaster in Blue Hill Falls — so there’s perhaps something generational to his fondness for Rockport’s unassuming post office. “It’s the closest thing we have to a public heart. It’s like a church,” Field says. “You have to be careful about if you really have to post something because you run into everybody, friends and neighbors, and inevitably everybody is having this incredible time.” Often, Field says, they’re catching up with the post office’s much-admired staff. Other USPS locations, he suggests, “would do well to learn from Rockport that it’s all about people, that any transient public space is all about people making decisions to take a huge amount of pride and joy in their jobs.”

Two years ago, Field helped organize a community send-off for outgoing postmaster Stephen Culpovich, a 36-year USPS vet who’d put off retirement to see Rockport through the tough days of early COVID. The celebration included a surprise ovation outside the post office on Culpovich’s last day. The crowd filled the streets. “Everyone sang ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ to him — it was beautiful,” Field says. “That’s why you live in Maine.”

Headshot courtesy of Shutterstock