Maine’s burgeoning film scene celebrated Thursday night when the state’s first-ever awards for the 7DayPSA were handed out at a party in Portland.

Begun in Rhode Island and headed for cities around the country, the 7DayPSA program pairs filmmakers with nonprofits and gives them seven days to write, cast, direct, produce and edit a public service announcement formatted to air in 60-, 30- and 20-second spots. Portland was the second stop for the event.

After a cocktail hour in the downstairs function room at Binga’s Stadium, which featured the jazz melodies of Will Gattis, the lights went down and the PSAs rolled for the crowd. Each was equal parts compelling and heart-warming.

Once the lights came back up, Krystal Kenville, who is an actress and the local coordinator of the project, and John Seymore, who heads the Maine Studios, handed out the awards.

The top prize went to team Hurf Durf, led by director Tim Lazimov of Westbrook, for its spot highlighting the work of the Planet Dog Foundation. The Hurf Durfers also snapped up the awards for best editing, best animation and best director.

Lara Jay of Salem, Mass., won the award for best actor, for her role as Lady with Lantern in the PSA produced by Unicovia Pictures for the Maine Women’s Fund.

Unicovia Pictures also picked up the award for best cinematography, highlighting the work done by director Ahura Z. Diliiza and his apprentice Sire-ra Phoenix.

The award for best writing went to George Dalphin of Portland, who is the artist behind Man-Like-Machines, for his PSA for The Dream Factory.

All three PSAs won a year’s worth of airtime on FOX23 and WCSH-6, plus a number of other prizes.

Representatives from Planet Dog were in the audience and were thrilled to see their spot win.

“Shelters get funding but there’s not a lot for service dog organizations,” said Stephanie Volo, who is Planet Dog’s Top Dog (otherwise known as CEO). The retailer is the sponsor of the Planet Dog Foundation, which provides grants to programs around the country that support service dogs. “We feel very blessed to have been chosen, to have the amazing team and then to win.”

According to Kristen Smith, the executive director of the Planet Dog Foundation, the fact that the organization was tapped to be part of the competition means a lot.

“We’ve talked for four years about wanting a PSA,” said Smith, adding that the organization couldn’t afford it. “This is a miracle.”

The Hurf Durf filmmakers felt equally lucky to work with the foundation.

“We couldn’t have been happier to get the Planet Dog Foundation,” said Robert Barnes, who wrote the script for team Hurf Durf.

“We shot it all indoors at the Maine Studios,” Barnes said. “They have a huge green screen. I’m pretty sure it’s the largest green screen north of New York.”

According to judge Barry Dodd, who is a producer at FOX 23, the entries were extremely competitive.

“They were all very good,” Dodd said. “They’re all broadcast quality.”

The event is the brainchild of Duncan Putney and Andre Stark, who together run OCD Associates in Providence, R.I. Putney, who is an actor and a screenwriter, said the 7DayPSA project grew from the realization that many nonprofits need greater awareness to allow them to raise more money. Television air time is a proven way to get the word out, but few charities have the funds to pay for production. At the same time, Putney, who won an Emmy last year for a PSA he wrote, knew there were many budding filmmakers across the nation who could benefit from more recognition. Thus the 7DayPSA concept was born as a way to draw attention to filmmakers and nonprofits.

Both Stark and Putney came to Portland for the ceremony, where they enjoyed Binga’s signature wings before the party, and Stark, who is a hot sauce aficionado, said the fiery Chernobyl sauce he ordered with his wings didn’t phase him.

Putney, who headed for Los Angeles the day after the party to pitch a few projects in Hollywood, praised Portland by saying: “The whole city is an island of really creative people and it feeds on itself.”

One theme I heard over and over again at the party is the fact that Maine doesn’t offer tax credits for the film industry that are in line with what other states provide. As a result, the state loses projects, jobs and tax revenues to other locations.

“Tax credits are what’s fueling the Massachusetts (film industry) boom,” Stark said.

Putney explained that tax credits are not tax cuts. Instead they lower the amount of tax filmmakers have to pay if they work in the state.

“If they don’t come here, you get 100 percent of nothing,” Putney said.

“Maine’s film industry is going to continue to grow,” Stark predicted. “Because a lot of people don’t want to be in Boston. They want the city lifestyle without the hustle and bustle.”

It’s a winning combination already enjoyed by the up-and-coming filmmakers who call the Greater Portland area home.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]