“Nature Show,” the award-nominated webseries from Portland-based South Addison Picture Company, doesn’t have a lot of nature in it. Sure, there are woods, and some picturesquely ugly overgrown parking lots, but mainly, the series’ second season is about, well let’s see: An evil Norse-pagan corporation using secret experiments to turn kidnapped homeless people into monsters, a very “Matrix”-looking secret agent, an even more suspiciously ’90s-looking street gang, and our heroes—a braggadocious nature show host who can shoot fireballs out of his hands for some reason, and his producer/sidekick who may have an alien implanted in his chest, also for some reason.
“The first season was very spontaneous, more of a mockumentary about nature shows,” explains “Nature Show” lead, co-writer, and director Jarrod Lynch Anderson, “And we looked back and decided, ‘Yeah, we don’t want to do that again.’ It just wasn’t really in our wheelhouse, which is comedy. So we thought, ‘Let’s re-approach it the way we do things, with a full script and actors.’ It just looked more fun. So we just started adding weirder, funnier bits, stuff that was more out there.”
And that Anderson and his team (including co-star Andy Batson, who also handled the series’ impressive digital effects) most certainly did, creating a four-episode series that traffics in absurd comedy, intermittent profanity, and what looks like every goofy idea they could come up with. As Anderson (playing a comically gung-ho version of himself) and Batson (ditto) blunder boozily about the wilds of Portland with their cameras in search of answers. The series, which runs about an hour in total, is consistently, if raggedly, amusing, with Anderson’s performance, especially, like a dumber, sillier version of “The X-Files” Fox Mulder. The series, both seasons of which can be seen on the excellent Maine-based “global network for Maine web storytellers” website The Entertainment Experiment (entertainmentexperiment.com) is an energetic, uniquely-Portland comedy—and it’s getting some national attention.
The series’ creators are heading out to Los Angeles next week to attend the Indie Series Awards (indieseriesawards.com) honoring the best the web has to offer. Nominated for “Best Visual Effects In A Web Series,” “Nature Show” is following in the footsteps of Entertainment Experiment founder Barry Dodd’s outstanding Maine webseries “Ragged Isle” (which took home the award for “Best Web Series” in 2012), something Anderson hopes will augur well for South Addison Picture Company, and Batson. “The hardest part for an artist is promotion,” says Anderson. “So we figured, ‘Let’s go out there, schmooze, shake some hands, and get noticed.'”
According to Anderson, SAPC, which has been making its living mostly through commercial work, wanted to get back into the creative side of things, and wanted to give “Nature Show” a fresh look by seeking out some of Portland’s less-walked sites. Literally. Says Anderson, “We spent a lot of time scouting locations on foot, walking all over Portland. We wanted the setting to be anywhere but downtown. We wanted the fringe—not the Eastern Prom or Exchange Street, but places no one had filmed yet.” For the show’s comically grubby milieu of homeless camps, Anderson was thrilled to find some abandoned land right off of Allen Avenue. “There’s a great, huge area there that’s all urban decay, with nature overtaking it. Like some grand plans must have fallen through.”
As for Anderson an his crew, once they get back from California, their grand plans are to do more creative, funny projects like “Nature Show,” and continue to work with the Maine film community. “Right now, we’re happy to go out to California and represent Maine,” says Anderson, “And to show that Maine has a voice and a lot to offer as well.”
You can see “Nature Show” (and a lot more great, Maine-made content) at The Entertainment Experiment (entertainmentexperiment.com). For more from South Addison Picture Company, check out their site (southaddisonpix.com).
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday: “Remember.” Director Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter”) continues to forego arthouse legitimacy in favor of lurid (albeit artsily lurid) melodrama, this time bringing us this revenge tale of a dementia-stricken Holocaust survivor (Christompher Plummer) who sets out on a cross-country trip to kill the former Auschwitz guard who’d tormented him.
PMA Movies (Portland Museum of Art)
Friday: “River Of Fundament.” Anyone who’s seen the phantasmagorical weirdness that is artist-filmmaker Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster” series should know what to expect from this collaborative film project from Barney and artist Jonathan Bepler. Inspired by Norman Mailer’s novel of the pharaohs, “Ancient Evenings,” the film is a combination of opera, performance art, and landscape, and promises to be about 50 times more baffling that that makes it sound.