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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: May 15, 2017

Aspiring filmmaker? Points North wants to help

Written by: Dennis Perkins
 Filmmaker Assia Boundaoui pitches her project, "The Feeling of Being Watched," at the Camden Opera House as part of the 2016 Points North Fellowship. Photo by Spencer Worthley

Filmmaker Assia Boundaoui pitches her project, “The Feeling of Being Watched,” at the Camden Opera House as part of the 2016 Points North Fellowship.
Photo by Spencer Worthley

The Camden International Film Festival isn’t coming our way until September, but the venerable and prestigious documentary festival is looking for talented nonfiction filmmakers now.

The festival’s parent organization, the Points North Institute, is, as they put it, “a launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers,” a nurturing program to help moviemakers from Maine and around the world realize their unique cinematic visions. The Institute is now accepting applications from filmmakers for both its Points North Fellowship and its new Shortform Editing Residency, programs specifically designed to usher in the next generation of great documentaries and documentarians.

Combining funding, workshops, mentorship with industry professionals and guidance on how to pitch their films to festivals and distributors, the Points North Fellowship is, according to festival program director Sean Flynn, “a major platform for early-career filmmakers with projects in development.” And Flynn’s not kidding, as CIFF’s history as one of the most sought-out documentary film festivals in the world has brought some legendary and powerful figures in the nonfiction film world to work with Points North participants.

“CIFF has spent the last 15 years building relationships and a network within the industry. But, more important than that, some high-profile people come to the festival really recognizing this unique opportunity for providing space for a focused, creative, collaborative and highly-curated experience,” Flynn said.

The submission early bird deadline for both the Points North Fellowship and the Shortform Editing Residency is June 7, with applications being accepted through July 12.

For the fellowship, there are six spots open to filmmakers with feature-length documentary projects that, as Flynn put it, are “partway into production, with an edited work sample — either a polished trailer or a sample scene.” Filmmakers chosen will not only receive a cash stipend to help in completing their films, but also all-access passes to September’s festival (including accommodations and round-trip airfare to Maine, if needed).

There, filmmakers will receive two days of intensive pitch training and a slot in CIFF’s Points North Pitch, where aspiring filmmakers can make their case to “an international delegation of leading funders, broadcasters, distributors,” which has, in the past, included decision-makers from places like the Sundance Institute, HBO, CNN, the Tribeca Film Institute and more.

The editing program, too, promises participants the chance to not only work with industry insiders on their short documentary and episodic series skills at a week-long residency, but an all-access pass to CIFF, affording them the chance to network with those industry big wigs. As the newer of the two programs, Flynn hints that, for Maine filmmakers, it’s a great way to get involved. “Shorts are really wonderful,” Flynn said. “They’re a sandbox to experiment with creative nonfiction, and the process can be a little more accessible to filmmakers from different backgrounds.”

Camden International Film Festival has become a major player in the field of “creative nonfiction,” the term Flynn uses to describe how CIFF and festivals like it have broadened and deepened the documentary form over the years. Past alums of the Points North experience are making major waves in the film world, such as director Sabaah Folayan, whose documentary “Whose Streets?” about the birth and development of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, was at Points North two years ago.

“It was an early chance for her to work with mentors, to articulate her vision and shape this examination of the very significant national dialogue happening around racial justice,” Flynn said.

The film, which showed at the Sundance Film Festival this year, is preparing for a 2017 theatrical run.

Both the Points North Fellowship and the Shortform Editing Residency represent CIFF’s commitment to expanding the idea of what documentary can be by, as Flynn said, “finding those projects that are not yet on people’s radar. We’re just excited to invest the time and energy.”

Local filmmakers with energy, time and an in-progress nonfiction film are encouraged to check out the CIFF website,, for submission guidelines and to submit applications before the June 7 or July 12 deadline to the Points North Fellowship and the Shortform Editing Residency.


Wednesday, May 24: “A Stray.” Based in the Somali refugee community of Minneapolis, this indie film follows a young man trying to make his way after he’s thrown out by his mom, abandoned by his friends and saddled with an unwanted but adorable stray dog. Part of the Seventh Art Stand, “an act of cinematic solidarity against Islamophobia,” and followed by a discussion with members of Portland’s Somali community.

Wednesday, May 24: “Forgotten Farms.” The plight of the vanishing New England dairy farm is the topic of this documentary about the fight to keep this vital agricultural tradition alive. A suggested donation of $5 for admission benefits screening sponsor Maine Farmland Trust.

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