Keyson Jones, right, films a scene in the movie “BIM One” with his puppets Tesla and Cam at his apartment in Portland. Jones hopes to have the film done within a year and then begin showing it at film festivals around the world. Courtesy photo

PORTLAND — Keyson Jones grew up with a love and appreciation for the puppets on “Sesame Street” and the Muppets. Today, he’s cultivated that love into Believe in Me, a media company built around puppets.

The inspiration came six years ago, thanks to a 1 a.m. showing of Jim Henson’s 1981 film “The Great Muppet Caper” on AMC.

Keyson Jones converses with characters Bergman, Monroe and Bogart in a deleted scene of a full-length film he is working on that features his puppet creations. Courtesy photo

Jones, a native of Falmouth and aspiring filmmaker, turned the television on right as the iconic scene of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet crew bicycling through a park came on the screen, which led to an epiphany: “Much like Jim Henson used Muppets to teach the ABCs, I see a real opportunity to use the BIMs (puppets) to teach media education and filmmaking,” Jones said.

Jones refined the idea through two independent studies at the University of Southern Maine and in the four years since he graduated. Now, after more than half a decade, countless shoots and help from close to two dozen people in the local arts community, Jones is on the verge of releasing a feature-length film featuring his puppet creations.

The film, “BIM One,” tells the tale of six alien filmmakers from the planet BIM who are heading to Hollywood to be filmmakers, but accidentally find their way to Portland.

Shooting has taken place over the last few years in and around Portland, features local actors and includes scenes at Deering Oaks Park, Coffee by Design on Diamond Street and the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Westbrook. He hopes to enter it into film festivals around the world soon after that.

He wants to complete the film, now only halfway done, in the next year. He is hoping to raise $15,000 through a 90-day  Kickstarter campaign that launched Aug. 31. As part of that campaign, Jones will be bringing his six BIM characters around the Old Port to interview people on the street.

Jones hopes his puppet characters and “BIM One” will help  launch other aspects of his Believe in Me Productions, including BIMucation, the media education arm of the business, and BIM Creative, services that include screen and copywriting, web design and graphic arts, video production, post-production and character creation.

As part of its outreach effort, the BIMs and Lacy, played by Vanessa Romanoff, visited the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland to film a video on animal adoption. Courtesy photo

In 2015 and 2016, Jones brought the BIMs to Harpswell Community School for educational workshops on film production and worked with the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland to film “Adopted Furry Things,” an educational video about pet adoption.

“I was intrigued by the scope and creative potential of the project, as well as Keyson’s laser-like focus and determination,” Nat Ives, manager and lab instructor in USM’s Department of Communication and  Media Studies Production Center, said.  “It’s rare to see a student who is so hell-bent on a project.  I am further impressed with his persistence.  He has not – nor will he ever, I’m quite sure – give up on the BIMs.”

Ives sees the potential the BIMs have as an educational and promotional tool.  “I believe that both children and adults can relate to these furry little aliens in ways that may transcend typical characters and situations. This could, in turn, inspire their own creativity and interests.”

To that end, Jones said BIM One, and all of the BIM video content, is written with all ages in mind.

The BIMs include Tesla, Bergman, Bogart, Cam, Monroe and Brando. Courtesy

“Because of the BIMs’ sincere and questioning nature, as well as their immediate likability and relatability, they are pretty cross-generational in their appeal,” said Daniel Noel, a friend of Jones’ who stars in the feature film. “Whether explaining how something works or showing by example, I see the BIMs as sort of ‘fuzzy alien Everymen’. As tools for social change, education, enlightenment, exploration and promoters of smart and warm-fuzzy tolerance, BIMs’ marketing potential is unlimited.”

Elizabeth Freeman, who played one of the main actors in “BIM One,” was inspired to get involved due to the message of the film and Believe in Me company.

“I think my specialty, what I am interested in doing, is things that are positive, inspirational and funny. That is what I want to do,” Jones said of his filmmaking style. “I don’t like horror. I don’t like sexuality. I don’t like swearing and I don’t like violence. There is far too much of that in independent film making.”

“I was drawn to the message of positivity and optimism,” said Freeman, who is looking forward to working on more BIM projects.

Noel said he taken by the project’s “fun and educational writing, its respect for the intelligence of its projected audience and its heart. Keyson is a genuine decent soul and his work reflects it and shares that decency.”

Jones said he couldn’t have gotten to the point he has without strong support from Freeman, Noel and other members of the local community.

“This has been a passion project that I’ve kept alive for the last six years,” he said.

 

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