The name “Maine Mayhem” suggests a lot of different things. A monster movie about a giant mutant lobster. A documentary about the current state of things at the Blaine House. An especially ill-advised new cocktail including coffee brandy. Instead, it’s the name of the annual short film festival produced by the students in the Advanced Video and Audio Production Applications course at Southern Maine Community College.
Screening on May 12 at the Nickelodeon Cinema on Temple Street in Portland, this year’s program promises, as ever, an entertaining and multifaceted peek at what the next generation of Maine filmmakers has in store.
“It’s crazy that we’ve come this far already,” said Maine Mayhem co-founder and associate professor of communications and new media at SMCC Corey Norman. “Maine Mayhem started out as a means for students to show off their work. Now they look forward to it for the whole of their academic career as a culmination of what they’re working toward.” Norman said of the all-student festival, now in its sixth year: “As one of the final courses students in this major tend to take, they see this as a transition to them becoming professional filmmakers in Portland.”
As usual at Maine Mayhem, the five films in this year’s festival will cover a lot of cinematic ground – even more than in years past, said a proud and pleased Norman. “Things traditionally have skewed toward horror, but this year we’ve got a coming-of-age film, an end-of-the-world drama, a psychological drama about an alcoholic dealing with his demons, a science fiction film and a ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’-style comedy about a pretty intense competition with board games.”
For Norman, an increasingly accomplished professional director in the horror field himself (“The Hanover House,” “Natal,” the new Stephen King adaptation “Suffer the Little Children”), the diversification of styles and subject matter among Maine Mayhem’s filmmakers is gratifying.
“In the beginning, I think a lot of people made horror films going for brownie points,” Norman said. “But this year, I saw these filmmakers developing their own voice, not trying to be anything they’re not. It’s truly like seeing five unique voices being born in the Maine film scene.”
As to the festival itself, Norman is equally full of praise for the Nickelodeon, the little chain theater with a heart, and the Portland film-going community, which helps Maine Mayhem thrive. “Every year, we usually sell out both screenings,” said Norman. “Some people are associated with the filmmakers or the department, some are alumni who’ve stayed in touch and the rest are walk-ins. And the Nick is a vital part of our success. They’ve been showing the trailer in theaters there for the past month, which brings in another level of interest. They really go above and beyond – without the Nickelodeon, it’d be a big blow to the local filmmaking community.”
Norman, who says this year’s program runs about and hour and 40 minutes, estimates the five films would be rated “a strong PG-13, but only because of language” and adding that younger prospective SMCC student filmmakers (and their parents) should feel comfortable checking out what their forbears produced this season.
For Norman, Maine Mayhem is a way for his students to say a warm, celebratory goodbye to SMCC. “It’s a really important event because for these students, this is what launches they’re film careers. Seeing your movie on the big screen in front of 200 people applauding your efforts – that elevates your confidence to a whole different level. As a kid, the movie theater was the Holy Grail, a magical experience. Screening your movie in a legitimate theater elevates you.”
The sixth annual Maine Mayhem Film Festival will be held at the Nickelodeon Cinema on May 12 at 6:30 and 8:45 p.m. Tickets are $8 and generally sell out ahead of time, so get cracking, people.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday: “The Congressman.” Former U.S. congressman Robert Mrazek co-directed this feel-good antidote to this unendingly cynical and dispiriting election season, with Treat Williams playing a disillusioned Maine congressman who retreats to his Maine island home to regain some much-needed perspective on life. Filmed on Monhegan Island and other restorative Maine locations.
Friday: “The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.” Sure, we’ve got our own thriving Maine film scene, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out this touring Vermont film fest to see what our neighbors are up to. The four best from the MNFF screen all day at Frontier.