For Maine filmmakers, plying their trade here in the polar vortex-swept winter, a local film festival – one with cash prizes no less – is like warm shelter. Fittingly, one of Portland’s newest such festivals is the brainchild of a moving company.

The Local Love Muscle Valentine’s Day Film Festival, now entering its third year, is sponsored by Local Muscle Movers (localmusclemovers.com), a small moving company with more than its share of artistic types.

“We’re all very creative in some way,” explains general manager Jake Ochsenhirt, “We’ve got musicians, standup comedians – we’re a creative bunch.”

Ochsenhirt says that when Local Muscle founder Jake Holz came up with the film festival idea, “it was that we wanted to do something fun and different.”

“The film scene in Portland is not as well recognized as other art forms – film is really on the bottom end of that in town, and so we saw it as the one form of artistic expression that could use a little more oomph in Portland,” Ochsenhirt says.

To that altruistic end, the burly philanthropists of Local Muscle are presenting a night of fun and film at Space Gallery starting at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. A roster of short films by Maine directors will show off new local talent as the filmmakers vie for some much-needed cash.

“The audience will vote to determine the winners,” explains Ochsenhirt. “There’ll be a cash prize for first place, which the higher-ups are still deciding on. Honestly, it depends on how well Local Muscle did that year. But the main thing is not really about prizes, but to have fun … and to bring attention to these films.”

In keeping with the latter goal, Local Muscle has struck an agreement with Portland public access channel CTN (ctn5.org) to broadcast this year’s films – including some that didn’t make the festival cut.

“A few submissions we won’t be able to show on the night,” says Ochsenhirt. “The program itself will run about an hour and a half and we got two great submissions that were 50 and 30 minutes long, respectively, so they didn’t fit. But all the films will show on CTN Channel 5 and their website, with full bios of the filmmakers.”

As to the films in competition, Ochsenhirt promises an eclectic lineup.

“In the past, we restricted films to a love theme, but we were always pretty lenient. This year, we decided we didn’t want to hold filmmakers back from doing something cool.”

The final roster’s still being set, but he assures everyone that at least one film will have puppets – that’s a promise.

As to the festival itself, Ochsenhirt says that Local Muscle is committed to seeing it continue and grow. “The first year we had it at Geno’s and there were about 60 people. The second year, we sold out Empire Dine and Dance.”

And this year? “Space just seemed the next logical step. It does a lot of great things, a lot of film festivals there. We’re just hoping to get more submissions and to continue to try and build the local film community.”

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.