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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: March 25, 2019

Maine Film Association puts practical filmmaking skills at the forefront

Written by: Dennis Perkins

A Maine Film Association workshop on visual storytelling took place in 2017.
Photo by Sarah Sullivan

The democratization of moviemaking technology has made making a movie easier than it’s ever been. Using that ever-more affordable and available technology to make a good movie is another story.

For the film professionals of the Maine Film Association, helping Maine filmmakers master the harder-to-obtain skills necessary to make their creative vision a tangible, well-made reality is a mission, and a passion.

“Our goal is to advance the art, craft and business of filmmaking in Maine,” explained Maine Film Association coordinator Liz Hall. “Maine is a great place to work as a filmmaker, and we’re looking to showcase Maine filmmakers and make accessible professional development opportunities.”

To that end, Saturday marks the latest in MFA’s ongoing series of moviemaking events, a workshop on producing and production management, led by local volunteer pros like Portland-based producer and MFA board member Erik Sulcs.

Sulcs, whose 25-year career has including producing shows like the Discovery Channel’s Millinocket-set “American Loggers” series, among many others, said that having lived and worked in big movie and TV markets like Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., he found coming to Maine to have been both eye-opening and inspiring.

“Coming to a smaller market, seeing what people are doing from a more creative aspect has been great,” Sulcs said, noting that attending an MFA workshop himself prompted him to get more involved.

“I’d gone to some events at MFA to brush up on some techniques and saw that the level of education you get there is quite high and quite good by anybody’s standards,” said Sulcs. “Plus, it’s relatively affordable, compared to programs in bigger places, or even elsewhere here in Maine.” (Indeed, the four-hour producing lecture series is $10 for students, $20 for MFA members, and $30 for the rest of us.)

The Maine Film Association held a workshop on shooting for natural history and wildlife documentaries in July.
Photo by Robert Glowacky

As for what this particular MFA program will cover, Sulcs jokes that “producer” is one of the least understood jobs on a film set. “Even my parents still ask, ‘What do you do?’ ” said Sulcs, laughing. He views his role as “a glorified manager.”

“A movie is a thing with a lot of moving parts,” he said, “and the producer’s job is to keep the train rolling, on time and on budget.”

Still sound a little vague? Well, as Sulcs explains, the Saturday series will plumb the depths of producers’ tasks, from marking up scripts to making call sheets and the production schedule, to the ins and outs of the paperwork the role requires. “It’s about teaching people the mechanics of producing,” said Sulcs.

Aiding him for the day will be other industry professionals also donating their time and expertise. They include director, producer and Boston College educator Charles Merzbacher; producer, line producer and stunt coordinator Amy Greene; and producer, line producer and budget consultant Eric Mofford (producer on the current Maine Mariners docu-series “Puckland.”)

For Hall and Sulcs, the nonprofit Maine Film Association is all about giving back and finding inspiration from other members of the hardworking Maine film community.

Said Hall, “Our volunteer instructors are all professionals who want to help build and grow the Maine film community, and to meet, network and work with colleagues from all sorts of backgrounds.”

Sulcs noted that the MFA has learned and listened as well as taught during its existence, expanding and refining its programs to best suit the real, practical needs of working and aspiring Maine moviemakers. In addition to regular workshops (like a visual effects “crash course” on April 6), the MFA holds screenings of local films (like the April 12 showing of the Maine-based education documentary “The Kids We Lose”) and hosts happy-hour mixers for Maine film folk to network, mingle and fill their address books.

Citing Camden resident, MFA education chair, and Hollywood cameraman and cinematographer (“Spider-Man 2,” “The Mentalist”) Matt Siegel as a driving force in MFA’s energetic push to make hands-on, practical film education accessible to Mainers of all levels, Hall and Sulcs called this a “renaissance” of Maine filmmaking.

“We’re really grateful for Matt’s expertise,” said Hall. “He’s really been a catalyst for a lot of this change in how we connect people and think about teaching.”

The Maine Film Association’s MFA in Production Series: Producing and Production Management workshop will be held Saturday at the Portland Media Center, 516 Congress St. For more information and tickets, check out the MFA website, mainefilm.org, or its Facebook page.


COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

Nickelodeon Cinema
Starts Friday: “Hotel Mumbai.” Based on a true story, this gripping hostage drama stars Dev Patel and Armie Hammer in the tale of the siege of India’s Taj Hotel by armed terrorists.

The Apohadion Theater
Wednesday, April 3: “Babylon.” The Apohadion’s new cult film series rolls on, with this little-seen, fully-restored 1980 British drama about a young dance-hall DJ whose pursuit of reggae stardom puts him in conflict with the racism and xenophobia all around him. Never before shown in the U.S., rated X in Britain and coming to the Apohadion.

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