If you need proof that the Maine film scene is thriving, look to the fact that people are suggesting there are now too many small, isolated groups of filmmakers working within it.

“Everyone wants to make something, to have a great idea and be the next great director, and sure, maybe they can, but they don’t know enough people.” So says David Miller, a Biddeford-based filmmaker whose GothNinja Films (which he founded with Charlie Simmons) produced the short “A Very Careful Man,” among others.

“I think Maine filmmakers need to get to know each other, grow and foster a sense of community,” Miller said. “There is a community, but it’s a lot of little independent microcosms. I want to help them grow.”

Enter W.E.S.T.

W.E.S.T. (Weekend Excellence Shooting Teams) is Miller’s attempt to make a more connected local artistic community a reality.

An ambitious plan to bring the disparate elements of the Maine movie scene together to cross-pollinate ideas and personnel, W.E.S.T. is an ongoing series of weekend film shoots where, Miller hopes, Maine moviemakers (and inexperienced but interested others) will broaden their film horizons. And make some movies.

So how has it worked so far?

“We had our first shoot — sort of a trial run — in early December,” said Miller. “That didn’t really work that well — we hadn’t got the networking or the rules together yet. It was fun, but too casual.”

However, after firming up the (still-evolving) guidelines (facebook.com/groups/wteams/docs), Miller is confident in W.E.S.T.’s viability.

This is evidenced by the first official shoot in early January for an ironic rom-com called “Daddy Dearest” starring Rick Dalton of “Ragged Isle” as the terrifying father of the girl the protagonist wants to marry.

“I directed the first one, and I can’t tell you how well it went,” enthuses Miller, citing the successful implementation of W.E.S.T.’s “bring different Maine filmmakers together” philosophy.

“It was a great mix; you’ve got to have at least a few experienced people to keep things streamlined and moving. But we had one guy from Virginia who was here for a week as camera operator. Our director of photography was a professional photographer. A couple of the grips had never been on the film set before. Everyone signed on through Facebook or word of mouth, or I sought them out.”

And while W.E.S.T.’s two-day shooting schedule sounds like another popular film contest, Miller asserts its essential difference. “I love the 48 Hour Film Festival, but it and the smaller Maine festivals have helped foster the idea of little groups and of a feeling of competition in Maine,” he said. “Which is great, but with a little cooperation, maybe next time filmmakers might want some of these people joining in.”

Miller has several slots already lined up through June, including a comedy, a ’60s-set sci-fi film, a horror flick and a dark drama, but asserts there’s lots of room.

His goal is to produce at least 12 films involving as many Maine film professionals and amateurs by the end of the year, and to have a premiere at the Nickelodeon or Cinemagic.

“W.E.S.T. is about community networking, education and fellowship — bringing people together so they can do better work on their own, or continue to work together,” said Miller, “Who knows, maybe a year from now, a hundred of us will be working together on a feature.”

So if you’re looking to get involved in the Maine film scene, no matter what your level of experience, W.E.S.T. is a great opportunity. See facebook.com/groups/wteams for details.

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.

 

 


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