Independent Film: Back at the Nick, SMCC film students’ short films have no shortage of important content

The acting in “Counterfeit Grit” makes it one of the most promising films ever produced by the Southern Maine Community College program. Photos courtesy of Corey Norman

Let the Maine Mayhem begin.

Always one of the most surprising and entertaining film events of the year, the 12th annual Maine Mayhem Film Festival arrives at the Nickelodeon Theater in Portland on Wednesday.May 11. The result of a semester of hard and productive work by students in the Communications and New Media department at Southern Maine Community College, the five shorts represent the first big-screen endeavors of some of Maine’s most promising aspiring filmmakers. .

Under the tutelage of SMCC Associate Professor Corey Norman (himself an accomplished filmmaker from Maine), these young filmmakers must pitch, write, pitch and produce a finished film as the culmination of their studies. And, fortunately for us, Norman has kept Maine Mayhem as a public celebration of all that hard work, with the annual program of student-made shorts offering Maine moviegoers an ever-intriguing glimpse into what the next generation of actors , Maine directors and film professionals can do.

“It’s interesting, every year they go in different directions,” Norman said of the eclectic quintet that make up this year’s Maine Mayhem offerings. “I would say this year involves heavier content than we’ve had in years past. We’re using more PG-13 to R ratings than in the past. There’s some really great and unique content.

Norman is not kidding, as he happily describes the plots of this year’s films.

In “Weightless”, people carry their doubts and insecurities in the form of balloons.

“Weightless”, directed and produced by Skye Doyle is, according to Norman, “a highly stylized look at depression and the weights we all carry in life”. Explaining that Doyle’s conceit involves a world where the issues we all carry physically manifest as clouds of trailing balloons, the film, Norman says, takes the concept of “emotional baggage” to new and exciting places. interesting.

“Ember’s Night Out,” produced and directed by Chase Carus, perhaps explaining the R rating Norman was talking about, follows a dominatrix who, paid in fake money by a client, sets out to rob him in retaliation. Norman said, “It’s a very strong LGBTQ+ film, both in terms of crew and representation. Over the past half-decade, we have begun to strengthen ourselves in terms of representing this community. What I really love about ‘Ember’s Night Out’ is that it’s a no-holds-barred performance. I call it the Ellen Ripley screenplay. In ‘Alien’ you have this great female protagonist, but it’s never really talked about during the movie.

Things get even darker in producer and director Noah Anderson’s “Prey,” a post-apocalyptic tale where a cult seeks sacrifice in its pursuit of immortality. Said Norman of the film, “Eventually every cult is uncovered – the secrets necessary for the continuation of an institution finally come out, and this is it. This film has stylized, beautiful cinematography and really strong performances.

“We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet” is a Coen Brothers-style flick about a couple who stumble upon a crime scene while on vacation.

Next is the dark comedy “We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet”, directed by Kyle Brunelle and produced by Brunelle, Joshua Hagin and Joseph Puleo. “It’s a Coen Brothers story about a husband and wife who stumble upon a crime in progress and end up getting away with a sum of money they shouldn’t have taken. It’s quirky, ironic – again, very much in the style of a Coen film.

Closing out this year’s Maine Mayhem is what Norman calls “one of the strongest movies we’ve ever had,” in the Maine-centric crime story “Counterfeit Grit.” Produced by Devin Poitras and Gavin Chambers and directed by James Redpath, the suitably gritty short follows the rise of a drug dealer. “Think ‘Scarface,’ but on a more local level,” Norman promised of the film. “The acting here is superb. I think it’s going to have a life on the festival circuit.

For Norman, each Maine Mayhem marks another year of watching his students mature as artists — and then jumping into the world of film. After the pandemic shuttered Maine Mayhem two years ago, last year it incorporated two years of student films on the biggest of screens as safety protocols saw the festival head to the Saco Drive-In (unfortunately now closed). “It’s good to be home,” Norman said of Maine Mayhem’s return to Nickelodeon.

As for that real world, Norman is proud of how his film students have taken the considerable hit of a two-year pandemic, praising the ingenuity and adaptability of budding filmmakers facing even more challenges. obstacles than usual.

“I’m still amazed,” exclaimed Norman. “Secured protocols have found their way into the curriculum because of this. In this new world, they learned to continue productions safely. If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that it really forces people to be even more aware of the overall safety of the set and get around the necessary restrictions.

Restrictions and obstacles are part of every filmmaker’s life. The ambitious and inventive young filmmakers in this year’s Maine Mayhem are proof that Maine filmmakers can take anything the world throws at them – and turn it into art.

The 12th annual Maine Mayhem Film Festival takes place on WednesdayMay 11, with screenings at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $11.

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


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