It was only a matter of time until the local film nerds took over Nickelodeon Theater in Portland, and that’s exactly what happened last Wednesday night. Co-curated by filmmaker David Meiklejohn, a USM English graduate, and Nickelodeon projectionist Eddy Bolz, the theater hosted Rated Local, a screening of short films from Maine filmmakers, some of them with ties to USM.
The idea for the screening began when Bolz, a champion of local films, approached Meiklejohn about helping start a local showcase.
“We knew there were a lot of short films made locally that would look gorgeous on the big screen,” said Meiklejohn. “So we gathered eight works that represent a mere slice of the filmmaking talent in Maine right now.”
The event was split into two screenings, one at 7 p.m. and another at 9, with an approximate runtime of 90 minutes. One hundred and thirty people attended in total, which exceeded Meiklejohn’s expectations.
The selection of films included “The Senator” by Torrey Alan Johnson, “A Lifelong Love” by senior Media Studies major Shawn Harmon, “A Bounty For Susannah” by USM Media Studies graduate Jeff Griecci, “Dress Rehearsal” by Meiklejohn, “Five Short Films” by Isaac Woodbury-High, “21st Century LP” by Media Studies instructor Kate Kaminski and Betsy Caron, “Experiment 18” by USM Political Science graduate Christian Matzke and Sarah Tarling, and “Jacob & the House of Fire” by Nick Poulin of [dog] and [pony].
Before the 7 p.m. screening began, Meiklejohn greeted the audience and gave a quick spiel on the event.
“This will hopefully be the first of many screenings for local film,” Meiklejohn said, adding that anyone can have a chance to get their film on the silver screen.
As Meiklejohn sat down and the lights dimmed, an orange bar appeared on the screen, reading: “Approved for Wicked Sweet Audiences Only. Rated Local.” What followed was a trailer for a related event happening at the end of October, titled “Damnationland: The Way Life Should Bleed,” which features new works in the horror genre from many of the same filmmakers this night.
After a brief title of “Rated Local” with background music by Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, the screening began.
“The Senator,” a black and white documentary-style film, followed Bill Melligan, a pseudo-politician, walking around Portland and declaring ridiculous statements like “This is a great day to kill someone” and “I worked out for seven hours this morning.” Occasionally he would interact with alleged strangers on the street, giving way to more amusement.
“A Lifelong Love” documented John Reuter, a pinball connoisseur from Maine who owns 105 pinball machines and won the senior division of the 2007 World Pinball Championship. Words of wisdom to take from the piece? Pinball: “It’s kinetic art.”
“A Bounty For Susannah” is a Western-style hick-fest that followed two horny tomato-eating slimeballs in their failed attempt to rescue damsel Susannah from the elusive Elijah. In the end, our view of this damsel is turned upside-down and only two walk away living.
“Dress Rehearsal” is an experimental mosaic of different people practicing important conversations with loved ones. The monologues sounded vague and simultaneously heartfelt while routinely cutting from one to the next, creating a streaming consciousness about the complexities and fragility of relationships.
“Five Short Films” shocked the audience with slasher clips as created by two 14-year-olds from Casco Bay High School. In the case of these short films, banality was secondary to the over-the-top blood squirts and body explosions. The shortness and sometimes all-too-serious tone led to even greater moments, leaving the audience with an uncertainty about what they just saw.
“21st Century LP” told the story of Bob Wirtz, founder of Enterprise Records, a vinyl specialty shop in Portland. “Being a geezer in the business can be kind of fun,” said Bob, who once considered closing down the store.
“Experiment 18” (sequel to “Experiment 17”) told the story of a Nazi “Witchhammer” who was forced to resurrect a dead sorcerer in attempt to save the Third Reich. With the excellent set design and locations, it was hard to tell it was filmed in Maine.
“Jacob & The House of Fire” is a local Portland band, seen playing in a small yellow room as filmed by the [dog] and [pony] duo. Only Jacob Augustine and two other musicians can be seen for most of the film as they sing and play a soulful, gentle song. But at one integral moment, the camera reveals a larger band in the room for a breathtaking climax.
After the screening ended, a few people approached Meiklejohn expressing interesting in submitting films for future showcases. Given the response from the inaugural event, Meiklejohn says there will be more local showcases in the future.
“We are coming into a great period for Portland cinema, and I’m expecting a lot of strong work to come out in the next year.”