In a small, dynamic filmmaking community like Maine’s, Corey Norman knows better than most how little changes can make big waves.
“These filmmakers see what the crop before has done, and the bar is set. They’re constantly trying to one-up the year before. I’m not gonna lie – it’s blown my mind,” says Norman, chairman of the Communications and New Media Department at Southern Maine Community College.
He is talking, of course, about Maine Mayhem, the annual festival made up of the final films from the students in his advanced video and audio production applications course.
Now in its fourth year, the festival founded by Norman and former student James Crocco was intended as a reward for the hard work SMCC’s film students put in all semester.
“We thought it was a shame that after the year was over, the films wouldn’t be seen,” says Norman. “Now it’s starting to develop a little bit of a fan base.” As is the SMCC course which, according to Norman, “fills up within an hour” and is attracting ever more sophisticated aspiring filmmakers.
“With a lot of these guys, they’re already playing with their DLSRs (cameras) and editing software. There’s already a great amount of raw talent and we can begin shaping it. As a result, they’re coming out with projects I’d expect to see from a four-year film school and not from a two-year community college.”
So what have these budding directors brought to this year’s Maine Mayhem? Norman runs down the 2014 roster:
• “Crossroads” (directed by Paul Leblond). “It’s about a man fed up with life who sells his soul to the devil for the opportunity to be the host of a TV morning show. It’s a funny and fun way to start things off.”
• “Threshold” (directed by Peter Robishaw). “It’s about a man in an isolated country house late at night who begins to hear knocking that won’t stop.”
• “Stonemoss Massacre” (directed by Michael Zarate). “A throwback to the ’80s slasher film. A group of kids head to an isolated cabin to try to find a main character’s missing brother. There’s some gore but it’s fun and campy.”
• “Teachings” (directed by Micah Nusbaum). “A reporter heads to an isolated New England town to try to uncover the truth after a local contractor goes crazy working in an old house.”
• “The Line” (directed by Mark Pokora). “A modern-day noir tale about one cop looking to get revenge for his father’s death.”
• “Echoes” (directed by Nicholas Stanley). “About a young kid who relocates to Portland after his mom’s suicide while dealing with severe schizophrenia.”
Norman says this year’s total program will run just over two hours and would have an approximate PG-13 rating. The program will screen twice tonight at the Nickelodeon Cinema (patriotcinemas.com) and, as further testament to Maine Mayhem’s growing influence, in an additional showing next Wednesday at the Magic Lantern theater in Bridgton (www.magiclanternmovies.com). For Norman, it’s all a testament to his students’ enduring enthusiasm and skill.
“I’m so proud of the way they’ve handled themselves,” says Norman. “It’s just the best experience I can have as a teacher.”
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.