Filmmaker Shooting Ghost Story at American Hotel in Sag Harbor

Filmmaker Ari Selinger outside the American Hotel, where his next film is set. Christine Sampson photo

Ari Selinger’s love affair with Sag Harbor began with summertime visits when he was a young kid and continued with winter visits into his adult years. Sometimes, he says, the hair on his arms stands up from the feeling he gets when he walks down Main Street.

“My earliest memories are not knowing who James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were, but riding the horse in front of the Five and Dime,” Mr. Selinger said in an interview. “This is where my mind was carved into what it is now.”

From the mind of Ari Selinger, now a New York University-educated filmmaker based in New York City, first came “Moondog Airwaves,” a short film shot at Bay Burger that screened at the Sag Harbor Cinema about six weeks before it burned down in 2016. Mr. Selinger is now working on his next film: “The Ghost of Hank Williams,” for which he has just finished casting his actors, and which he will begin shooting at the American Hotel in the coming days.

And so, continues his romance with Sag Harbor.

“I hope people see it as the least I can do for a town that I love,” Mr. Selinger said. “I hope people receive it as a gift. I’m making it for myself, but I’m really making it as a love letter to Sag Harbor.”

“The Ghost of Hank Williams” is about a couple, Toby and Tara, who are “disillusioned ghost hunters, who could really be anybody,” Mr. Selinger said over drinks at The American Hotel. “I was really inspired by the ghost stories they told me here, and I loved how the location fit the characters. When the location can be a main character as well, I love that, too. I mean, it’s the American Hotel.”

Mary Ferrara, the hotel’s administrative manager, said the hotel “lends itself to be a perfect location” for the film.

“During my meeting with Ari last month, his excitement for what this location has to offer was contagious,” Ms. Ferrara said. “We feel privileged to be a part of this project.”

But in addition to being about ghosts, the film is also about music — “Hank’s music, whose forlorn lyrics of heartbreak and sorrow the couple, Tara and Toby, seem to be living out,” Mr. Selinger said on an online crowd-funding page that he is using to help gather the resources to make the film. “More importantly, the hotel serves as a meeting ground for the past and present — a major theme explored in this story, the lyrical link between yesterday and today.”

More information on the film may be found online at

He was devastated when the Sag Harbor Cinema burned down, but said he feels ecstatic and hopeful knowing it is being rebuilt by the Sag Harbor Partnership.

“It always felt like my ‘Cinema Paradiso,’” he said, referring to the 1988 Italian film about a boy’s obsession with movies. “There is a real opportunity here to tell stories that are really untold, I think. Local stories and encouraging local filmmakers, since you can shoot a movie anywhere now. For me, a reason to make this movie was to say, ‘Look what you can do with your own talent.’”

Not only is The American Hotel working with Mr. Selinger, but so are Provisions, Harbor Market, Schiavoni’s IGA, Grindstone Donuts and other local businesses.

“It feels like small-town filmmaking at its finest,” Mr. Selinger said.