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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 8, 2018

See how aspiring filmmakers from SMCC just keep getting better

Written by: Dennis Perkins

“The Wile,” a sci-fi film from Ben Rooker and Emily Myshrall, is a strong entry in this year’s festival, says Maine Mayhem co-founder Corey Norman. Photos courtesy of Corey Norman

There’s only one Maine Mayhem. Well, technically, there’s an all-woman, full-contact football team called Maine Mayhem, but, as cool as that is, Maine film fans know that the original Maine Mayhem is the state’s premiere showcase for up-and-coming Maine filmmakers. Unveiling its eighth annual roster of short films from the students of Southern Maine Community College’s communications and new media program at the 2018 Maine Mayhem premiere at Portland’s Nickelodeon Cinema on Wednesday, the mayhem hits the road for added engagements at Brunswick’s Frontier on Thursday and at Bangor Arts Exchange on Friday.

“Champ” is directed by Jason Smith.

I talked to SMCC associate professor, acclaimed Maine filmmaker, and Maine Mayhem maven Corey Norman about this year’s festival and what he’s learned about how young filmmakers have evolved in Maine Mayhem’s eight years.

First things first, how long is this year’s Maine Mayhem, how many shorts are involved, and what rating would you slap on it, should Maine film fans want to bring their youngest aspiring filmmakers along?

In our eighth year, Maine Mayhem has turned into a beast. (Laughs.) There are eight films this year, which is the most we’ve ever had, and the entire program runs two hours and 40 minutes. As far as a rating goes, I’d call it akin to a PG-13. There’s one horror film this year, and one or two F-bombs pop up, but it’s pretty tame compared to other years. There are more dramas than ever, too. And I know I say this every single year, but this is the best program we’ve ever done. Each year just gets better and better.

Seeing each year’s festival, I have to agree. As the person with the best perspective on your students’ progress, to what do you attribute this year’s leap forward?

I think there are three main reasons. For one thing, these students see what’s come before, and they’re always getting out into these sets and seeing these elaborate productions, and being inspired. Also, in the class, we keep upping the bar for them. This year, we took the process one step further in that to get their gear, students had to submit their call sheets three days in advance. Plus, young people interested in film are more and more technologically inclined even than they were eight years ago. For example, this year, one student became our first to incorporate 3-D animation and, holy crap, does it look good.

In your opinion, has the students’ storytelling kept pace with their technological advances?

For the most part, they have. There are always a couple of kids who really go for the flash, and that tends to lose a little of the substance. On the other hand, we’ve got one sci-fi film this year called “The Wile” (from Ben Rooker and Emily Myshrall) that’s one of the strongest from a storytelling and pacing as well as technological standpoint. Students are definitely more advanced than when we started, and a lot of that comes through. And I’ve learned over the years where the holes are in the curriculum and how to address them.

What’s one example?

Well, for one thing, in order to even get their film made, students now have to get through a panel of industry experts in the previous fall. I recruited professionals from series like “North Woods Law” and “Mercy Street” to evaluate the pitches. Honestly, it’s an idea I stole from NYU. It adds another level of accountability, and makes it so I don’t always have to be the bad guy. [Laughs.]

As an educator as well as a filmmaker, what’s it like seeing so many of your Maine Mayhem students go on to make a living in the industry after leaving SMCC?

Not only that, but the fact that they stay in touch to keep me in the know about some of the great things they’re doing. They’re working on projects from “X-Men: New Mutants” to “Survivor” to “North Woods Law,” and it’s always just so cool to see these kids using Maine Mayhem as their launching pad.

The eighth annual Maine Mayhem student film festival is showing at the Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Brunswick’s Frontier ( on Thursday, and Bangor Arts Exchange ( on Friday. That’s three opportunities to see the work of Maine’s brightest young filmmakers.


Friday-Sunday: “One Team: The Story of the Lewiston High School Blue Devils.” This Maine-set feel-good sports documentary follows the Lewiston High soccer state champions. Led by immigrant players from six different countries, the film traces the students experiences on and off the field as they adjust—and triumph in their new Maine home.

Saturday: “Here To Be Heard: The Story of the Slits.” Space continues to be Portland’s one-stop shop for rockumentaries with this film about punk pioneers The Slits, from the all-woman band’s beginnings alongside The Clash and The Sex Pistols through their 2010 dissolution with the death of lead singer Ari Up.


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