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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: February 26, 2018

How Bangor’s Cemetery Theater makes good, gory films for less

Written by: Dennis Perkins

A still from “Sleep Eaters” with actors Pete Haase, Ruth Phelps and Craig Capone.
Photos courtesy of Shane Grant

Moviemaking in Maine isn’t just a Portland thing. The proliferation of affordable technology, like cameras, editing software and social media, in the past decade has opened up possibilities for aspiring moviemakers everywhere. Throw in imagination, supportive and like-minded collaborators, a little luck and a lot of determination, and you’ve got Bangor’s Cemetery Theater.

Actor Jason Tripp in “Sleep Eaters.”

A no-frills, low-budget production company begun by Bangor-area filmmakers Shane Grant, George Quinn and Jason Tripp, Cemetery Theater boasts a small but devoted fan base for its Maine-made, micro-budgeted horror films, as evidenced by sales of nearly 1,000 DVDs of its gory 2016 short “Sleep Eater” (budget: $100), a healthy presence at film conventions, a growing stable of local actors and crew members, and a recently completed sequel “Sleep Eaters” (budget: $700). That feature-length 2017 “action adventure horror comedy” (as Grant describes it) had its sold-out premiere at Orono’s Spotlight Cinemas and is currently being prepped for the company’s first-ever Blu-ray release in April. I talked to Grant about making movies in central Maine, turning down a distribution offer from away and the art of not being afraid of the word “no.”

Writer/director Shane Grant rehearsing a scene in “Sleep Eaters.”

What did making “Sleep Eater” in Bangor for $100 mean for you and Cemetery Theater?

It was partly about showing that we can shoot here, that we don’t have to go somewhere else to make the kind of art we want to make. We’d been making movies before then, but we – George, Jason, and I – came together to basically prove that making excuses for why we can’t make a movie in seven days for $100 are B.S. We’re all working full time, I have a child, we have other lives, but we wanted to show you can go out and make a piece of art, make it funny and gory and good, all for a low budget.

Even without much money to work with, what does a production company like Cemetery Theater offer for other aspiring filmmakers in your area?

Our people come from Down East, Bar Harbor, as well as Bangor, sort of reaching out as far as our arms go in a kind of circle. (Laughs.) For the people who work with us, I like to think we bring the mentality that you can do things that other people might tell you are impossible. That’s sort of our mantra, and I think it’s infectious. There’s a real Mainer thing in that as well – the idea that, if things need to be fixed, you can fix them. The great thing is that we all have our mundane jobs, but on a film set, those skills come in handy. And you get close to each other that way. We very much become a family.

Going forward, what are Cemetery Theater’s priorities?

You know, we had a huge premiere and we sold it out, which was kind of weird. This locally made kind of B-movie splatter film, it was exciting, but made us think, “How did we get here?” in a way. It made us reflect on how the hard work paid off, which, I think, came down to not being afraid of someone saying no. We pitched stories to (local news) Stations 7 and 5, just like we went to Bull Moose music with our first film, where we ended up selling almost 1,000 DVDs. We learned it was about moving on and finding someone the people who will say yes. After we made “Sleep Eaters,” we got approached by a California company who said they’d make a release into a big thing for us. But we took one look at the deal they were offering and said no and decided to put it out ourselves. For us, it’s about having people see it. That’s more important than making our money back. Plus, on a $700 budget, you can’t really lose in that situation.

As a Maine company in Bangor, Cemetery Theater is an outsider, even in Maine. How do you see yourself in the greater Maine film community?

The community is growing as years go by. It went from me being a production assistant on a 16-mm film in Bangor to where we are now. Technology, knowing other filmmakers in Maine and social media, especially, it’s always getting more connected. I’ve learned you can’t do it alone. You need to be able to help each other, appreciate other and give credit where it’s due. I love to watch other Maine films, to seek them out, support them, and expect the same thing back. Camaraderie and good energy are key, and so is the love of film, in your heart. I talk to other filmmakers who’ve gone away to New York or California and come back feeling drained and used. Here, helping each other out, we can all make the Maine community even stronger.

Cemetery Theater’s films can be found on its YouTube channel and Facebook page. Look for “Sleep Eater” at your local Bull Moose location and keep an eye out for the sequel, “Sleep Eaters,” on Blu-ray in April.


PMA Films
Friday-Sunday: “An Art That Nature Makes: The Work of Photographer Rosamond Purcell.” This documentary about the life and work of National Geographic nature photographer Purcell is a visual feast, unsurprisingly, even though Purcell’s lifelong interest in photographing dead, decayed and abandoned places makes finding the beauty especially challenging.

Friday-Sunday: “The 2018 Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T).” Presented by Frontier and Fly Fishing in Maine, this traveling festival of short documentaries explores the patient pursuit of fly fishing, in all its fishy splendor.

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