Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By DENNIS PERKINS
By now, it's safe to say the Entertainment Experiment is successful.
New from Entertainment Experiment.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
SPACE GALLERY, Portland
Thursday: "Sign Painters." Not for fans of flashing, garish neon, this documentary celebrates the faded art of hand-painted commercial signs. With a Q&A with co-director Faythe Levine, I can almost guarantee this is more entertaining than watching paint dry.
NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland
Friday: "Salinger." Now that he's dead, legendarily reclusive author J.D. Salinger can no longer sue the pants off anyone attempting to tell his life story, so here comes the first major documentary about the author of "Catcher in the Rye," complete with celebrity testimonials and tantalizing hints about rumored books Salinger wrote after his withdrawal from all the rest of us phonies in 1965.
The website (entertainmentexperiment.com) was created this past winter by Barry and Karen Dodd, who also created the acclaimed Maine webseries "Ragged Isle." They intended the site to be the one-stop destination for film fans looking to experience all the best that Maine filmmakers have to offer.
And they've done that.
Starting out with a handful of original Maine series (the Dodds' sublimely spooky "Ragged Isle"; the post-apocalyptic Maine series "Vacationlanders"; "The Office"-esque movie theater workplace web series "No Refund for Content," among others), the Entertainment Experiment has only gained momentum in its nine-month infancy.
It has added music series ("The Acadia Sessions," "Bootleg Series," "Underground Sounds," "Portland Music TV"); web comics ("Count Glum," "Fickle Picnic"); a nature show (called, appropriately enough, "Nature Show"); and the Maine ghost-hunting documentary series "Haunt ME."
Now, in keeping with that spooky vibe, Entertainment Experiment presents the Maine horror showcase "Casting Shadows."
Hosted Elvira-style by "Ragged Isle" actress Kathryn Coccyx, this series seeks to showcase the best Maine-made horror shorts being turned out by the most fiendish and talented minds in the Pine Tree State. They're off to an outstanding start, beginning with Derek Kimball's expertly terrifying "Are You the Walkers?" (my pick for the best Maine-made short film of all time), and continuing this month with Regina Bartholomew's gruesome, unnerving end-of-the-world tale "Parallaxis."
Which isn't to say that "Casting Shadows" is all grimness and death.
"My segments are more kooky and fun," said Coccyx. "It was Barry's idea, and when we were coming up with the character (of the host), he said, 'Kathryn, this is you. You are a character in yourself.' "
"I guess it took me a while to realize that," she added with a laugh.
Filming the most recent host segments in Coccyx's appropriately creepy basement ("There are spiderwebs, old trunks, chains in the floor"), the horror hostess is seen dressed like one of the anarchy cheerleaders from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video, cracking wise and promising a ghoulishly entertaining viewing experience.
"I love to play dress up and act out," enthused Coccyx. "Everything's out of my closet, my hat collection, my giant museum collection in my home -- there's something new every episode. Barry lets us do our own thing." Laughing, she added, "Of course, Elvira's the queen, but she had some assets I don't have."
Coccyx credits Dodd ("I've never met anyone like him -- so pleasant, calm and motivated"), director Charlotte Warren and writer Greg Tulonen for helping her create such a fun and entertaining gig.
"They just wanted to do something kooky, and that's what I love about them," she said. "They're creative and dedicated. It's wham, bam, get it done."
Coming up, Coccyx promises more Maine-based scares -- and laughs.
"Our Halloween episode is going to be campy and fun, not all spooky and terror," she said. "I get to wear a beautiful dress in a spot that I love in a local cemetery. It's all just so much fun."
Coccyx also enthuses about the Entertainment Experiment and urges Maine movie fans -- and movie makers -- to check it out.
"I really believe in it -- no one's done anything like this. It's easy for people to find everything going on in Maine all in one place. Just plug it in. I just want it to grow and grow.
"Filmmakers, get us your films! I want to keep hosting, and we'd like to continue showcasing filmmakers around the state."
Sounds like something delightfully creepy cooking in the Entertainment Experiment's laboratory. (Pronounced, of course, "laBORatory," in your best Bela Lugosi accent.)
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.