Organizers of the 12-year-old Camden International Film Festival are expanding the event into a year-round organization aimed at aiding documentary filmmakers and promoting their work.

The Points North Institute will host forums, retreats and residencies for filmmakers, and arrange for fellowships and grants, said Ben Fowlie, founder of the Camden International Film Festival. Fowlie said the goal is to broaden efforts to help documentary filmmakers hone their craft and connect with studios and distributors to get their work shown.

The festival has grown from a regional documentary film event to one with a national reputation. It attracts about 10,000 people to the Camden area each year, including filmmakers, fans and industry executives from all over the world. Major film studios and TV networks attend forums and workshops each year, looking for new filmmakers and new films. This year there were about 1,200 film submissions, and 75 were chosen to be shown.

Fowlie said the new organization will not charge filmmakers to participate, like a film school might. By expanding through fundraising and grants, he hopes the Points North Institute, on some level, will do for documentary filmmaking what the 38-year-old Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute have done for indie filmmaking.

“The more we can align ourself with launching (filmmakers’) careers and sustaining careers, the more the prestige of the festival grows,” said Fowlie, 35, a Camden native. “We believe that nonfiction storytelling is empowering, and we want to help build an audience for it.”

DIRECT SUPPORT TO ARTISTS

Organizers of the new institute said Wednesday they expect to provide various kinds of support to some 25 to 30 artists annually through programs already in place as part of the film festival. They said that number should grow as the institute adds more programs in the next few years. That is on top of the hundreds of filmmakers who attend the festival every year and participate in master classes, pitch sessions and networking events. Organizers said the feature documentaries the new organization will end up supporting and helping to get made can cost $200,000 to $500,000.

Andrea Meditch, a producer whose resume includes the Oscar-winning documentary “Man on Wire,” said the new Points North Institute will build on the reputation of the Camden film festival and will “definitely make a strong contribution to filmmakers and to the distribution and broadcast communities.”

“The festival has grown from a regional festival to one with a widespread national reputation, and as a producer it’s definitely a place I go to find wonderfully curated films and skilled film teams,” Meditch said. “I think (the new organization) will have the ability to find filmmaking teams that are not on everyone’s radar.”

The creation of the Points North Institute was expected to be announced Wednesday night at a film festival preview party. The new organization will be the umbrella group for the film festival, to be held Sept. 15-18 in Camden, Rockport and Rockland. The Points North Institute, with four full-time staff members, will not have permanent facilities but will rent spaces when it hosts events, as it does now for the film festival, Fowlie said.

DOCUMENTARIES IN DEMAND

The festival already has several programs for filmmakers using the Points North name and will add to those programs year round. The Points North Forum, held during the film festival, invites some 60 distributors and programmers to discuss the business and meet filmmakers. Past participants have included HBO, A&E, CNN, BBC, the Ford Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute and Sundance Institute.

The Points North Pitch, held during the festival, allows filmmakers to pitch their project to prospective backers and producers. The event is open to the public and usually draws about 400 people seeking a behind-the-scenes look at how documentary film deals are done, Fowlie said.

The institute also will offer fellowships to filmmakers that include funding, mentoring and industry meetings. And it will offer a short-term editing residency and other programs.

Fowlie believes the time is right for a year-round organization dedicated to documentary filmmaking, since the Internet and companies like Netflix have helped create more demand for long- and short-form documentaries than ever before.

“With so many platforms, documentary films are seeing a golden age, giving people a deeper understanding and a different perspective (on subjects) than what the mainstream media is doing,” Fowlie said. “We want to take this next step and work on building this field.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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