Derek Kimball’s “Neptune” is one of the best Maine-made movies ever. A delicately moody, visually stunning character piece, it’s achieved well-deserved acclaim here in Maine and, increasingly, elsewhere. With “Neptune” just chosen as “Best Maine Film” at the Emerge Film Festival, Kimball and his team are no doubt enjoying the success their years of effort is bringing them. At the same time, for a Maine filmmaker, the question becomes, “What now?” I talked to Kimball about how an independent filmmaker makes the next steps.
“Neptune” was accepted to the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, and you and some of your team went out with it. What was the experience like?
Slamdance is the great alternative to Sundance. It’s like the bastard child of the family. [Laughs.] It’s all about first-time filmmakers and their weird voices. Nobody there’s managed to make a living at this yet, so the attitude is really good. There’s no ego. Honestly, it was like summer camp – [“Neptune” producer] Allen Baldwin, and [“Neptune” star] Jane Ackerman and her dad, we were bunking with three or four other filmmakers we hadn’t met, which was awesome.
What were your hopes for “Neptune.” It was a big deal to be chosen, but what did you hope would happen, and what did?
The film was well-received, and we lucked out with the publicist we hired, who got us a lot of good press with some refreshingly in-depth interviews. You could tell the people had actually watched the movie. Maine is very forgiving, and for good reason – everybody’s kind of on the same team. But this was a good trial. We got three offers, which we’re still mulling over.
The goal Allen and I have is, we want “Neptune” to be seen by as many people as possible. For one, we want to turn this into a viable business model for people making movies in Maine. We also, of course, want to generate interest in our next project. “Neptune” has no “names” attached – it’s kind of a hard sell. We knew we weren’t going to land a big deal for national release, but we got good buzz, met some producers, people with the money who’ll, hopefully, keep an eye on what these guys do next.
You mentioned offers. For a Maine filmmaker, that’s the next step to more widespread exposure. What are your hopes there?
The best case is probably video on demand, which is nobody’s dream. [Laughs.] People don’t do theatrical, and disc is rapidly dying. But every deal we’ve courted, we make sure we retain theatrical rights, so we can decide to take it to this city or that one, have a screening, and keep the revenue. The boring part for me is learning about the business side, like distribution, but it’s a necessary part for an indie. The VOD model represents very little in the way of risk. Getting onto streaming platforms is a very inexpensive prospect, so that’s what we’re thinking.
Going forward, what has the “Neptune” festival experience taught you?
It’s not a part of the dream when you’re a young filmmaker thinking of all the cool stuff that goes with that. Any working artist has misconceptions. There’s the thing your heart is in, and then there’s this game you have to play to make a living. If you truly understood it, you probably wouldn’t still be doing it. A lot of what you do is being able to B.S. your way through meeting with people – not because you feel the need to lie to them, but the act of articulating it becomes part of your work. I was always bad at selling myself. Thankfully Allen’s so much better at that part.
Making a movie means committing a part of your life and time to seek a thing out. You’re committing that time to being in that experience and this is a necessary part of it—finding out how to monetize film as a community art. That’s a huge part of why making a movie in Maine is still a blatant act of community.
YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER chance to see the excellent “Neptune” on the big screen starting Friday at PMA Movies. You should.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
SPACE GALLERY (Portland)
Monday, May 16: “Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island.” Architect Todd Saunders’ cubic buildings look futuristic. Newfoundland’s Fogo Island is craggy and deserted. The inn Saunders is building on Fogo Island looks like the hotel you book to watch the world end. See the clash of form and formlessness in this documentary at SPACE.
Tuesday, May 17.: “We Are the Best.” The young teenage girls who forma ragged punk band in this Swedish film from director Lukas Moodysson (“Together”) might not be the best in terms of musical skill. But, in this raucous, exultant coming-of-age movie, they’re certainly three of the most irresistibly free-spirited characters you’ll see anywhere. Sponsored by Brunswick’s own independent video store, Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion!