January 5, 2012

Indie Film: 'Ragged Isle' clicks, but fans need to make some noise


Mainers support their filmmakers.

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Amie Marzen and Erik Moody in “Ragged Isle.”

Courtesy photos

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FRONTIER CAFE & CINEMA (Brunswick) (explorefrontier.com)

Thursday to Wednesday: "Frontier's 2011 Best of Series." The Brunswick arthouse is bringing back some of its picks for the best of the past year. On Thursday, it's Werner Herzog's dazzling documentary of the ancient cave paintings in Chauvet Cave, France, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams." Saturday brings the cinematic question, "Can the director of movies like 'Bruce Almighty' and 'The Nutty Professor' (Eddie Murphy version) have a meaningful spiritual awakening?" in the documentary "I Am." And on Wednesday, it's "Toast," the autobiographical tale of food writer Nigel Slater's gastronomically eccentric childhood.

Talking to aspiring directors around the state, that theme is a constant. People are eager to donate money, time, locations, chow and good will when fellow Mainers are trying to make their cinematic dreams a reality.

And now all it'll take is a click of the mouse.

When last we checked in with Barry Dodd, creator of the Maine Web series "Ragged Isle," he and his intrepid crew had just completed filming their first season of the "Twin Peaks"-esque tale of a young newspaper photographer uncovering a tiny Maine island's deep, dark secrets. He was exhausted and largely broke -- and wondering what was in store for the film's future.

A lot, as it turns out.

Since premiering on YouTube and the "Ragged Isle" website (raggedisle.com), the series has become something of a major player in the (admittedly under-the-radar) webseries community.

"It's been super far beyond anything we had planned on as far as the response," says Dodd.

That response was helped enormously by the podcast Indie Intertube (indieintertube.tv), which championed the show after Dodd sent them a video, resulting in international attention. "People in Ireland and the U.K. started contacting us," he said. "(Indie Intertube) became awesome friends of ours; we owe those two ladies a lot."

From there, "Ragged Isle" became a favorite of another influential website, We Love Soaps (welovesoaps.net). "Of all places!" exclaims Dodd. "Actually, they don't cover just soap operas necessarily -- they have a big focus on all independent online series as well. We sent them a link, and things sort of took off. 'Ragged Isle' won the Indie Soap of the Week award three of the 10 weeks we were up on there, and we just received a glowing review."

We Love Soaps has also nominated "Ragged Isle" for seven awards (including Best Drama Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing, Cinematography and more), and the show is also nominated in their Top 20 Web Series of the Year poll.

That's where you come in.

Unlike "Ragged Isle's" other seven nominations, which are decided by industry professionals, the fans will decide who gets the top prize in this category. And while Dodd is excited at the prospect of winning it all, he's grateful for the attention his show and his cast have already received.

"We wanted to represent Maine in a good way; Maine isn't normally known for this," he said. "Just the nominations that we got are sort of saying, 'Hey, man -- everything you did on that show was pretty cool.' I'd love for someone to be found through this -- there's too much talent in our cast for someone not to become a big star."

Fan voting began (at welovesoaps.net) on Jan. 1 and ends on Feb. 13.

And after that?

"We shot seasons two and three together this past summer," said Dodd, "and everything is bigger and hopefully better."

"Ragged Isle" has been picked up by the SFN (sfntv.com), a prestigious showcase for the best original Web content in the country, and seasons two and three will premiere there starting in the spring.

"The stakes were raised enormously this summer because of the response we received," said Dodd. "Now we've set up this mystery, and we have to pay it off."

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.


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