Keyson Jones behind the camera during the first phase of “BIM Volume One,” with BIMs Bogart and Monroe. Photos courtesy of BIM Creative

As a famous puppet once sang, it might not be easy being green, but it’s a whole lot easier if you’ve got friends, a dream and a positive attitude.

That’s the premise behind the BIMs, Portland’s resident puppet independent-filmmaking crew, who are actually aliens who just happen to look like furry, googly-eyed puppets.

Let me explain. Or, better yet, let Portland filmmaker and father of the BIMs, Keyson Jones, explain.

“I was at a public movie event six years ago,” said Jones, whose production studio BIM Creative is planning its first feature film starring the BIMs. “And I saw that it was almost impossible for anything made in Maine to get the attention of anybody. I went home, and ‘The Great Muppet Caper’ was on TV. There’s the scene where the Muppets are all riding bikes in a park, and it looks just like Deering Oaks park, and something just clicked into place.”

BIM creator Keyson Jones on screen with Brando, Monroe and Bergman in a scene from “BIM Volume One.”

That something is the BIMs, Jones’ ambitious, driven, yet dauntlessly optimistic puppet-y heroes, a sextet of aspiring filmmakers from a galaxy far, far away (a planet called BIM, which stands for Believe In Me), who resemble nothing so much as six multicolored plush puppets, a factor their leader, Bogart (the blue one), cannily weaves right into their very “Muppet Movie”-like vision – to get all the way to Hollywood.

“I thought, ‘OK, let’s make them stuck here, too,’” said Jones, who is the voice of Bogart. Coming from a “really positive planet,” the BIMs figure that, having traveled 3 billion miles to Portland, Maine, another 3,000 miles to Hollywood means they’re right on the doorstep. “It’s really the attitude of a local small-market independent filmmaking community.”


But, as Jones and the rest of the actual, nonpuppet Maine indie film scene knows, it can be hard to keep BIMs-esque optimism in the face of financial, creative, production and distribution challenges Maine filmmakers face – not to mention that, for us earthlings, 3,000 miles to Hollywood can seem a lot more daunting.

For Jones, who studied media production and studies at the University of Southern Maine, the road to felt, green screens and an expanding alien-puppet cinematic universe was a matter of practicality as much as world-building. “I wanted to build more of a business than just make a traditional film, and I thought, ‘How do I keep cast and core crew together, keep momentum going, and make a little money all at the same time?’ So I came up with the idea of a company in support of education and community,” he said.

And the BIMs have already made inroads in both areas, producing an educational film about pet adoption in conjunction with the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, and doing filmmaking workshops and providing internships for students in Hallowell and at Mt. Ararat High School.

But, like all great filmmakers, the BIMs are looking to get into features and are hoping (along with Jones) that the BIMs’ can-do spirit will inspire (human) members of their adopted community to help out. The BIM feature film (“BIM Volume One”) is currently looking for investors through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, a process that Jones says is in line with his characters’ spirit of helpfulness and cooperation, and also his practical approach.

“I chose Kickstarter because it’s an all-or-nothing format,” Jones said of the fundraiser, which ends Nov. 17. “If used to fund a film, it requires filmmakers to be responsible, to prove they can complete what they start, and to have a good idea of what they need.” What Jones has determined the BIMs need to realize their dream of indie film success is a budget of $10,000 (of which the campaign has raised around $1,500), a figure, he says, that represents not just what his team will actually need, but also perks and merchandise for investors.

“I look at the BIMs kind of like the Warner Brothers characters, in that they will be visible for the company and can do other things.” In addition to a nifty line of BIMs merch (like BIM shirtwear made by Portland’s own Atlantic Sportswear), the Kickstarter offers up the traditional donor rewards, from your name in the credits, up to personalized BIM films for your business, event, or just for you.

For Jones, the 6-year journey to bring his creations to life has, indeed, been an exercise in believing in himself and his talented and dedicated cast and crew, whom Jones calls “the real heroes.” Anyone familiar with the Maine film scene will recognize the likes of Daniel Noel, Elizabeth Freeman, Erik Moody, Vanessa Romanoff, Ian Carlsen, Candace Yorston, and Jones himself, both as the BIMs’ human friends and as the voices of the BIMs. Jones also made the BIMs himself, learning the arduous skill of creating puppets with personality over a number of years of trial and error. “My apartment is full of about 400 puppet bodies that I killed,” he said.

Jones says the preproduction process on “BIM Volume One” will include the release of a “Hollywood-style” full movie trailer soon (check out in the next few days), along with several BIM-on-the-street appearances by leader Bogart in Congress Square. After that, it’s all up to the Maine community that the BIMs believe in so much to contribute and help Jones and his team complete this next leg in their fuzzy protagonists’ ever-hopeful and positive journey of self-expression. Jones, having devoted so much of his filmmaking career to the BIMs, only hopes people will come to love them as much as he does. Jones relates to how saint of puppetry Jim Henson used to tell people, “I don’t like puppets, I like the Muppets.” Jones is hoping that you’ll like the BIMs just as much.

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