Appropriately emerging after the shocking demise of the venerable Lewiston Auburn Film Festival in 2014, the Emerge Film Festival has ably filled the void, quickly becoming a vital part of that area’s film scene and community.
Now deep in preparation for its coming fourth season in April, Emerge has quickly become a destination, not just for us ever-ravenous Maine film fans looking for the best independent movies the world brings to our doorstep, but also for an increasing number of filmmakers from around the world.
And therein lies the challenge.
“We have a core team of five to seven people bringing in the films, looking at them, then sending them out to a larger team that will actually watch every one — at least twice. Then the core team will select the films,” said Emerge co-founder and president Ramsey Tripp.
That’s the festival’s process for evaluating the more than 1,000 film submissions it screens each year, from which its panel of experts chose only 40. It’s a monstrous amount of work — especially since no one’s getting paid.
Or at least they weren’t paid in the past. Emerge has succeeded to the impressive extent it has thanks to the donated time, skills and brainpower of the sort of dedicated volunteers most young and ambitious festivals count on. But now Emerge is looking to both speed its growth into a player on the major festival circuit and to alleviate some of the burden on its motivated but weary volunteers.
The Emerge Education and Inspiration Campaign is the festival’s first major grassroots fundraising campaign, intended to fund both Emerge’s ongoing outreach to interested students around the state and a paid position for a managing director to, as Tripp put it, “hit the ground running” in the new year.
“We came together as a community,and we’ve all been gratified to see the festival grow through hard work and dedication,” Tripp said. “We’ve gotten amazing support from sponsors and individuals in the community and have finished every year in the black. That’s let us give out small stipends to some of the people doing all the work, but compared to the ridiculous amount of work they do, it’s far below even minimum wage.”
To remedy that, the Emerge Education and Inspiration Campaign has set a deadline of Dec. 31 to raise enough money to have a managing director in place by January. The goal is $25,000, which will allow the director to dedicate himself or herself full-time to Emerge’s development, including pursuing larger grants and sponsorship opportunities.
It will also further Emerge’s dedication to bringing participating filmmakers to schools throughout the state, in order to meet — and inspire — the Maine filmmakers of tomorrow.
“This will help our filmmakers not just go to Southern Maine, but to Washington Country, to Presque Isle, where they can reach young people who might not have access to independent film,” Tripp said.
Regardless of the outcome of the capital campaign, Emerge is the real deal: another excellent, challenging destination for Maine film fans and for filmmakers bringing their films (and themselves) to the state.
“The filmmakers themselves are becoming our biggest advocates,” Tripp said. “It’s cool to hear them say that we’re doing something special here, and that translates into them telling others — in L.A., in New York, from as far away as Australia. They make the connections; the filmmakers are like the hub of the wheel.”
There’s still about two weeks left to make a donation to The Emerge Education and Inspiration Campaign, a worthy cause for any Mainer who enjoys independent film and who values the hard work of those making Maine a year-round destination for some of the best and most interesting filmmakers in the world.
Check out the Emerge website, www.emergefilmfestival.org, for details and look to this column for a rundown of this year’s festival in April.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday-Sunday: “Tampopo.” Raise your chopsticks in gratitude to PMA for showing Juzo Itami’s deliciously funny, sexy and weird 1985 paean to food, sex, Westerns, samurai movies and basically all the things that make life worth living. A new 4K restoration — bring your appetite.
Friday: “Manchester By The Sea.” Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan has only made great movies (“You Can Count On Me,” “Margaret”), so you should check out this sure-to-be Oscar nominee about an aimless guy (Casey Affleck) unwillingly taking care of his dead brother’s young son.