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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: December 11, 2017

‘Strange’ Maine web series director talks about winning big

Written by: Dennis Perkins
A screen shot from "The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes." Photos courtesy of Nancy Andrews

A screen shot from “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes.”
Photos courtesy of Nancy Andrews

When I first spoke to artist, filmmaker and College of the Atlantic film professor Nancy Andrews back in January of this year, it was to learn more about her ambitiously bizarre film-turned-web series “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes.” Well, now the rest of the country is learning about the talents of Andrews and the film’s star, Michole Briana White. The pair, along with production designer Dru Colbert, were all in New York last month to receive the award for best short-form breakthrough series at this year’s Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) Gotham Awards.

Dru Colbert, Michole Briana White and Nancy Andrews at the Gotham Awards in New York City. Photos courtesy of Nancy Andrews

Dru Colbert, Michole Briana White and Nancy Andrews at the Gotham Awards in New York City. Photos courtesy of Nancy Andrews

Andrews’s series about a pioneering scientist (White) whose animal experiments gradually transform her into something … unexpected won the award over projects from well-known artists like John Early (“Search Party”) and Kate Berlant (“555”) and Zoe Cassavetes (“Junior”). The Mount Desert Island-filmed series also took home its honors on the same night as the likes of Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), TV’s “Atlanta” and probable Oscar nominee (at the least) Saoirse Ronan of “Lady Bird.”

Watch the trailer:

Back home in Maine, Andrews talked about the experience of her surprise win, what’s next for “Dr. Myes,” and how a scrappy Maine-made sci-fi, musical drama vaulted to national attention.

First off, congratulations. You, Michole White and Dru Colbert all attended the awards show. What was that experience like?

For one thing, it was just a strange coincidence that we were already there. Michole lives in L.A., and we were meeting in New York to work on a continuance of “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes” – it will have some more fantastical elements but still be about the same characters – when we got the notice. As for the night, it was my first red carpet sort of experience – lot of flashbulbs, lot of people yelling, “Now look at my lens!” (Laughs.) Basically, if you’ve been to a big wedding or other big event, you get the idea, although here, we’d turn around and say, “Oh, there’s Ethan Hawke, there’s Dustin Hoffman, there’s Mary J. Blige.” We did wind up in a line with Dee Reese, who directed “Mudbound” (the Gotham-nominated feature starring Blige), which was a lot of fun.

What was it like when you won?

Well, we were at a table with the people from (woman-centric media organization) Refinery29, and some of them filmed us on their phones just going crazy. (Laughs.) I don’t remember my speech, but I managed to thank almost everyone except the people of Mount Desert Island, who were so great to us. I feel like a lot of the slate were much more well-known than we were, so it was a real shock. I was pretty shaken up.

For a filmmaker from Maine, does your win in such a prestigious setting open up new opportunities?

You know, my first impulse was that it doesn’t matter. We were told by more savvy people that we need to take this moment, where we’re bright and shiny, to make some connections, though, so that’s what we’re working on now. We’re not independently wealthy, and this does bring us to the attention of people in the business who are connected to money and other platforms.

You put “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes” on YouTube.

That was sort of out of necessity, although I did want the access to it to be sort of democratic. That said, I am a professional filmmaker, and the people in all our key positions were professional. Sometimes being on YouTube is like screaming into a maelstrom. There’s so much out there, how can you be heard? The goal going forward is to not have it on YouTube, but on a streaming channel or video on demand.

Is the plan to stay in Maine?

Originally, I planned to set it in sort of a post-industrial city like Detroit or Baltimore, but then I thought, “I can sleep in my own bed.” So I’m happy we made the decision to film here, even though we had to fly some people in. Michole loved Maine – part of it is just to get out of L.A. and be in a place where they don’t have those distractions. But it was a really huge undertaking considering the budget we had, and Mount Desert Island was a great place to be. It’s a small town, so we were already known and trusted, and everyone, from the chamber of commerce to the police to local businesses, were all so helpful. I can’t imagine how we could have done it elsewhere. That said, other places provide tax breaks, and there isn’t the infrastructure for filmmaking here. It’s possible, but we’re just a long way from knowing where we can afford and shoot going forward. It’s hard, too, if you don’t have a way to connect outside of Maine to have a national presence. (Laughs.) I’m trying to figure it out all the time. I don’t have all the answers.

The Gotham Award-winning web series “The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes” can be seen on YouTube or its website, thestrangeeyesofdrmyes.com.


On local screens

FRONTIER (BRUNSWICK)
Ends Thursday, Dec. 14: “The 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows.” This touring festival of 16 of the best animated short films from around the world offers something for everyone.

PMA FILMS
Friday-Sunday: “Human Flow.” Artist and director Ai Weiwei brings his incisive vision to the global refugee crisis in this thought-provoking, visually stunning documentary.

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