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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: November 13, 2017

Want to see an animated film about growing pot in rural Maine? Go fund it.

Written by: Dennis Perkins
The "super bud" destined to bring "peace and common decency" to the Penobscot Bay region. Photos courtesy of O'Chang Studios

The “super bud” destined to bring “peace and common decency” to the Penobscot Bay region.
Photos courtesy of O’Chang Studios

Rockland-based O’Chang Studios (made up of married filmmakers Hanji Chang and Andy O’Brien) is looking for your help as the pair attempt to make what they insist will be the first feature-length animated film made and set in Maine.

In the teaser trailer accompanying their fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, “The One Strain To Rule Them All” takes the rambunctiously rural characters from the couple’s popular “Temp Tales” animated shorts into a fantasy-inspired but suspiciously familiar world where a pot-loving old Maine island wizard develops a legendary strain of “super bud” destined to bring “peace and common decency” to the Penobscot Bay region (complete with Tolkien-esque Maine map where everything south of “Disgusta” is labeled “Northern Massachusetts”).

Scene from "The One Strain to Rule Them All"

Scene from “The One Strain to Rule Them All”

With the legalization of marijuana seeming to promise a rosy, hazy future, the wizard finds his magical herb threatened instead by dark, outside forces (in riot gear bearing the dread name “DEA”) decide to trample his dreams. And plants.

Pixar it’s not. But Pixar seemingly isn’t interested in making a scabrously funny, uniquely Maine-centric film about midcoasters just trying to get by. So it’s up to Mainers themselves to help O’Chang Studios raise the $25,000 they’ve set as their modest fundraising goal. I spoke to co-founder, writer and voice talent Andy O’Brien about making movies north of Portland.

Your trailer starts off with you pitching your film to a panel of stereotypically “artsy” types who are pretty dismissive of your vision of a blue-collar Maine movie. You and Hanji are both educated, worldly people, but there seems to be a ring of resentment there.

I grew up in rural Maine (in Lincolnville), and a lot of our characters are based on people I grew up with, worked with and am still friends with. Hanji is from Taiwan and grew up understanding the similarities in rural people around the world – it might be scooters and motorcycles instead of snowmobiles, but there’s a lot in common. We came back and lived in Portland for a while when Hanji was at (Maine College of Art), and we had a hard time relating to a lot of the people in that art scene, which was cliquish. The first quote in the trailer is literally, word-for-word, a rejection notice to an art grant we’d sent out.

Your work pulls off the tricky balancing act of dealing in various stereotypes without going for cheap laughs at their expense.

We come at it from that perspective. We’re outsiders in a sense in the art world. Goofy cartoons don’t really fit into the artsy hipster demo down there. Rockland’s just not in that scene. That said, Hanji teaches at MECA, and I think we’d be considered hipsters ourselves around here. (Laughs.) We sort of walk in both worlds and we understand that. Still, our sense of humor and material connects us more with this more rural Maine.

Being so Maine-specific in its humor, what do you envision being the reach for “The One Strain To Rule Them All” across the border?

Well, our “Temp Tales”‘ YouTube channel has over 3 million views and 15,000 or so subscribers. We have a pretty strong following, particularly in rural Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire – northern New England, essentially. I don’t know – we tried to set up screenings when we were in Portland and were basically treated like a nuisance, but we hold viewings in Georgetown, Rockland, Bar Harbor, and they’re packed. We have fishermen coming with potluck bean suppers and buckets of crab legs. We’ve submitted to festivals before. We also do environmental cartoons and were just shown at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival last week. But this is such a local thing. We’re making it for Mainers – outside of Maine, I imagine people might ask what the hell this is. (Laughs.)

What prompted you to go the crowdfunding route for the feature?

We’ve always said this is by Mainers, for Mainers. A lot of our stories are crowdsourced from our fans, and we get ideas all the time taken from real life. We tend to call “Temp Tales” “animated documentaries.” So I don’t think we’d ever get any actual funding from a studio because I don’t think they’d get it. We’ve been making these for five years for free, not making any money, so we figure, since this has always been something of a pure community effort, we’d reach out to the Maine community. Basically, we want to be able to do this so we can pay the mortgage while making cartoons. Hanji is the fastest animator I know, but she’s also just one animator, so we’re essentially not looking to pay for anything but Hanji’s time. There’s all sorts of rewards for donating, and we’re doing regular updates, so people will know we’re not just pissing away their money. (Laughs.) But, considering the number of followers we’ve got, on Facebook and YouTube, even a few bucks a person would help us a lot.

The all-Maine, all-rude, very funny-looking “The One Strain To Rule Them All” is in production now. To check out the NSFW trailer and chip in toward O’Chang Studio’s goal of making Maine’s first animated feature, check out their Indiegogo page. And to see more of Chang and O’Brien’s rural-rooted Maine animated comedy shorts, check out their YouTube channel, or their website, ochangcomics.com.


COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

SPACE GALLERY
Thursday: “The Work.” Space brings us another fascinating documentary about incarceration in America with this 2017 film about three troubled men who attend an intense four-day therapy session with a group of incarcerated men at Folsom Prison.

PMA FILMS
Thursday-Sunday: “The Square.” The new film from Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund (2016’s “Force Majeure”) is another darkly comic masterpiece of humiliation as an ambitious performance art installation goes off the rails, to the consternation of the museum’s stuffy patrons. Winner of the Palme D’Or at this year’ Cannes Film Festival.

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