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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives on the West End with his lovely wife Emily, where they watch all the movies ever made. When not 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: December 19, 2016

The grand prize for a new Maine screenplay competition is the budget to make a movie

Written by: Dennis Perkins
Allen Baldwin, second from right, with colleagues from "Neptune," from left, actor William McDonough III, director Derek Kimball, actor Jack Ackerman and co-cinematographer Dean Merrill. Photo courtesy of Allen Baldwin

Allen Baldwin, second from right, with colleagues from “Neptune,” from left, actor William McDonough III, director Derek Kimball, actor Jack Ackerman and co-cinematographer Dean Merrill.
Photo courtesy of Allen Baldwin

Maine filmmakers get one last unexpected gift this holiday season, thanks to one of their own.

Portland director-producer Allen Baldwin — one of the co-founders of annual Maine horror anthology “Damnationland” and producer of Derek Kimball’s acclaimed feature “Neptune” — has just announced the creation of the Maine Film Initiative, a Maine-centered screenplay competition with no lesser ambition than to expand the Maine film scene itself.

“I’ve had the idea for a while,” said Baldwin, a 20-year Portland movie-making veteran, currently enrolled in the University of Southern Maine’s master’s of fine arts program, Stonecoast. “Two of the biggest problems we face in Maine are a lack of scripts we can shoot here realistically, and the resources to film them. One of my requirements in the MFA program is a project more about the business side, rather than just creative writing. So, with my little bitty experience, I saw a solution to both those problems.”

Baldwin’s solution is the Maine Film Initiative, an open-submission screenplay competition where — in addition to more than $3,000 in cash prizes for the best scripts in a variety of categories, both standard and eccentric (including the genre-defying “What did I just read?” genre) — the grand-prize winner receives a filmmaking budget comprised of the rest of the initiative’s funds (minus overhead costs).

Because it’s funded solely by submission fees, which range from $20 to $65 depending on the type of script and when it’s submitted, that final budget will depend on how many aspiring screenwriters participate.

The competition’s website, www.mainefilminitiative.com, says that could be $500 or $5,000.

“Whatever we have left, though, will go towards shooting one of the winning screenplays here in Maine. Our goal with this project is to employ Maine film artists and reward daring screenwriters.”

It’s a bold plan, but Baldwin has high and realistic hopes for it.

“Other established screenwriting competitions routinely receive 10,000 submissions or more, something we can shoot for in the future. But, realistically, we can cover costs initially with a lot fewer,” he said. “Making a quality movie in Maine doesn’t have to be expensive.”

With the first deadline coming up on New Year’s Eve (and extended deadlines through the end of April), there are plenty of opportunities for screenwriters to get in on the ground floor — as long as they abide by the competition’s main rule.

“Submissions can come from anywhere,” Baldwin said, “as long as the movie will be produced in Maine. That’s the point of it.”

Laying out his vision for the new project, Baldwin sees the Maine Film Initiative as a way to nurture Maine-based filmmaking in a way that isn’t currently being done.

“I want to begin the process of putting some resources behind films in this state — something that no one’s doing right now,” Baldwin said.

To that end, he envisions not just Maine-made films, but a broadening of all aspects of the film scene, including how Maine is presented.

“Maine is an amazing resource — we’re more than just lobsters and pine trees,” he said. “The scripts don’t even have to take place in Maine, as long as they’re shot here. If we can add one or more films a year shot in Maine, we’re looking at a real, sustainable film economy.”

In addition to the screenwriters who will benefit from the contest’s financial rewards, Baldwin said, he’ll be paying script readers to judge the submissions, brought in from all aspects of the Maine creative scene.

“We have a great, skilled creative community for our population, and I want to bring in not just writers, but people actively working on films,” he said. “If a grip loves a script, not only are they getting paid, too, but they’re going to be excited to work on the film.”

Baldwin sees the Maine Film Initiative as a creative way to transform the Maine film scene with a self-funded, collaborative annual competition.

“Whether the winning script comes from in or out of state, the final film will maintain the integrity of the Maine film community. We can produce the film, and market it, for not much money. A lot of filmmakers give up because work isn’t regular enough to do it here. This will be a way to invest money in that community.”

If you’re a screenwriter, check out the Maine Film Initiative site, www.mainefilminitiative.com, or submission guidelines, fees and other criteria to participate in what looks to be a uniquely exciting (and practical) new addition to the Maine film scene.


COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

Cinemagic Clark’s Pond
Saturday: “The Polar Express.” If you’re looking for a way to keep the kids’ holiday mania distracted, get ‘em up and dressed for a 10:30 a.m. screening of this CGI adaptation of the beloved Chris Van Allsburg children’s book about an enchanted train and a sort of creepy-looking motion-capture Tom Hanks.

Nickelodeon Cinema
Sunday: “Lion.” Dev Patel is getting the ol’ Oscar buzz for his lead performance in this movie about a man trying to locate his birth family after having gotten lost on a train 25 years earlier.

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