The three filmmakers of Portland’s Through the Door Productions have a lot of reasons to be cocky. Their short film “P-Town Peeps” just won the Audience Choice Award (Group B) and overall Best Film at this year’s 48 Hour Film Festival, they’ve got a serious online presence on Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s comedy website Funny or Die (funnyordie.com/throughthedoor), and have several projects in the works, including a feature film.
Instead of being cocky at their growing success, however, Anna Gravél, Everett Bunker and Derek Bingham sound thoroughly grateful when talking me through their various accomplishments – both for the Maine film community, and for each other.
Anna Gravél: The fun of the 48 is that you don’t have any idea what you’re going to do. The best ideas come when you don’t have anything in the can ahead of time – you get the genre, sit down and script out some ideas. These guys have great ideas.
Derek Bingham: We got “spoof or parody,” which was a natural for us. We thought: “Hunger Games?” James Bond? But Everett and I always thought it’d be funny if there was a sitcom where one character realized he was in a sitcom and the others didn’t. Everyone gravitated toward it.
Everett Bunker: We’ve worked together so many times. In the writers’ room it’s wonderful to pitch and know they’ll let you know if it’s a terrible idea. With us it’s really a family-first vibe. That freedom is really nice.
DB: (On the 48 Hour experience): I find that the scaffolding gets better. You need to be prepared to be unprepared. It gets easier, but the challenges have been there since year one.
AG: We did a funny short called “Blue Balls,” (laughs) which went on Reddit and became a bit of a thing. We were contacted by Funny or Die, which was looking for more user-generated content from independent filmmakers, and they asked us to set up an account and start producing content. “Blue Balls” has reached their “immortal” status, which is at least 80 percent “funny” votes and over 100,000 views. We try to create something new every few months – it’s a fun jumping-off point.
DB: We’ve got 638 subscribers on our Youtube channel, and most of that is from Funny or Die. The one thing people have usually seen is “Blue Balls,” which is fine. But we’re like, “Yeah, but have you seen our other stuff?” (Laughs.) If nothing else, it’s a sharp object, a battering ram to get us in – a calling card.
EB: I never thought in a million years that’s the one that would go viral on the Internet – but you never know what’s going to hit it off.
AG: That’s Everett’s baby. It’s how we all met.
EB: “Neveah” started six years ago and we’re going one step painstakingly after the next. With no money, it’s a passion project. It’s in post now, working the visuals, sound and music. If you can’t pay people, you have to work when they can fit it in, so it inches along – snails along. But everyone in the Maine film scene has chipped in at this point, so the movie is more of a thank-you letter to all of them. This is such a great, noncompetitive scene and as soon as one of us makes it big – as soon as some rich guy figures out that there’s money to be made here – it’s going to raise us all up because of that trust. I think it’s unique to the Maine film community.
AG: It’s like “Survivor” for filmmakers – what can you do for 10 dollars? But really the currency being exchanged is time, what we’ve accomplished together. “Neveah” represents what we were two years ago. There’s something great about that – it shows where we are together and who we’ve become. I prefer to call Through the Door a family, and our next project will be that much further along.
AG: Last year, our short “Syrup” was part of (annual Maine horror anthology) “Damnationland,” and this year we’ve been asked to do the interstitials that link all the films together. We’re always looking forward to new things to work on together.
DB: I’m working on “Crimson City Chronicles: Chasing MacGuffin,” a pilot for a Web series. I call it a sci-fi, steampunk, neo-noir, post-modern musical.
EB: And I’m working on “Orb of Ages,” a sci-fi fantasy – sort of like a live-action anime. There’s a gentleman’s bet between Derek and I – whichever one does best at the festival circuit, the other will throw his effort into it.
AG: We facilitate but don’t compete. We are a family first – we really do believe that. I’m sometimes called the mom. (Laughs.) Success for one is success for all of us.
Check out Through the Door’s work at throughthedoorproductions.com.
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Tuesday: “Finding Fela.” Documentary about the legendary Nigerian musician and social activist Fela Kuti. Bring your dancing shoes and thinking caps.
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Tuesday: “Mood Indigo.” The new film from director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), a typically lush and eccentric visual treat about a rich man determined to find a cure for his beloved (Audrey Tatou), who’s dying from a flower growing in her lungs.