It’d probably insult Kyle Rankin to be called an elder statesman of the Portland film movement (he’s not even 40), but his career at this point carries him beyond the “local boy makes good” category. Early films alongside Maine co-directors Efram Potelle (“Pennyweight”) and the late Shayne Worcester (“Reindeer Games”) helped Rankin earn the chance (along with Potelle) to direct the national release “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” starring Shia LeBeouf, as winners of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight series.

Now Rankin has struck out on his own. His first solo feature, the ickily effective horror film “Infestation,” garnered significant critical praise and a national DVD release.

Rankin’s completed his latest film, the post-apocalyptic action thriller “Nuclear Family,” and, as he explained from Los Angeles, its release will be something new for his work — and maybe for independent filmmakers everywhere. That’s thanks to Vuguru, an independent multimedia studio founded by former Paramount and Walt Disney head Michael Eisner.

“It’s a cool new approach to distribution,” Rankin said. “I originally made a 30-minute version and showed it around. Vuguru said it was right up their alley, and financed the rest.”

“Nuclear Family” is already locked in for a European and Canadian release, with domestic distribution pending. According to Vuguru’s unique marketing strategy, it may be seen in a wide variety of ways.

“I consider myself a feature filmmaker, which (at 95 minutes) is what I made, but it may come out in one of several formats,” Rankin said. “Vuguru can sell it as a feature on DVD, a TV series, an Internet series. At Comic-Con, we were on a panel called ‘multi-platform Web content,’ and a lot of indie filmmakers were very excited about it. I think we’re on the cusp of something really cool.”

With Vugaru’s involvement, “Nuclear Family” was also able to line up well-known actors such as Sharon Lawrence (“NYPD Blue”) and “scream queen” Danielle Harris (the “Halloween” series) to augment an already-impressive cast including Corin Nemec (“Stargate SG-1”) and, of course, genre legend Ray Wise (“Twin Peaks,” “Reaper”), who has been in almost every Rankin production for the last decade. “Everyone loves Ray,” says Rankin. “When we went to Comic-Con, he was stopped by fans every 10 feet.”

The film’s genre-heavy cast and subject matter is also a plus.

“Horror fans are the best fans you could ever hope for,” Rankin said. “They’re rabid, and they put their money where their interests are. Low-budget horror is the only genre where you stand a chance of making a little bit of money.”

As to the prospect of him bringing “Nuclear Family” back home to Maine, Rankin says, “There’s no place I’d rather screen it. Lots of action and gunplay — no one thought we could do it on such a small budget. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever made.”

Fans are urged to keep watch on the “Nuclear Family” Facebook fan page ( for release details.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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