“Maine holds a special place in my heart because it is where Aron and I fell in love and also learned the challenges and opportunities of making movies together,” says Gita Pullapilly. This is where the love story began seventeen years ago for Gita, of Indian descent and from Indiana, and Aron Gaudet of Old Town, Maine.
The two met in Michigan while working their respective television jobs and knew there was something more exciting on the horizon, so they ventured into the world of filmmaking. It was in Maine where their serious creating began. Aron stumbled across the story of patriotic activity at Bangor International Airport when he was bringing Gita to meet his mom. Their teamwork was evident with the 2009 release of the Emmy-nominated The Way We Get By, which caught the nation’s attention. The film featured three senior citizens including Aron’s mother, Joan, who greeted American troops returning from war.
“The people of Maine have opened their hearts and doors to us as filmmakers,” shares Gita, who recalls meeting Aron’s family and embarking on their first film.
Not only did the documentary have an impact on Maine, but it also won eighteen festival awards around the world, played theatrically in over sixty cities across the U.S. and aired on the critically acclaimed, independent television station PBS as a prime time special. In the same year, Gita was selected as one of Independent Magazine’s “Filmmakers to Watch.”
“Early on I knew that I had met someone in Gita that had equal ambition to do something more than what we were doing,” Aron says. “When I told her that I thought we should make movies together, she didn’t question it. She jumped in with both feet and started running. I remember feeling like I had found a real partner.”
The love for Maine and its people grew as the documentary was released in U.S. cinemas in July 2009, and the love of these two filmmakers evolved into a marriage. However, the relationship did not come easy, as Gita’s parents were set on having her “marry an Indian doctor,” Gita, who’s family is Indian, recalls.
“It was heartbreaking not to have their approval early on when we were dating, but I kept telling myself that I was making the right decision,” Gita says. “Now, my mom calls Aron her son. So clearly, he’s done right by the family.”
In between their emotions, producing a film, and talking marriage, it became clear the couple had no savings for a wedding and little time to plan. Enter Amber Small, a wedding planner from Bangor who was so moved by the film and the couple’s predicament, she rallied vendors in good ole Maine fashion, to give the couple the wedding they deserved. The celebration took place at the Retreat at French’s Point in Stockton Springs, Maine.
The bride’s brother, Anand Pullapilly, became a Universal Life minister for the event and officiated with the assistance of their father, Cyriac Pullapilly, a former priest of Syro-Malabar Catholic rite.
“I am Indian, and my husband is from Maine, and we wanted to share specific cultural themes at our wedding,” Gita says. “I thought that would be incredibly hard to pull off, but Amber and her team did it so tastefully and beautiful. Both of our families were blown away by the event.”
As the acceptance and love grew among their families, so did the talents of these filmmakers. They went on to produce a narrative film Beneath The Harvest Sky shot in Aroostook County about two teenage best friends caught up in the illegal prescription drug trade between Canada and Maine. It is a story about friendship, family, and love.
“Without the Lajoie Family Farm in Van Buren, we wouldn’t have been able to make Beneath the Harvest Sky,” Gita says. “Maine is a special state because if you’re from Maine, you rally behind and support other Mainers.”
She, too, has become a “Mainer” courtesy of then Governor John Baldacci who gave Gita the honorary title.
Breaking into Hollywood has been a long road for the couple.
“As filmmakers, you are constantly going in and pitching stories to financiers trying to get them to give you millions of dollars. You get rejected a lot and you just have to get used to that,” says Aron.
“We were told to our face over and over that ‘You guys don’t have any value in the industry,’ and here we wrote a movie about two women who felt under-valued and figured out a loophole in the system to find success,” Gita adds.
The movie Queenpins has proven a breakthrough. It’s a dark comedy about the pink-collar crime of coupon fraud. Starring Kristen Bell, Vince Vaughn, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Paul Walter Hauser, the movie was released in September and now streams on Paramount Plus.
With ever-evolving success that has led to countless films, and now a comedy on the big screen, the couple reflects on how pure love and passion has been their foundation.
“To succeed in the film industry, it takes a lot of sweat equity,” says Aron. “You’re often working long hours without getting paid. Writing scripts on spec (for no pay) and hoping to get them set up and made into films. If you don’t believe in yourself and what you are doing, you won’t last long.”
“Hard work that we’re both passionate about is exactly right,” says Gita. “Every day – seven days a week – we’re always working or thinking about our films. Aron and I see what we do as a calling. We don’t have children, but we have our films. And we have seen the power of storytelling in films and know the right film can impact and influence someone profoundly.”