Christine Louise Marshall as the therapist in “Welcome Back,” which is part of Damnationland at the State Theatre on Friday night. Image courtesy of Remy Brecht and DS Bullock

Like any mad scientist worth his smock, Portland filmmaker and co-founder of the all-Maine short-film showcase Damnationland has left a trail of blood, sweat and terror in his wake over the past decade. But, unlike the scientist whose inability to control his creation leads to inevitable self-destruction, Allen Baldwin is preparing to walk away from his often scary baby, secure in the knowledge that its dark powers will continue to be used only for the good.

“Man, 10 years. It’s definitely something to be proud of,” said Baldwin in advance of Friday’s premiere of the 10th annual – and his last (as producer, anyway) – Damnationland. “It’s made people a little more aware of the indie film community and, ideally, it’s still creating some sort of, not reason, but impetus for people to make more independent work. That said, I’m definitely ready to switch it up and try something different at this point.”

Damnationland co-founder Allen Baldwin is stepping down as producer of the short-film showcase after this year. Photo courtesy of Allen Baldwin

Baldwin, who currently stays busy as part of the filmmaking stable at Portland’s Storyboard filmmaking collective and production company (stobo.film), can’t just let his unholy creation go altogether. “There are a lot of things with Damnationland that I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t had time,” explained Baldwin, the father of two human children, “like festival outreach and digital distribution. So I’m excited to work on that, but, for me, the 10-year vibe is ‘I’m done.’ Ten is a good round number, and Damnationland is something we’ve done a good job making seem like an increasingly big deal. But I’m getting a little old, and sometimes I feel a little out of the loop these days. For me, it’s time to let it breathe on its own and for some new blood to do even more with it.”

And make no mistake, Damnationland has become a big deal. The first of its kind all-Maine, all spooky annual anthology series, Damnationland has become a lot of things to a lot of Maine filmmakers: a proving ground, a place to network, a launching pad and a rite of passage. And for Maine movie fans, it’s a guaranteed movie event, a yearly showcase where some of Maine’s most exciting, creative movie talents bring their most imaginative wares for viewers to sample – if they dare. It’s a tradition Baldwin says this landmark 10th season carries on with aplomb – and even greater ambition than ever before.

“This year’s program is very with it,” said Baldwin. “There are some bold choices this year.”

Noting that Damnationland has always been about offering Maine filmmakers from all quarters a chance to express their strikingly individual voices, Baldwin said of this year’s seven-film roster, “That’s exactly the kind of thing we always wanted. This year we have filmmakers from all walks of life, with all new voices. Just for example, we have filmmakers including their pronouns in their credits this year, which I’ve never seen done anywhere before. It’s exciting.”

Among this year’s participants, there’s everything from the “visually stylish and cool” (Remy Brecht’s isolation tank mood piece “Welcome Back”), to found footage horror (Michael J. Tobin’s Ouija board-based “The Awakening of John True Gordon”). There’s Jill Harrigan’s provocative lesbian thriller “Laynie Needs a Light,” an Stacey Koloski’s creepily plausible “Genesis 23,” about just what uses those DNA testing companies put your genetic material to. Sarah Kennedy’s “The Miss Blueberry Pageant” posits a beauty contest with sinister secrets, and Derek Brigham’s “Fox + Rose in: Exes-ism,” according to Baldwin, “combines British sex farce, ‘The Exorcist’ and Jim Henson,” so try to wrap your head around that. And, as ever, Damnationland’s array of short films comes wrapped in a series of ghoulish interstitial films, this time from RJ Wilson, whose film “Gossip Ghouls,” said Baldwin, introduces each segment via Wilson’s signature “1980s throwback style — it’s a remake of a teenage ‘problem girls’ show with that Damnationland style.”

For Baldwin, letting go of the leash on his 10-year-old spawn is bittersweet, although he knows it’s in good hands, with longtime Damnationlander Mackenzie Bartlett taking over next year as program director. “Ten years, over 60 films, we’ve made a lot of content,” said Baldwin. “Now we want to make sure that those films have life after the State Theatre and the other screenings. After all the hubbub is over, we want to continue to give them life in festivals and through digital — to make sure people give these films the life they deserve after the fact.” Baldwin also says that sustainability is key for Damnationland moving forward, noting, “The bottom line is, we need to start being able to pay people,” something Baldwin looks forward to working on now that he’s stepping away from the production side.

When it comes down to 10 years of hard work and creative freedom, Baldwin has only happy, if wistful, thoughts for his co-creation. “We created a place for our voice, weird and dark. That’s our wheelhouse,” says Baldwin, adding with appropriate mystery, “Now it’s time to let the baby speak.”

The 10th annual Damnationland premieres at 6:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at the State Theatre in Portland. This year’s program runs about 90 minutes, and would be rated R, according to Baldwin. For tickets, showtimes, and info, check out damnationland.com.


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