Still from “Breathe,” one of the films screened during last year’s Maine Outdoor Film Festival. With the uncertainty of this year’s event, the festival is holding a “extra credit” competition. Image courtesy of the Maine Outdoor Film Festival

As far as clichéd advice goes, making lemonade from life’s lemons has proven a necessary tonic for people trying to make the best of the current pandemic. For the folks at the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, a situation where everyone is stuck indoors in responsible, curve-flattening self-quarantine is a double-whammy though. Outdoor enthusiasts all, the MOFF staff is also facing the very real possibility that their biggest leap yet into the Maine film festival pool might not happen this year.

“We were planning to launch the Maine Outdoor Film Festival as a flagship event in Portland this summer,” said MOFF Director Nick Callanan. “After nine years taking it on the road and all over the state, we’ve finally built up the following, resources and sponsor support. We’d lined up outdoor venues as well as the State Theatre, a boat cruise, nine panels with filmmakers all over the county — we’d really poured a (expletive)-ton of resources into it.” And while the late-July, early-August dates for the 2020 MOFF are still listed hopefully on the festival website (maineoutdoorfilmfestival.org), Callanan concedes that, like so many organizers around the world, it’s a matter of crossed fingers. “Who doesn’t have disappointment with stuff planned this year?” Callanan graciously noted. 

Still, creative types like those in the Maine filmmaking community are nothing if not resourceful, quick on their feet and, well, creative. That’s why the Maine Outdoor Film Festival has created an on-the-fly filmmaking contest and mini-festival for those wishing for a chance to show their own filmmaking chops. The Extra Credit Adventure Edit is MOFF’s call to all you skiers, bikers, runners, climbers, hikers, paddlers and other wilderness warriors to dig out those GoPro highlights of your best, most daring, and/or calamitously funny Maine outdoor adventures and compete (from the sequestered safety of home) against each other. 

The rules are simple (and on the MOFF website). Four minutes or less. An “outdoor film,” defined by MOFF as “filmed outside or related to outdoor adventure or conservation … MOFF reserves final say.” There are four categories – pre-2000 footage, nature meditation, a profile piece on a person or place, and good old highlight reels – with a special outside-the-box category for “PSA[s] for modern times (think: social distancing, or ‘How to Home School Your Kid When You Never Intended To,’ or even a thank you to those on the front line).” Submitting your film is free and due at [email protected] (subject line “Extra Credit Adventure Edit”) by May 6.

 That’s it. Oh, except the Maine film community is not also creative but notoriously generous, so the winners in each category will be up for two separate awards (one chosen by MOFF, one by audience vote), with a $250 cash prize for each winning film. And since, again, the Extra Credit Adventure Edit concept was birthed on the fly, Callanan notes that, depending on possible additional sponsorships, MOFF is actually hoping to double the prize money before the winners are announced live online on May 20. 

Says Callanan of Maine Outdoor’s own suspiciously lemonade-scented venture, “We thought it was an opportunity to keep some positivity. We’d already spent our whole print marketing budget (on MOFF 2020), so we thought, well, what could we do? We thought we could put some money behind it, support filmmakers and incentivize the work. It took us five days from concept to launch.”

Such are the necessities of artists and organizers (and the rest of us) in these very uncertain times, and Callanan is calling on everybody to look through the old outdoor footage they’ve got lying around, both for some much-needed prize money and to, appropriately enough for the organization, spur people into action. 

“We’ve already got 12 really solid submissions,” said Callanan, “but we’re hoping for more, especially from people who aren’t necessarily blue-blooded outdoor folk. This isn’t limited to anyone with a certain label. We’re really hoping to get some films from folks who’ve never tried it before. We’re hoping this will inspire some people to maybe take a little more time with footage they might never get around to because they never had enough time.” 

So get editing, you weekend travelogue enthusiasts and chroniclers of Maine’s unique beauty. The Maine Outdoor Film Festival’s Extra Credit Adventure Edit will have an online premiere viewing party for all qualifying submissions on May 13 on the MOFF website. Finalists will be announced and online voting will begin on May 14, and the winners will be presented live on May 20. As for the Maine Outdoor Film Festival proper, keep an eye on the MOFF site for details and — for a variety of reasons — hope that this year’s festival goes on as planned. If the worst does happen, Callanan says, once more with that Maine outdoor can-do spirit, look for a “scaled-down online version.” As ever, the show must go on. 

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

Extra Credit Adventure Edit – a video challenge from the Maine Outdoor Film Festival from Maine Outdoor Film Festival on Vimeo.

This story was updated at 9:14 a.m. April 22 to reflect changes in festival dates.


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