From a young age, Jessica Charle has been entranced by the world of film making. In 1996, the adaptation of Stephen King’s “Thinner” was filmed in Camden, her hometown. “Everyday I would literally run away and join the film crew for the day,” said Charle. “My mom thinks that is what set it all off.”
After that, the 2009 communication and media studies graduate knew exactly what direction her life was heading. “Five or six years later I wanted a film camera for Christmas,” she said. “I didn’t want books or toys like everyone else did.” That year Charle got the first of her many cameras and began recording small films with her friends.
Despite film-making being her biggest passion, when it was time to select a college, Charle purposely avoided going to an established film school. Although they could have provided a stronger focus on film making, she believed it would have been at the expense of a well-rounded education.
“I wasn’t going to go to a film school where if you wanted to take an English or calculus class you were out of luck,” she said. “So I really liked having that traditional college experience of taking all sorts of classes that had nothing to do with film making.”
Despite the fact that USM isn’t well known or established as a school for potential film makers, Charle identified the small nature of the program and the close relationships that developed between students and their professors as one of the strongest qualities the school possessed.
“Going to a really prestigious film school would have been fun too, but they are much more rigid there,” she said. “But here I was able to talk to the professors and say ‘Hey I am going to make this film.’ And they were like ‘OK. Here is a camera.'”
Charle said many natives of Maine may not be aware of the ever growing size of the film community in the state and the opportunities present for perspective film makers. “People don’t realize how much film there is going on in Maine right now. There are the Maine Studios, which is a project that is trying to get all of the independent small film makers in Maine together to collaborate on films,” Charle said.
During her time participating at the project, Charle witnessed a cooperative developing between the various film companies. In exchange for sound work for example, another company would volunteer their wardrobe coordinator.
“There [are] a ton of local Maine film-makers who are doing what they can with what they have. In Maine especially, the community is so small, so everyone knows each other, and it is becoming bigger.”
Filming in Maine, according to Charle, also provides opportunities that larger film markets are unable to provide. “I think Maine has a lot of potential. Someone with a lot of experience and a huge budget could make a really huge film here.” Charle added, ” You can be a big fish in a little pond. Everyone in Maine is really nice and not everything is a big name store, so if you want to film on location it is really easy to just walk in and it’s perfectly fine.”
For this growing film community, Charle also views the new media studies production facility at USM as a vital attribute to their growth. The facility opened up in the fall of 2010 at the site of the former day care on the Portland campus.
“There are film makers in Maine who are already established and are enrolling in classes at USM to use the school’s multi-thousand dollar facilities for editing their projects,” she said. “USM’s media studies program is on its way to becoming one of the best, but it really comes down to what students make of it.”
Currently, Charle is wrapping up the final editing process for her post-graduate directorial debut, a rock mockumentary entitled “Pine-Sol Detox.” “It’s a film about an all-girl hardcore band who dresses up as 1950s housewives. “I have been working on it since last year because it is a lot of work,” she said. “It’s a several month process that takes up your entire life.”
After editing is complete, Charle will present the finished product to multiple venues in the city of Portland for its debut — a process that she believes is getting easier as more films are being produced in the state and interest increases. “We have a really great 48 Film festival here,” she said. “We have the Maine Studios, plus the Nickelodeon, other local theaters and art galleries. So it is getting the films that people make in Maine to Mainers.”