Apparently, the secret to getting filmmakers to make their movies in Portland is just to have them hang out here for a while.
“In 2004, I moved to Portland with my wife and we made my first film there. Even though Portland was so vibrant and unique and hasn’t been shown very much in film, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to show the area with the (nonexistent) budget and technology, so the film was shot mostly in interiors and close-ups.
“But with this new film, I really wanted to highlight the city’s beauty, distinctive culture and architecture.”
So says Nate Meyer, whose second feature, “See Girl Run,” was filmed at various locations in Portland (along with South Portland, Damariscotta and NYC) in summer 2011. The film stars Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist,” “The Craft”) as a thirty-something woman who leaves her stagnant marriage in New York and heads back home to Maine with the secret agenda of looking up her old high-school boyfriend (indie favorite Adam Scott of “Friends with Kids,” “Party Down” and “Parks and Recreation”), an eccentric artist and hopeless romantic who never left Maine.
The film, which debuted last month at the SXSW Film Festival, is garnering good reviews. The performances of Tunney, Scott and old pro William Sadler (“The Shawshank Redemption”) are sharing praise with Meyer’s use of some authentic Maine settings, a choice which presented his low-budget production with some unique rewards — and challenges.
“Maine offers so much for a filmmaker,” said Meyer. “You want something that’s going to feel unique, that audiences haven’t seen in every other movie. Maine’s diverse, and it has places you can’t find anywhere else.”
Meyer also recommends the state for the welcoming shooting experience.
“People there were just really excited to be a part of it and help out,” he said. “It’s logistically or financially harder in places that are more jaded. And having the personal connection and relationships in Portland from my first film (‘Pretty in the Face,’ 2007) far outweighed the financial considerations.”
As for those “financial considerations,” Meyer concedes that Maine’s lack of tax incentives is a major impediment to other filmmakers coming to the state. “While we were small enough that it wouldn’t have made much difference, for bigger productions, it (the lack of tax help) will keep them away.”
Indeed, Meyer’s own production team was against using Maine until they came to scout locations and “everyone fell in love with it.”
Meyer’s experience in Portland also convinced him that Maine was an appropriate home for Scott’s artistically ambitious yet professionally aimless artist.
“I see Portland as a kind of utopian, idyllic community,” explains Meyer, adding with a laugh, “I mean that in a good way. Maine has a wide, rich, supportive artistic community. Anytime you have that kind of place, you’ll have people who pursue their art, but few have the opportunity to do it for pay. Portland fosters artists, and a lot of them stay. And I was one of them.”
Still making the festival circuit with “See Girl Run,” Meyer says a showing at the Maine International Film Festival, or even a Portland premiere, is a possibility.
And as for other directors using Portland as a backdrop — well, if we can all just let Martin Scorsese or Wes Anderson crash at our places for a summer (and get the Legislature to pass some tax incentives), we just might make it happen.
I’ve got room.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.