For director Morgan Nichols, the explosion of independent filmmaking that’s resulted from the unprecedented availability of equipment and venues for local moviemakers is nothing but a good thing.

“I do a lot of Q&As and every time I get the question, ‘How do you make a good movie?’ I always say it couldn’t be easier – make some bad movies first,” Nichols explains. “Release yourself from the fear of making a bad movie, because one day you’re gonna make a film that’s gonna blow your mind. And other people’s. It used to be too expensive – now everyone has a high definition camera in their pocket.”

Which isn’t to say Nichols’ latest film “How to Make Movies at Home,” is bad. Far from it – the 2011 indie film has already won a number of film festivals, and its trailer (www.howtomakemoviesathome.com) is fast-paced, clever and very promising. It’s just that Nichols, a Kennebunk native now living in Brooklyn, has learned a lot over the years about how to make indie films – and how not to make them.

“I’ve been making movies since I was a little kid,” says Nichols. “I made 40 films before I moved to California to go to USC film school. My reasoning went: Steven Spielberg is my hero, therefore I need to go to California, therefore I need to go to film school. And all of those therefores are false.”

Imparting that wisdom was the genesis for “How to Make Movies at Home,” Nichols’ third independent feature, which will be screening on Thursday at Space Gallery (www.space538.org).

An intriguing mix of behind-the-scenes indie filmmaking drama and indie film how-to, the movie follows a band of Maine moviemakers whose latest project is threatened when a big Hollywood production steamrolls into town. Apart from the practical knowledge the in-film tutorials provide, Nichols decided that the Hollywood villainy aspect imparted an equally important lesson.

“Well, a story needs some tension or it’s hard to pull the audience along,” he explains. “But I was concerned that the default understanding seems to be ‘go to Hollywood and make films.’ I did that. I really want to discourage people from doing that. I thought I’d better express the idea that the smart filmmaker is the one working in their own space. Not trying to hit a target that will be gone by the time they get there.”

It’s a bold statement, but one that’s gaining traction. Says Nichols, “We’re getting an amazing response around the country. Young people are gravitating to the ethos that you can make films in your own community with your own people, and it’s as valuable as anything Hollywood’s doing.”

For local filmmakers looking for encouragement, or just Maine film fans looking for a good movie, head out to Space to see “How to Make Movies at Home.”

Dennis Perkins is Portland freelance writer.

 

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