On Tuesday night, a bit of Hollywood glitz and glamour arrived in Portland during the first Maine Summer Shorts Festival at the Nickelodeon.

Before we watched the films, cast and crew from the seven short films and three trailers screened at the festival alighted from limos on Middle Street and then strutted their stuff and vamped for the cameras on the red carpet.

Ticket-holders and onlookers gathered outside the cinema to watch the well-dressed crowd hug, high-five and mingle ahead of the screening.

Not only did the event bring out a who’s who of Maine’s film scene, it also marked the one-year anniversary of a major milestone fueling the local industry’s growth: The opening of The Maine Studios in a former Nappi Distributors warehouse on Presumpscot Street.

Everyone I spoke with praised The Maine Studios for bringing the local film community together and making it more visible.

“It’s really brought light to the talent and the filmmakers,” said Krystal Kenville, who coordinated the festival with Kayla Thompson. “Now they’re really coming out of the woodwork, and Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island are asking us what’s going on up here.”

Kenville is also an accomplished actress. She starred in Teymur “Tim” Lazimov’s “Strange Night,” a short that screened at the festival, and played a role in George Dalphin’s film, “Doubting Thomas,” whose trailer was screened at the festival before its premiere this past Thursday.

Charlie Simmons, the writer/director of “A Very Careful Man,” a festival thriller based on a Ray Bradbury story, walked the red carpet with his wife, Janelle Hamel. Simmons said he was impressed by the high-energy affair, saying he’d never participated in something like this.

“John Seymore was our biggest help,” Simmons said when I asked about his short film. “He gave us a lot of support.”

Seymore is the head of The Maine Studios and an actor who appeared in a number of the night’s films. He arrived in the last limo of the evening and was greeted by applause and cheers.

“We’ve done over 40 video and film projects during the last year,” Seymore told me as friends and fans gathered round.

Robert Barnes is a prime example of this growing community. He started his commercial and promotional film business around the time The Maine Studios opened. It’s called revDRTV and is located at the studio.

“The studio becomes an incubator that all these businesses work within,” Barnes said. “It’s expanded my Rolodex. There are so many people I didn’t know who were working on the art side of the business.”

Conrad Mavrais knows a bit about the artsy side of the film business. The realistic-looking blood and guts in many of the evening’s shorts came courtesy of Mavrais and his special effects company, the Shoggoth Assembly, which is based at The Maine Studios.

“We specialize in gore and wounds,” Mavrais told me. “We’ve done some monster masks. We’ve done some stuff for plays. We’ve done the 48 Hour Film Festival. Ninety percent of the stuff we’re doing is for The Maine Studios.”

I asked him what it takes to make blood look real.

“The key is there are hundreds of different types of (fake) blood and they’re all good for different things,” Mavrais said.

Actor Chuck Muldoon, who got to see some of that blood in action during his role as Jerry in “A Very Careful Man,” said the pace of activities in the local film scene has picked up in the last year.

“John Seymore and The Maine Studios are making a lot of things happen,” Muldoon said. “It used to be you were on your own.”

The uptick in the production of local films is even getting child actors involved, such as Baely Ames, 8, who plays the young lead in “A Very Careful Man.” Baely’s dad, Aaron Ames, who arrived with him in a limo, told me “he’s more excited about the limo ride than seeing himself on the big screen.”

The night’s other young star was Emma Schwartz, 10, who plays the lead in Colin Birney’s drama, “Wait.”

Her co-star, Daniel Gelinas, who played Bus Driver #2, told me how cold it was when they were filming near the Buxton-Scarborough line in January.

“When you see her shivering, that’s legit,” Gelinas said.

“The Maine Studios take a lot of work off our plate, because they’re all set and ready to go,” said Damian Veilleux, the writer/director of the forthcoming “Eighteenth Hour,” whose trailer screened at the festival. He plans to wrap up filming by December and anticipates the film will premiere in June 2011.

Other films screened on Tuesday included Jordan Roy’s zombie horror film, “Bitten”; Shawna Paul’s thriller, “The Noise She Heard”; Lazimov’s thriller, “The Road to Portage”; the Maine Film Collaborative’s drama, “Come to Know,” and Bill McLean’s trailer for the feature-length comedy, “Scooter McGruder,” which will soon screen locally.

For the last few weeks, Seymore and others associated with The Maine Studios have been in Lovell working on a film with comedian-turned-filmmaker Ronnie Khalil of Los Angeles, who attended the festival, and his partner Monroe Mann. Khalil called it a “fun horror movie” set at a lakeside camp and told me its working title is “You Can’t Kill Stephen King.”

How could you go wrong with a title like that? Only if the master horror writer objects.

“He read the script and he hasn’t shot us down yet,” Khalil said.

It’s likely the Maine Studios will draw more filmmakers from outside the state, as well as cultivating the local creative scene.

“We’ve got a lot of talent here in the state,” said Gary Hauger, The Maine Studios public relations director. “And the studio has become a hub for that. Next year will be even bigger.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

 

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