In the second decade of the 21st century, we’re running out of oil. Things are so much worse than we’ve been led to believe that Congress passes the “Emergency Energy Conservation Act” which, among other measures, takes the drastic step of unplugging six low-population states (including Maine) completely from the national power grid. Everyone in those states is encouraged to leave; those who stay behind are completely cut off from power, the Internet, all government services and the force of law.

They call these people “Vacationlanders.”

And that’s what Maine filmmakers Jeffrey Day and Marc and Gina Bartholomew call their ambitious new Web series, the first two episodes of which are now online at vacationlanders.com. It’s a world-class sci fi/futurist set-up; while it’s fun to watch post-nuclear mutants on motorcycles and stuff, the best movie dystopias posit something more queasily plausible (like running out of something we’re actually running out of) as the cause. The premise of “Vacationlanders” introduces possibilities for social satire, high drama, eerie setpieces (stolen shots of abandoned cities are especially creepy), and, of course, some environmental politicking, as three filmmakers from Boston set out to make a documentary in what is now known as “The Unorganized Territories of Maine.” They quickly find themselves woefully unprepared for a world without oil, or rules.

Unlike other environmental disaster movies which often sacrifice dramatic integrity in favor of quickly-tiresome preachiness, Day promises that “Vacationlanders” “isn’t necessarily interested in being a political show.” “The activist vs. drama aspects are definitely concentrated more on the characters,” agrees Marc Bartholomew, “while the politics are built into the situation, it’s plot, character and relationships that trump the message.”

And, unlike a certain once-popular, island-based network show that gradually disappeared up its own convoluted mythology, “Vacationlanders”‘ creators assure us that they know where their tale, planned for 36 episodes of 15-minutes each, is headed. “We have a clear vision of what we want to do,” says Day, “and not all of the characters are what they appear.” Like all low-budget local filmmakers, Day and Bartholomew are full of praise for the dedication of their cast and crew who are all pitching in to bring “Vacationlanders” to fruition. (And note that those wishing to supplement that budget should contact them through the film’s website.)

After viewing the first two episodes online, I can attest that “Vacationlanders” is a well-crafted, thought-provoking and entertaining new local film project. I’m in for the duration.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

 


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