Filmmaker Kyle Rankin will spend this summer back home in Maine. But instead of splashing in the ocean or hiking in the mountains, he’ll be herding zombies and crashing cars.
Rankin, 41, is in Portland to film a self-financed romantic comedy set amid a zombie outbreak called “Night of the Living Deb.” He and his crew plan to begin filming Tuesday around Greater Portland, mostly in private homes and businesses. But beginning June 16, the public may get a glimpse of Rankin’s art. That’s when he and his crew plan to be on India Street in the Old Port filming scenes involving zombies and a car crash, pending city approval.
“It’s been a dream of mine to come back and shoot a feature in Maine again,” said Rankin, a native of York who has been based in Los Angeles since 2002. “We have a fabulous cast, lots of pluck, and some great Portland businesses helping out.”
“Night of the Living Deb” features some well-known veteran actors, including the star, Michael Cassidy of the TBS sitcom “Men at Work.” Also in the film is Ray Wise, a character actor whose credits include the 1990s cult TV show “Twin Peaks” on ABC, blockbuster film “Robocop” (1987) and a recurring role on the hit CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”
Rankin is best known for winning Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight, a contest for aspiring young filmmakers. Winning the contest allowed Rankin and a fellow Maine filmmaker, Efrem Potelle, to make a $2 million movie called “The Battle of Shaker Heights” with former Disney child star Shia LaBeouf. Film critic Leonard Maltin called it “fresh and original,” but the film got mixed reviews overall.
As a condition of the prize, Rankin and Potelle also had to star in the “Project Greenlight” documentary TV series on HBO, chronicling their sometimes embarrassing experiences making the film.
Rankin graduated from the University of Maine and spent much of the 1990s in Portland making films with Potelle. Since “The Battle of Shaker Heights” came out in 2003, Rankin has been making films, some for TV and the Web, in Los Angeles. His other films include the horror-comedy “Infestation” (2009) and the SyFy network series “Nuclear Family” (2012).
Rankin said he’s making his romance-zombie movie in Maine “on spec,” meaning he’s not sure whether it will go to film festivals, theaters, DVD, or to the Web.
To help arrange authentic Portland-area locations in the film, Rankin is featuring several Portland businesses in it. Filming locations will include Andy’s Old Port Pub on Commercial Street, Coffee by Design on India Street, GoBerry Yogurt on Fore Street, and the Western Promenade park. Rankin said he plans to shoot in Maine for about 18 days, wrapping up in early July.
Rankin has tried to persuade studios to back a film project in Maine for years. He said the biggest reason studios resist is the lack of competitive tax incentives for filmmakers working here. So, Rankin decided to raise money on his own through the fundraising website Kickstarter – more than $100,000 so far – to make sure he could finally make his Maine movie. His goal for the total budget is $160,000, pretty small in the film world.
“All my friends in LA are telling me it can’t be done” for $160,000, Rankin said. “But if it can, there’s a lot of financial upside for our investors.”
For more information on “Night of the Living Deb,” go to Rankin’s Kickstarter page.
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: