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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: March 11, 2019

Lone Wolf rewrites American history from its South Portland studio

Written by: Dennis Perkins

A behind-the-scenes look at the filming of “The Kids We Lose.”

Photo courtesy of Lone Wolf Media

South Portland’s Lone Wolf Media has some great stories to tell. Even if they can’t tell one of the juiciest ones right now.

“I can’t actually talk to you about that project,” explained the Maine documentary house’s head of production, Adam Costa, when asked about a film in the works about a Maine-based World War II event. “It’s still fairly sensitive.” While I respect Costa’s professional discretion and won’t do anything to possibly monkey-wrench the deal, I will say the subject of this proposed project does indeed sound like something we’ll circle back on once the ink dries.

But never mind that – Lone Wolf Media has plenty more Maine-made nonfiction films to choose from, including its newest major project, which started airing on the Smithsonian Channel last week. “America’s Hidden Stories” represents Lone Wolf’s latest successful effort to maintain a vital, viable presence in the competitive world of documentary filmmaking, an ongoing series which, as Costa explains, is all about reexamining moments in history whose real truth isn’t widely known – or has just been discovered.

“The general conceit is in going back and finding moments in American history that people know about, or have heard about, and finding new angles,” Costa said. “Seeking out the hidden stories in major historical events.”

Said Costa of the seven-episode season, “It’s a fun show, with a lot of high-end historical reenactments, all run out of our shop here.”

The first episode of the series followed archaeologists and researchers to Massachusetts searching for the actual site of the Salem witch hangings, while the second examined the theory that a (possibly fake) Civil War plot to assassinate Confederate President Jefferson Davis led to Abraham Lincoln’s murder.

Airing every Monday on Smithsonian (check your cable listings: smithsonianchannel.com/tv-schedule), this week’s episode, “Pandemic 1918,” delves into newly uncovered facts suggesting the devastating “Spanish flu” epidemic that killed over 50 million people around the world not only originated in America, but may have been propagated by governmental neglect and cover-ups.For the dedicated filmmakers of Lone Wolf Media, working out of Maine is a matter of choice, albeit not an easy one for professionals looking to keep up with the fast-paced, constantly changing film and TV business.

“For us, setting up here is about having the way of life we want to have,” Costa said about the decision of Lone Wolf founders Kirk and Lisa Quijano Wolfinger and himself to work from the company’s bustling South Portland digs. Still, as all Maine moviemakers who decide to stay know, “It’s hard sledding,” he said. “It takes a lot of extra push to be successful here.”

And Lone Wolf is successful. In addition to “America’s Hidden Stories” (and that upcoming mystery project), the company’s documentary fare is a regular fixture on cable staples like the Smithsonian Channel, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, History, PBS and elsewhere. Even though, as Costa said, “there’s always an audience for good history,” Lone Wolf’s Maine home base means constant travel to TV hubs like New York and Washington, D.C., in order to maintain the necessary connection to the lightning-quick pulse of the broadcast world. “It’s a lot harder than if we were local to those places,” Costa admitted. “We’re always working on new concepts and pitching new shows, and staying on top of what networks and viewers are looking for.”

Citing the company’s recent, award-winning, Maine-based documentary “The Kids We Lose” (thekidswelose.com), about the wrenching challenges involved in schooling children with behavioral problems, as just one example of more local-centered filmmaking undertaken by Lone Wolf, Costa says that their bread-and-butter still comes from away. “We have a lot of talented filmmakers, many of whom live and work in Maine, and we also have developed really good relationships with the networks we’ve worked for that know we make good programming, and that we can execute on the concepts we’re pitching.”

With the ever-expanding media landscape, Costa says that Lone Wolf continues to foster those relationships thanks to the company’s high standards and economical Maine operations. Speaking of the seemingly infinite choices for viewers these days with the coming of streaming, Costa likens Lone Wolf’s mission to the first stirrings of punk rock.

“In the 1960s and ’70s, to get a record deal, you had to all but guarantee a band would be successful,” Costa explained. “When punk came in, it became easier to do things, to distribute the media, so there were way more bands out there. That’s a good thing, since it gave fans more chance to find content they really wanted, but there was suddenly a lot of noise, too. For us, when the dust settles, there’s more content than ever before, so what tends to survive is what can rise above the noise. We’re just trying to evolve with the times, make shows we’re good at making, figure out who the right audience is for it, and develop shows with enough appeal that networks will want to buy them. And there are enough talented filmmakers in Maine to keep the doors open and the lights on.”

Lone Wolf Media’s documentary series “America’s Hidden Stories” can be found right now on the Smithsonian Channel. For more information on Lone Wolf’s Maine-made programming, check out its website, lonewolfmedia.com.


COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

Cinemagic at Clark’s Pond
Thursday: “The Iron Giant.” Part of Clark’s Pond’s “cult classics” series (since no one went to see it in the theaters, inexplicably), Brad Bird’s 1999 animated tale of a Maine boy and his giant alien robot pal is easily one of the best kids movies ever made. Honestly, if that one moment at the end doesn’t get you, you yourself are a robot.

Nickelodeon Cinema
Starts Friday: “Climax.” The phrase “from the mind of director Gaspar Noé” fills those in the know with a queasy feeling of anticipation and dread. This new film from the controversial director of “Irreversible” and “Enter The Void” is typically nauseating and visually mind-blowing, as it follows one night in which a dance troupe realizes everyone has been dosed with hallucinogens.

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