“Should I stay or do I go?” “
It’s a question I hear all the time taken up by filmmakers in Maine. For them, Maine is their home, and making their films here makes sense, in many ways. After all, you know your home best, not to mention the fact that Maine has just about all kinds of settings and grounds that any scout could want.
But Maine is Maine. We are neither Los Angeles, nor New York, nor even the mecca of the cinema in the making that is Atlanta. So, for filmmakers looking to establish a career right here where they grew up, the time has come when the choice must be made. Either jump into Maine’s active and resourceful yet undeniably small and secluded film scene, or take on the stakes for one of the great cities where the tantalizing promise of more regular jobs and opportunities sparkles.
Or maybe you can just get really, really good at doing it the hard way. That’s the lesson I learned from Waldoboro filmmaker Lucas McNelly as we talked about the active crowdfunding campaign for his upcoming neo noir feature film, shot in Maine and appropriately directed, “Maine Noir.” The story of a young single mother whose quest for a new start in an old house inherited from Waldoboro is first gifted and then jeopardized by a huge stash of money she finds crammed in the walls of the House. It’s a good setup for a thriller, and, if McNelly doesn’t bluntly assert that his hometown is an equally fitting setting for an intensely scary film noir full of sketchy characters and criminal chaos, well, he doesn’t. is not not say that.
“Noir was perfect for this story,” McNelly said, “but we wanted to get him away from the Hays code.” For those unfamiliar with Hollywood history, McNelly explains that the Hays Code was a set of moralizing rules that stated, among other things, that film noir protagonists (invariably male) “never get away with it, that the characters must always be punished “. McNelly also notes that “Maine Noir” will overturn the genre’s traditional misogyny, as the determined main character in his film strives to both keep his loot found and, you know, stay alive to enjoy it.
“The first act is kind of a lifelong movie – think Diane Lane looking for a fresh start in Italy – then goes into the noir genre as she finds money in her house and things get going. darker and more dodgy as it goes, ”McNelly said.
Quoting the trashy 1945 budget-basement black classic “Detour” as an inspiration, McNelly says “Maine Noir” will, likewise, get dirty, not only in its drama, but in the way the microbudget film is funded. Choose the independent crowdfunding site Seeds and Sparks To boost the film’s $ 45,000 budget (which will be set in Waldoboro later this summer), McNelly is launching and securing scenic locations in Maine. It’s become a standard path for low-budget filmmakers in Maine – crowdfunding, scrambling, getting by. Except Lucas McNelly has already proven that this model – and a lot of work – can work just fine.
McNelly’s first feature film, 2009’s “Blanc de BlancWas carried out in two weeks as part of a “friendly Twitter challenge” with colleagues.
“God, that was exhausting,” he says now of the creative sprint to shoot and edit a full feature film, “but it takes you out of that waiting mentality. And now it’s on Amazon Prime.
After that, McNelly embarked on his own adventure across the country, directing the 2012 documentary “A Year Without Rent,” where the aspiring filmmaker struck a series of deals with other independent directors. “I said I would literally do anything for free, from gofer to gaffer, on their movies, if they just found me a place to sleep.”
Bringing together all this DIY know-how, McNelly’s next project was the soon-to-be-released thriller “Top of the countryThe poignant tale of three friends “from afar” whose trek through the woods of northern Maine heads south when their crisp local guide fled with their gear – including supplies of insulin of a character. Shot in Waldoboro and even more rural parts of Maine, “Up Country” features three very good (rightfully so from afar) young actors, all of whom were drawn to the chance to sink their teeth into McNelly’s meaty script.
“You can get some really good established actors to make a $ 100,000 movie if you write interesting things that you want to do,” McNelly said. (The budget for “Up Country” between only shy of this brand, with a mostly crowdfunded budget of just $ 4,000.) As he embarks on the all-important casting process for “Maine Noir,” McNelly seeks a similar bounty of talent, hoping his script, along with “a summer on the coast of Maine, lobster and fun” is enough to attract more high-profile acting talent to his modest production. (McNelly teases that he’s about to get an “important” composer for the film, but it doesn’t spill.)
Is it ambitious? Sure, but that’s all McNelly’s business, having shown a serious starting spirit throughout her fledgling career. His 2007 short, “Gravida,” narrowly missed the top prize, a well-deserved $ 7,000 camera, at the Now Film Festival, losing by a voice to a film starring Rainn Wilson, of fame for ” The Office “. McNelly now consoles himself with the fact that “Gravida” was considered a stunner 200 million times on Youtube. Plus, having cut his teeth in the crowdfunding game by hosting what it claims to be “the biggest campaign in the state of Maine” (that was for military-style sunglasses, but, still), McNelly refined his multi-pronged fundraising strategy to an edge.
“It’s all about momentum,” he said. “A lot of times people take it for granted that they can just start a campaign and people will come, but it’s really about being ready to go and moving forward. The faster you can reach 10 percent, then 30 percent, the easier it is to reap more and attract actors and other professionals to your movie. You need to prime the pump in any way you can, have the right perks for donating, and working on social media. “
McNelly cites the list of “Maine Noir” perks (including a low bar for donors to see the film early and a chance to focus on the finished film), noting: “You have to build an army that is ready to go. help you in the big and final push.
While the just-launched crowdfunding campaign for “Maine Noir” already sits some $ 6,000 from its proposed goal of $ 45,000 last week, with 26 days remaining, McNelly appears to have heeded his. own tips to get things started. He is also sure to know that his hometown supports him.
“The people of Maine take care of theirs and as I toured my hometown I knew the places, I knew people would help and rally around it. It’s about looking around and thinking about what would look good on the movie, thinking about what I can get, and then being ready to adjust on the fly if things don’t go ” , did he declare. “It’s kind of how I’ve approached my entire career so far.”
To see the details of McNelly’s upcoming “Maine Noir” (and to make a donation), check out her Seeds and Sparks page. You can see McNelly’s “Gravida” on YouTube and “Blanc de Blanc” on Amazon Prime. Look at McNelly website, lmcnelly.com, for info on “Up Country”, which is currently touring film festivals.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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