Advances in cinematic technology have come at a strange price for independent filmmakers. On the one hand, anyone can make a movie now, the relative low cost of not only professional-grade digital cameras, but also sophisticated editing software putting moviemaking at your fingertips like never before.
On the other hand, anyone can make a movie now, with the glut of hastily assembled movies and other “content” flooding the market and making it all the more difficult to get noticed.
For Maine filmmaker Christopher Haase, style is the answer, as his ongoing Waterville drama “Wasterville” is, by its creator’s intent and inclination, designed to grip you. Co-created with the film’s star, fellow Waterville native and longtime friend Paul Poissonnier, “Wasterville” features images (as seen on the film’s Instagram page) that are striking – bordering on unsettling.
The “heavily fictionalized” (according to first-time filmmaker Haase) story of Poissonnier’s story of grief-induced drug abuse and mental instability, “Wasterville” is set in a nightmarish world of junkies , pornographers and seedy, possibly demonic types – a world uncannily resembling the hometown of Haase and Poissonnier.
“’Wasterville’ is a joke nickname I gave to Waterville just because I lived there,” laughs Haase (currently a resident of Augusta). “It ended up being kind of the alter ego of the dream world of Waterville, the underworld of Waterville.”
In Haase’s vision, its protagonist (played by and named Paul) descends into this altered reality of Maine after a devastating breakup, his increasing use of illicit substances transforming everyday life into a vividly disturbing landscape where reality leans towards madness.
As noted, it’s hard to get noticed for a no-budget indie film made in Maine. (Haase estimates he’ll spend about $5,000 of his own money to finish “Wasterville,” likely in time for the summer.) That’s where Hasse (a daytime psychiatric medical assistant) has an edge, his artistic interests multiples lending the film’s online presence a unique visceral edge.
Handcrafted warped doors look like props from German Expressionist movies or the opening credits of “The Twilight Zone.” A meticulously crafted accessory ashtray swims at odd angles, cigarette butts extending into unlikely shapes. In another still from the film, a smiling figure appears to have been turned into a human ashtray, with nasty cigarette burns and blood marking him as one of Paul’s spectral executioners. As articulately annotated on the film’s Instagram by Haase, the “Wasterville” look is both its selling point and its obsession.
Noting his lifelong obsession with movies, Haase still credits his debut look to a certain restlessness of artistic impulse.
“I can barely watch ‘normal’ movies. I tend to get bored,” Haase said, while admiring the craftsmanship that goes into any filmmaking endeavor. “I’ve always been drawn to more extreme stuff, horror, surrealism. Dreams in particular, and the psychedelic. As a child, even before I indulged in all this, ‘Dumbo’ and the dance of the pink elephants fascinated me.
Citing German films like the groundbreaking 1915 surrealist classic “The Student of Prague” as particularly formative as well, Haase says his friend Poissonnier’s harrowing past stuck in his mind as an ideal vehicle for him to finally transform his obsessions. in movie.
“The idea of living in a dream appeals to me a lot,” Haase said, “and it allows me to do that to a certain extent.”
Introducing the increasingly desperate state of the title character (which the real Fishmonger thankfully got away with), Haase said, “It all became so real to him. He couldn’t differentiate the here and now from the reality of his dreams. Suicidal thoughts, for him, were the thought that he might wake up from this nightmare that wasn’t his real life.
Haase’s own style, as portrayed in various ways in his life through his photography, writing, sculpture, and other media, is well suited to tell this enhanced version of his friend’s story.
“Film is the ultimate combination of all these arts,” Haase said, “and since my attentions go from place to place on a whim, it gives me the opportunity to shift gears. Something always entertains a different quadrant of my brain.
As with many aspiring self-taught filmmakers, Haase says interacting online with other would-be writers and directors taught him a lot — but maybe not what those well-meaning posters meant.
“There are always pragmatic people who say, ‘No matter what your movie looks like, just tell a great story.’ I’m really not on that wavelength. I see film in a more visceral and sensory way,” he said. “In other art forms, abstraction is seen as OK , but the film carries stricter expectations of what the film is meant to be. I think cinema can also be bizarre, abstract and surreal.
As “Wasterville” draws to a close (Haase posits that he has four scenes left to shoot “unless I think of something last minute, which happens”), Haase hopes his commitment to a signature and striking visual style will be what sets it apart in the crowded market. Currently pondering the possible premiere of his film (he thinks a drive-in would be an ideal setting, and I tend to agree), Haase shares the dream of all Maine filmmakers that the quality will prevail.
“It’s not a typical film that comes out of the low-budget scene, I guess,” Haase said of its effects-heavy, practical spooky tale. “Perhaps it’s a happy coincidence that what interests me might be what helps ‘Wasterville’ stand out. … In many cases, that’s the only hope we have.
For the curious and adventurous, Haase says the film’s Instagram page (@wasterville_movie) is the best way to learn more about the film and watch for any early news. Believe me, it stands out.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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