Independent film: A filmmaker’s struggle with depression informs his latest short

Emily Eberhart as Tess in “3:46 am,” an upcoming short from Maine filmmaker Robbie Moore. Photo courtesy of Robbie Moore

After writing last week about Maine Mayhem, the Southern Maine Community College student year-end short film festival, it’s nice to learn about the past of Maine Mayhem filmmakers. Enter Robbie Moore.

The 2019 SMCC graduate and Belgrade native’s debut short, “Begin Again,” premiered, like most Maine Mayhem movies, at the Nickelodeon Theater in Portland, alongside those of his fellow communications students and newcomers. media. The film is a deeply personal story, as the filmmaker explains, “of a relationship, a friend and the estrangement of toxic individuals”.

That’s a lot to put on the big screen, but, as Moore says, that’s the name of his movie game. “It’s terrifying to put yourself forward,” he said, “to see it thrown at the Nick, in front of two crowds full of people I didn’t know. It’s really stepping out of your own comfort zone.

Still, the payoff was worth it, as Moore recounts how several paying clients approached him after the screening to tell him “Begin Again” had reached them — even though the hours leading up to its big-screen premiere were a bit tense. “The directors all had a big group chat before the screening – and I felt like throwing up,” Moore confessed.

Fair enough. But, of necessity, the Maine filmmakers have a lot of grit — and perseverance — as part of their makeup. Moore’s planned follow-up was a movie called “Magnum Opus,” which appropriately involved many ambitious plans, locations, and casting. And then COVID hit.

While Moore had put his education to work as a freelance editor, the scuttling of his second film was a crusher. Or would have been, had it not been for Moore’s determination to continue plugging in, regardless. (That description may just be the motto of Maine cinema.)

Moore’s latest short is “3:46 am,” which he said was in its last day of post-production when we spoke on the phone. Born out of Moore’s own struggles with depression (as well as that suffered by many creative types after two difficult pandemic years), the film centers on a young woman (Emily Eberhart) who finds herself waking up at the same time every day, only to find that she can’t move – and that something is lurking in the darkness of her room. The film also features supporting turns from the ever-compelling Maine actors Jenny Anastasoff and Daniel Noel.

Moore, who claims freelance horror writer Mike Flanagan (“Gerald’s Game,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Midnight Mass”) as his decidedly worthy inspiration, says of the unsettling but highly personal story: “The current genre of ‘High Horror’ is perfect for tackling a lot of problems. The metaphorical imagery in movies like ‘The Babadook’ or ‘Hereditary’ takes ideas like grief and puts them in a bottle full of lightning. Speaking of Flanagan’s brooding and evocative work, Moore said, “It’s inspiring to see how he focuses on drama and character first,” adding, “The horror aspects are just the Cherry on the cake.”

For Moore, the plight of the unfortunate protagonist of “3:46” is a powerful metaphor for depression. And if, as he hints, the film has something of a “dark ending,” Moore still intends his film to connect with audiences as much as “Begin Again” did that night. at Nick. “I want people to watch the movie and relate to it,” Moore said, “to see themselves and decide, ‘I can’t make the same mistakes she made.’

When it comes to COVID and its attendant irritations (and dangers), Moore took his SMCC training to heart while filming “3:46 a.m.,” with his cast and crew working under strict and responsible filming protocols on set. that all the Maine filmmakers have internalized. That much. “We filmed in a single weekend, in my apartment. Four actors and a crew of 13, all masked and socially distanced. We were a well-oiled machine.

As Maine Mayhem founder Corey Norman pointed out in the run-up to this year’s Maine Mayhem, greater safety awareness among cast and crew may well be the only positive outcome of two years of locking of the project that derailed. For young Maine filmmakers like Robbie Moore, it’s just another hurdle to overcome in the life of a low-budget independent filmmaker, as he anticipates “3:46” will hit the festival circuit, with a possible Portland premiere, if any local venues looking for original programming made in Maine are on the lookout. (That’s a hint of our beautiful Portland venues, in case I wasn’t clear.)

As Moore says in reference to both his own cinematic journey and the dilemma portrayed in his latest film, “He doesn’t have all the answers.” Still, highlighting his own ability to conquer his fear by first presenting his work to Maine audiences, “I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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