When your “day job” just becomes “your job,” what does an aspiring Maine filmmaker do?

Well, if you’re Allen Baldwin, you roll the dice.

A mainstay of the local film scene for years, Baldwin left a reliable, semi-lucrative career shooting industrial films and the like four months ago.

Alongside fellow local moviemaker David Meiklejohn, he then set up a studio for his film company, Strongpaw Productions (strongpawproductions.com) above a market on Brackett Street in Portland’s West End — even though he and his wife had a new baby at home.

“Everyone asked, ‘How can you afford this with a new baby?’” says Baldwin, “but I figure that Nora’s as cheap now as she’s ever going to be. I mean, no braces — those teeth are going to come out on their own.”

After four months with, as Baldwin concedes, “no money coming in at all,” Strongpaw Productions scored its first commercial success recently with, well, a commercial.

Strongpaw won an Internet short-film contest with its ad for Hasbro’s line of Littlest Pet Shop Toys. (See the video at youtube.com/watch?v=mNe3Q7Vanuw).

The contest, which netted the Portland duo $7,500, was sponsored by the crowd-sourcing site Poptent (poptent.net), whose Internet approach to viral marketing Baldwin sees as the next frontier in advertising and a great opportunity for independent studios like Strongpaw.

“When I quit to set up my own shop, it was: a) I was pretty burned out, and b) I was tired of making things 200 people were going to see,” says Baldwin. “Our commercial has over 60,000 views on YouTube.

“People have become resistant to traditional advertising, but it’s like the Wild West out there on the Internet, and there’s room for creative approaches. Companies are realizing that, for very little risk, they can get back a lot of creative work.”

The prize money may not mean much to a company like Hasbro, but for Baldwin and Meiklejohn, it was just what they needed.

“It came at a good time,” Baldwin said. “Sure, it’s not a lot, but for a two-person shop, it works out OK. The important thing is to keep you working.”

Plus, Baldwin’s thrilled that he was able to use local actors (Daniel Noel and Tavia Gilbert) and to pay them.

“In local films, the actors usually get short shrift,” he said.

Baldwin and Meiklejohn have bigger plans creatively — Baldwin is running this year’s 48 Hour Film Project and the ongoing “Damnationland” horror film series, as well as working on various film ideas, while Meiklejohn directed the acclaimed documentary, “My Heart Is an Idiot” and his own “Damnationland” film.

But they definitely plan to continue fishing the lucrative waters of Internet marketing to keep the lights on and fund their other projects.

“We’ve entered several more of these contests,” said Baldwin. “Self-determination is always the goal. Maybe it’s a fault, but I’ve always approached things optimistically.”

Dennis Perkins is a local freelance writer.




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