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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 8, 2014

Maine-set stories filmed elsewhere damage Maine’s image: 5 examples of Maine fakery

Written by: Dennis Perkins
Max von Sydow in “Needful Things," which was not actually set in Maine.

Max von Sydow in “Needful Things,” which was not actually set in Maine.

You know why some many films are set in Maine? Because Maine is a fascinating place, offering infinite possibilities for any genre. (We’ve even got a desert, for crying out loud.) And do you know why so many Maine-set stories are actually filmed somewhere else? Because Maine government hasn’t seen fit to make filming here financially welcoming to film productions. Apart from the benefits to local economies we’re missing out on, all this fakery is causing some real damage to our image. Like in these examples:

“Andre” (1994). A little girl and her family in adopt a baby seal.

Where it’s set: Rockport, Maine.

Where it was actually shot: Vancouver, Mississippi, and…Tasmania?

How they try to trick us: Indifferently applied Maine accents, seemingly everyone’s a fisherman, lots of buoys.

Why making it here would have been a better idea: Well, the film’s based on a true story that took place in Rockport, and Rockport has all the requisite seals, fishermen, and buoys. Plus, some extras from the area might have snuck some actual Maine accents in there. Oh, and filming in Maine (where seals are plentiful) might have meant Andre could be played by an actual seal, and not a sea lion (which don’t live in Maine, but which are apparently easier to train to humorously stick their tongues out and blow raspberries).

"Mooseport" Courtesy photo

“Welcome to Mooseport” Courtesy photo

“Welcome To Mooseport” (2004). A crotchety ex-U.S. President (Gene Hackman) moves to a quaint Maine town and ends up in a heated campaign for mayor against local plumber Ray Romano.

Where it’s set: The fictional Mooseport, a stand-in for Kennebunkport and its Bush family connections.

Where it was actually shot: Ontario.

How they try to trick us: Indifferently applied Maine accents, there are moose everywhere, and did I mention the town is just so quaint?

Why making it here would have been a better idea: Apart from the inherent rightness of shooting a movie about Maine in Maine, the phrase “good idea” is tough to apply to any aspect of this movie. Gene Hackman has not appeared onscreen since. I blame Canada.

"Needful Things" Courtesy photo

“Needful Things” Courtesy photo

“Needful Things” (1993). The Devil (Max von Sydow) opens an antique shop full o’ cursed doo-dads.

Where it’s set: Stephen King-ville, specifically, his fictional town of Castle Rock.

Where it was actually shot: British Columbia.

How they try to trick us: Indifferently applied Maine accents, pine trees, “colorful” Maine characters.

Why making it here would have been a better idea: No offense, Canada, but there’s a reason why Maine spawned Stephen King – we’re just spookier than you are.

For more Stephen King fakery, see “Dolores Claiborne” (Nova Scotia), “Bag Of Bones” (Nova Scotia), the “Carrie” remake (Ontario), “The Dark Half” (Pittsburgh), “The Dead Zone” (Toronto), “It” (British Columbia), “Salem’s Lot” (California), “The Shawshank Redemption” (Ohio), “Silver Bullet” (North Carolina).

Ellen Burstyn, left, Marcia Gay Harden and Alison Elliott in “The Spitfire Grill.”

Ellen Burstyn, left, Marcia Gay Harden and Alison Elliott in “The Spitfire Grill.”

“The Spitfire Grill” (1996). A troubled young woman gets a job at the backwoods diner of crusty-but-warmhearted Ellen Burstyn.

Where it’s set: generic, woodsy Maine.

Where it was actually shot: Vermont.

How they try to trick us: Indifferently – or, in Burstyn’s case, comically – applied Maine accents. So, so many trees.

Why making it here would have been a better idea: Vermont’s one state over. If you want to set your movie in a woodsy New England backwater, why not set your movie in Vermont where you plan to shoot it? Answer: Because there’s nothing interesting about Vermont. Maine is Maine – our state has more (and more varied) scenery than any film production could possibly need.

Mountains? Check. Deep forest? Check. Small, picturesque towns, big(-ish) cities, lakes, rivers, snow, foliage, sun-dappled fields? All check. Stunning coastline? You’d better believe it, mister. There’s a reason why there’s all this fakery going on – Maine is a desirable and evocative destination for film and TV production. The fact that they choose to throw some lobsters around, hire some vocal coaches, and hope no one notices that everyone says “eh” all the time is a result of Maine not making it financially viable for big studio productions to come here, thus depriving Maine communities of the cash they’d bring, and the rest of us a chance to see our state represented accurately to the rest of the world.

 

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland | patriotcinemas.com

Thursday: “100 Head/Heart/Feet.” Presented by the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, this documentary about the sport of ultra-running, where some brave/insane athletes choose to run – a lot. Namely, they compete in a 30 hour, 100-mile race. I got tired just typing that sentence.

SPACE GALLERY, Portland | space538.org

Friday: “The Wonderful World of Boning.” Two comedians/sex experts take you on a tour through some classically ridiculous old sex education films in a fun, saucy evening of titillation and education. Leave the kids at home.

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