The Nickelodeon might be part of a mini-chain, but it’s an essential part of the local movie scene. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The new year is here, and, for movie fans, there are plenty of changes, advances, retreats, evolutions, devolutions and cinematic adventures to come. Superhero movies continue to stalk the land, battling evil and causing untold property damage in their wake, all while Marvel prepares to unleash its ominously dubbed “Phase 4” on us mere mortals. Streaming services continue to proliferate like wallet-draining pop-up ads, leaving the film fanatic little choice but to pony up for yet another pay-to-play outlet if they want to see the increasing number of Oscar nominees only available there. (Video stores are officially dead, so no dice trying to see “The Irishman” anywhere but on Netlfix. Again, I told you.) And 3-D is still a thing, even though everyone conveniently ignores that that fad pops up every 30 years, only to fade once people remember that technology leading creativity always leads to audience burnout. 

But for fans of the local, the independent, the weird and the wonderful, 2020 is full of promise – and promises. So plunk down your money for the next Avengers blockbuster (as all Americans are now required to by law), but don’t forget that there’s a whole other, more interesting movie world right under your nose, complete with ways for you to get directly involved in making that world better. Call them your 2020 local film resolutions.

You know, like, donating to a local film’s crowdfunding campaign. Not all technological advances are subject to the grousing of an aging, grumpy old film writer. Interviewing aspiring Maine moviemakers for a decade has brought home what a vital and innovative part of the process direct support from strangers can be when trying to realize your directorial vision, and the growth of crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have been a godsend for Maine filmmakers. It’s also a great, oddly exciting way for the rest of us to get involved, as chipping in even a few bucks to a project not only helps fund the usually modest needs of a production, it gives the donor a sense of investment in the film, and the Maine film scene as a whole. Just doing a quick search calls up active campaigns for everything from a documentary about the ghosts of Carmel, Maine, to a handful of SMCC student filmmakers raising money for their entries into this year’s annual Maine Mayhem Film Festival. 

People fill the Waterville Opera House for opening night of the Maine International Film Festival in July. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Speaking of Maine Mayhem (taking place on May 7, by the way), Maine’s many film festivals are a fun, fascinating and pretty frugal way to sample some of the finest films – from Maine and away – that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see locally. Judiciously parceled out through the year, Maine’s eclectic array of movie festivals offer everything from prestige (the grandaddy of them all, the Maine International Film Festival in July) to the most eye-opening documentaries (Camden International Film Festival in October) to the Maine Jewish Film Festival in March to October’s Maine-made horrors in Portland’s Damnationland, to the offerings of new and growing film fests in places like Sanford, Lewiston-Auburn, and seemingly every other corner of the state. The Maine Film Office website is a good place to keep track of your next opportunity to support this thriving part of the Maine film community – and to see some great and unique movies for yourself. 

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a festival to see something challenging, exciting or just plain weird. Maine’s art theaters are still holding the line against the Walt Disney Corporation and its spandex-clad cineplex invaders by programming independent, foreign and under-the-radar cinematic gems all around you. From established arthouses like Brunswick’s Frontier or Eveningstar and venues like Waterville’s Railroad Square and Rockland’s Strand, to alternative Portland venues like The Apohadion Theater, PMA Films at the Portland Museum of Art, and Space, the smell of fresh-popped corn mingles with the warm glow of old-time, single-screen movie house magic. Even Portland’s own Nickelodeon Cinema – while part of mini-chain Patriot Cinemas – does yeoman’s work in consistently screening arthouse hits and local films alongside the requisite Hollywood biggies. 

If you’re looking for a common denominator in all these indie film New Year’s resolutions, it’s this: Get involved. As entertainment becomes more conglomerated and controlled by a shrinking number of corporations, it’s also being democratized by technology. See a tiny film that made a huge impact on you? Hashtag it on social media or tag a celebrity you follow who might take it under their wing. See a local filmmaker trying to tell a story that speaks to you? Toss him or her a few bucks, spread the word or, hey, offer up your assistance. (Hint: Local filmmakers are always looking for free locations, so if you’ve got an atmospherically spooky old barn or picturesque pond, open your doors.) Keep reading columns like this one, and, if the weekly stories of Maine moviemaking inspire you, learn more. There’s a world of stories being told all around you. Maybe 2020 is the year to get swept up in a few.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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