Thomas and Peter Campbell have been making movies in Maine for just about as long as I’ve been writing this column. Which is pretty wild, when you consider that the two Portland siblings only recently graduated from the University of Southern Maine. From the start of my ongoing quest to profile the sneakily thriving Maine film community, the Campbell brothers were just always there, with Maine-made horror anthology co-founder Allen Baldwin telling me to keep an eye on these two talented kids way back in 2010.
Well, it’s 2018, and the Campbells, who grew up in Cape Elizabeth, have not just persisted in their lifelong youthful cinematic enthusiasm, they’ve thrived. Thomas, 26, is a fixture in the Maine film and theater communities, working literally every job on seemingly every other Maine film set as well as at theatrical companies like Mad Horse, The Theater Project and others. Meanwhile, brother Peter, 24, has struck out for New York, working toward a master’s degree in film at Columbia University. But, regardless of their separate paths in the entertainment fields, the Campbells have continued their professional partnership. (And, presumably, their personal one, being brothers and all.)
“For the Love of Kyle,” which the Campbells will be shooting in and around Portland in July, is, in addition to being part of Peter’s master’s work, the brothers’ latest collaboration. In keeping with the comic bent of much of their earlier work, they describe the short film as a satire of the sort of Lifetime crime-and-hankies melodrama lovingly lampooned in Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig’s 2015 TV film “A Deadly Adoption.” Unlike that straight-faced parody of the oft-mocked genre, however, the Campbells have their own plans for skewering the tale of a seemingly ordinary guy (Maine acting staple Paul Drinan) who finds himself ensnared in one of those webs of crime and romance that forgettable middling TV movies are made of.
For this film, described as “a Lifetime movie meets ‘The Twilight Zone’ ” on the its crowdfunding page, Peter says that the brothers’ comic strategy is a little more ambitious – and outrageous.
“The organizing idea,” he said, “is that we want to start in the style of the movie completely, identify the devices that comprise the formula – and then basically use those as pressure points to make it collapse.” Talking about their concept, Thomas added that their protagonist would gradually come to realize – and reject – the sort of movie he’s stuck in.
“We’ve had this idea for a long time and this just seemed like the right time to do it,” he said. “The general idea was always that the concept had to fall apart by the end of it in some way.”
Peter also noted that their satirical short will delve into the genre’s visual language, meaning its direction and structure, as well. “We’ve never seen a satire or commentary on the visual language of Lifetime movies,” he said.
While “For the Love of Kyle” will go into Peter’s Columbia degree, it has, he says, “taken on a life of its own” in the Campbells’ plan to continue making a film together every year. Also in deference to Columbia’s pressures (“I’m in a ton of debt,” he laughs), the brothers have turned to the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo for help in raising $5,000 of the film’s carefully estimated $7,500 budget. Teaming with two producers (one from Columbia, one met on the festival circuit with their earlier parody film, the visually striking an very funny “Killer Spacemen From Outer Planet X”), the Campbells assure potential investors that all the money will end up on the screen in bringing their newest Maine-made movie to life.
For more information on the work of Portland filmmakers Peter and Tomas Campbell, check out their website, 8mufnz.com. And to read about the upcoming “For the Love of Kyle,” and to make a donation (there are cool rewards for donors), go to the film’s Indiegogo page.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday: “The Heart of Nuba.” An American doctor selflessly treats the beleaguered people of the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan in what is, unfortunately, a documentary.
Wednesday, June 20: “Lady Bird.” Oscar-nominated and winning comedy drama from writer-director Greta Gerwig follows the contentiously loving relationship between equally headstrong mother and daughter Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. Part of the Rooftop Film Series.