March 10, 2010

Gibson a lethal moviemaking weapon for onetime Mainer


— By

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Poster for the horror comedy �Infestation,� written and directed by Mainer Kyle Rankin with backing from Mel Gibson�s company, Icon Productions. The feature film premieres on the SyFy cable network at 9 p.m. Saturday.

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A giant bug looms over actor Chris Marquette in scene from the horror comedy �Infestation.� The film was written and directed by Mainer Kyle Rankin with backing from Mel Gibson�s company, Icon Productions. The feature film premieres on the SyFy cable network at 9 p.m. Saturday.

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Staff Writer

When a Hollywood producer told Kyle Rankin that Mel Gibson's production company might be interested in making his comedy/horror flick about giant insects running roughshod over an American city, he thought the producer was more than a little buggy.

''I thought Mel Gibson's company just did big, important movies, but it turns out they want to do low-budget films as well,'' said Rankin, 36, a York native who's now living in Los Angeles.

Gibson's company, Icon Productions, backed Rankin's film and sent him and his crew to Bulgaria to shoot ''Infestation,'' which will premiere at 9 tonight on the SyFy cable network. The film will be released on DVD in October.

For Rankin, who made films in Maine for 10 years before heading to the West Coast, getting to ''throw Mel Gibson's name around'' is fun and helps get attention for his movie. But it hasn't helped him meet Gibson.

''I wish I had met him. But it seems every time I'd go into a meeting, they'd say, 'Oh, Mel just left, but he really wished he could say hi,''' Rankin said. ''And I thought, 'That's weird. Why would he want to say hi to me?'''

Rankin started making low-budget films at the University of Maine and continued making them in Portland before moving to Los Angeles about six years ago. He shows how persistence and the right break at the right time can be a potent combination.

In 2003, he and his longtime filmmaking partner, Efram Potelle, won Project Greenlight, a competition founded by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to help aspiring filmmakers.

Their prize was getting to direct a movie called ''The Battle of Shaker Heights'' while being filmed for a reality show on HBO. The movie starred a young Shia LaBeouf,

During the course of the show, Potelle and Rankin were often criticized online and by TV writers for coming across as awkward amateurs dealing with film professionals.

But they were used to criticism by then. In 1998, they hosted a talk show on Portland public access TV called ''Live on 2 with Kyle and Efram,'' which generated dozens of complaints for its potty humor, crude jokes and profanity.

During one show, when callers were encouraged to creatively discuss their favorite oral sex techniques, Time Warner Cable pulled the plug with two minutes left. The show was moved from 8 to 10 p.m., and the complaints eventually died down.

For ''The Battle of Shaker Heights,'' Rankin worked with veteran producer Jeff Balis (''Waiting''). When Rankin wrote the script for ''Infestation,'' he sent it to Balis, who suggested Gibson's company.

Once Icon got interested, the film was a go. Rankin wrote and directed the film.

''We immediately responded to Kyle's slacker horror/comedy script and loved that it was a smart, fresh way of telling a coming-of-age story,'' said Stefanie Huie of Icon Productions.

The film is what Rankin calls a ''mash-up'' of genres. He hopes that it's genuinely funny one minute and genuinely scary the next. It has a fairly simple plot, a time-honored tradition for low-budget horror films.

Basically, a guy in an office (Chris Marquette) becomes ensnared by an infestation of 3-foot-long bugs and has to enlist others to help him in his bid for survival. He also tries to get a date with one of his fellow survivors while fighting off the bugs.

Rankin tried to pay homage to horror flicks of the past while finding the humor in them. There is a point in many zombie films, he said, when one human turns to another after fighting off some zombies and says, ''If I turn into one of those things, shoot me.''

In ''Infestation,'' there's a scene in which the humans brutally kill one of the giant bugs. One guy turns to the others and says, ''If I turn into one of those things, please don't hurt me, just run away.''

Other producers who worked on ''Infestation'' are Bruce Davey (''The Passion Of The Christ,'' ''Apocalypto''), Rhoades Rader (''Dodgeball'') and T.J. Sakasegawa (''Lake Placid 2'').

Rankin envisioned the story taking place in ''Anytown, USA,'' but it was filmed in Bulgaria, where it's relatively cheap to make a movie. The country has a pretty efficient film industry to handle foreign productions, Rankin said.

The film was made on a budget of less than $5 million.

After the shooting, many special effects were added, including visual effects by Potelle. He also works in Los Angeles, mostly doing visual effects for various companies.

Creating the computer-generated bugs was especially fun, Rankin said.

''We'd look at entomology books and say, 'Look at the pincers on that one,' '' Rankin said. ''So we picked the grossest bugs we could find and kind of made ours a hodgepodge of all of them.''

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

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Additional Photos

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STAFF PHOTO BY DOUG JONES -- Thursday, July 9, 1998 -- Public access TV terrors Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin deliver their blythe commentary to their viewers through the eye of the camera at right.


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