Not too many people look to Maine for film-making opportunities, but that may all change if Cape Elizabeth resident Eric Matheson’s big idea can come to life.

Matheson wants to transform South Portland’s former National Guard Armory into a fully equipped sound stage for independent and major film studios. Having long been involved in the film industry, working on the sets of movies such as Amistad, 21, The Cider House Rules, and many more, Matheson has dreamed of a sound stage in Maine for a very long time. When the South Portland city council began deliberating last month, Matheson said his chance to make a big change in Maine had arrived.

While the idea is still in its infancy, Matheson believes he can get investors behind this to purchase the building. He has also received support from SMCC, the Maine Film Commission and local film company Groff Films. He expects to see many other companies jump on the bandwagon in the coming months.

Matheson wants to place an emphasis on supporting the local film community including surrounding schools like USM and SMCC. He believes this will open up great opportunities to local film studios and film students who don’t want to travel beyond Maine to work on film. His proposed layout for the sound stage includes production rooms, a screening room, and other rooms necessary for studios to properly shoot and operate. He says there is a possibility of using the space as a music venue as well.

The “South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Sentry” quoted Matheson saying, “You have a problem with that building. You can either sell it or lease it, and as a sound stage there would be room for production offices, a gallery, community event space and school art projects. I’ve seen it done before.”

There will be a few obstacles in the way of creating the sound stage however. Since the armory is in a residential area, South Portland will have to modify the zoning for the building. Additionally, if there aren’t any tax incentives for the building, out-of-state studios might not jump in. Some members of South Portland’s city council have other ideas for the building; a new city hall, a skate park, and paving it over and selling the land. Yet, there’s not much competition in Maine when it comes to sound stages.

Despite the challenges, the idea of a sound stage in South Portland can be seen as a great opportunity for Maine students and residents interested in the film industry. Although USM does have its fair share of film students, USM does not currently have a proper sound stage to support them. The sound stage in South Portland could provide to these USM film students.

If you would like to support this movement and keep updated on this developing story, join the Facebook group titled, “Turn the South Portland Armory into a Soundstage!”

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