Home is never far from Miriam Louise Arens’s mind. The film director, editor and producer — known to most Islanders by her nickname Mara and maiden name Ditchfield -- was raised on the Vineyard and will be filming her sci-fi movie Heartworm on Island this fall. Through her lens, she will transform the Island’s jagged coastline, Federalist architecture, dense woods and rolling meadows into two distinct worlds — one virtual reality and one post-pandemic, dystopian society.

“Because I’m from here, I visualize a lot of my art here. It’s just what I picture,” she said, sitting in her childhood backyard in Edgartown. She added that the diverse landscape will allow her to craft distinct settings within the confinement of the Island’s shorelines.

It is not the first time she has used her childhood community as a movie set. As a graduate student, she recorded her thesis film, Day 90, on the Island, depicting the gritty truth of a mother grappling with a heroin addiction. For her upcoming project, however, she won’t be setting the story on the Vineyard but instead using the location to craft a fictional and futuristic backdrop.

Heartworm explores a mother and father mourning the death of their daughter after she falls into a coma while logged on the virtual reality platform NeuraLife. The mother seeks solace in the physical world while the father immerses himself deeper and deeper in the simulation.

“The film thematically is about a couple dealing with grief, but they’re dealing with grief in a world where there is no authentic human connection left,” Ms. Arens said.

She compared this fictional world with our own, saying that the story came to her through her own experiences with loss. She noted struggling with a miscarriage and losing her aunt and her close childhood friend as particularly difficult and formative moments.

“The time in our lives that we need connection to humans the most is when we grieve,” she said. “It’s very hard to be vulnerable when you have a device separating you between your emotions and reality.”

Ms. Arens wrote the story with her husband, cinematographer and documentarian Mitchell Arens. The couple has worked together before, but this was their first time collaborating on a screenplay.

“Our house is a total creative sanctuary. The biggest fights of our life and of our relationship have all been creative,” she said, laughing. “But it’s also an incredible thing because I think filmmaking just takes up so much of your mind and your soul and your heart and just takes up so much of your being that to get to do it with the person that you love was such a gift.”

Art and family have always gone hand in hand for Ms. Arens. Her parents, Lynn and Mike Ditchfield, ran the Magic Fire Children’s Theatre during her childhood years. Walking around the family’s grassy backyard, Ms. Arens pointed to the shed where her father writes and the flora she used for props in her girlhood fairy tale games.

She started writing plays as a drama student at the regional high school. She said, as someone with dyslexia, storytelling was how she naturally processed information. She dove deeper into theatre during her undergraduate years, earning a BFA in playwriting from Boston University, and became increasingly interested in incorporating multimedia into her stage work. After graduation, she worked in the administrative side of show business. However, as someone who thrives on change, she said, she was drawn to the rhythms of filmmaking and decided to attend graduate school for film directing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Asia in Singapore.

She credits the program’s “DIY” atmosphere for granting her many practical and technical skills. During her second year, she filmed in Cambodia and noted that most of her shooting locations had no electricity. This obstacle didn’t dampen the process but instead forced Ms. Arens and her fellow students to innovate, she explained.

“I think my husband and I both benefited greatly from that because we don’t try to fix things with money -- we try to fix things with creativity,” she said.

Ms. Arens will bring her depth and diversity of experience to this fall’s upcoming shoot, scheduled to begin in October. She returned to the Island in July and has been finalizing logistics prior to the production’s start. While much of her cast and crew will come from off-Island, she hopes to collaborate with locals as well. She said she wants “to crew up here as much as possible” and fill out the cast with Islanders. She will be holding a no-experience required open audition at the amphitheater in Tisbury this Saturday and Sunday.

She shared her gratitude for the local arts organizations that have supported the project, including the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, the Vineyard Arts Project and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, which is the project’s financial sponsor.

Even after living in artistic meccas like New York city and Los Angeles, Ms. Arens savors the special character of the Vineyard.

“The artistic feeling is here all over the place, so I think that’s super helpful,” she said.

Visit heartwormthefilm.com.