Kate Kaminski, right, on set with Reggie Burrows Hodges, is hanging up her hat as a film festival organizer and professor to focus on her own work. Judy Beedle Photography

“I think it’s time maybe for fresh blood.” 

No, Portland-based filmmaker, professor of film and women-in-film advocate Kate Kaminski is not talking about plans for her next movie. (Though as one of the first contributors to Maine-made horror anthology institution Damnationland, she could have been.) That’s Kaminski rounding out her reasoning for stepping away as Maine’s premiere proponent of local female filmmaking – at least in an organizational capacity. 

Amplifying her open letter to the Maine film community (published on medium.com on Aug. 10), Kaminski restated that her all-woman short film showcase Fem.Cine.Anarchy will screen its last roster of directed-by-women cinematic greatness on Sept. 17, joining in retirement her late and lamented Bluestocking Film Festival, the similarly women-led film fest that closed up shop in 2018. Adding to that the fact that Kaminski’s letter also announced her retirement as adjunct faculty from both the University of Southern Maine and Maine College of Art, some people might imagine the longtime Maine moviemaking lodestar giving up her mission to make Maine a more welcoming and rewarding place for female filmmakers. 

Those people don’t know Kate Kaminski. 

Co-founder (along with partner Betsy Carson) of Portland’s Gitgo Productions, Kaminski calls this “a big transitional place in my life,” where 10 years of promoting and championing the work of women from Maine and around the world will give way (at least in part) to a refocus on her own work. In addition to Gitgo’s four indie features (“The Barghest,” “The Crew,” “[I’m Living] A Charmed Life” and “Trip”) recently being collected for a long-awaited DVD and VOD release by Gemini Entertainment Group, Kaminski says that she’s stepping back from inspiring others to search for a little inspiration of her own. 

“I feel like trying to change how I think about what I’m doing,” said Kaminski. “I’m hoping to focus on my own work – producing things, writing, and seeing what else is possible. Basically, looking to do fulfilling work, if there’s any of that to be had.” 

For the ever-forthright Kaminski, any thought of a “mission accomplished” banner over her years of hard work attempting to address the disproportionate obstacles for women in the film industry is waved away quickly. Speaking to her conversations with other Maine women in film, Kaminski says she understands the argument even some female colleagues have against woman-centric events like Fem.Cine.Anarchy and Bluestocking. “They ask, ‘Why can’t we just have a level playing field?,’ and I get that argument, but there just isn’t one yet.” Gazing over the landscape of filmmaking (in Maine and, well, everywhere), Kaminski added, “Not to take away any achievements from male counterparts in the community, but it still feels very much like we were shoved into the corner.” 

The facts, naturally and depressingly, bear Kaminski out. Her letter cites some sobering statistics about female representation in all facets of the industry, with Kaminski summing it up by saying, “Despite some very recent hopeful signs, women narrative filmmakers and female-focused narrative films, in particular, remain under-funded, under-represented, and under-appreciated, across the board.” Especially in Gitgo’s métier of narrative fictional films. “The gap still remains with the narrative sisters,” said Kaminski, noting that documentary filmmaking is the one place women have traditionally found (slightly) more acceptance. While she’s cagey about her own latest feature script (her first since 2012), she calls the work-in-progress “scrappy and possibly strange – the way only Gitgo can do.”

Looking back, Kaminski said she has no regrets about the uphill grind of either adjunct professorship or scrappy, female-centric programming efforts. “Life is frickin’ hard enough without bitterness,” she said, citing the immeasurable rewards she’s gotten from her colleagues in both communities over these many years. Half-jokingly calling her decision to go back to her personal filmmaking roots “selfish,” Kaminski conceded, “After 10 years, I thought, ‘(Expletive) this‚ I’ve got to take care of me. I’m not getting any younger.”

What is getting younger, to Kaminski’s admiration and relief, is the crop of up-and-coming Maine women that has sprouted since she and Carson started Gitgo Productions back in 1994. While Kaminski says she has no successors picked out to carry her programming and organizing mantle, she’s confident that the local film community will do just fine with her on the creative side for a change. “It feel like Betsy and I used to be the only girls in the room,” said Kaminski, “but 25 years is a long time, and in that time – particularly in the last 5-6 years – I’ve seen a new wave of women filmmakers coming out of the woodwork, and moving here even.” 

Said Kaminski of the final Fem.Cine.Anarchy in September, she’s sure it won’t be close to the last such female-forward film festival in Maine. “Mine isn’t the only approach to fostering a community that puts women on screen,” she said. “I have no preconceived notions of how we can keep this issue in the forefront, but I just hope someone will step up who’s got something new to bring to the table, however it looks.” 

The fifth and final edition of Fem.Cine.Anarchy will bring seven female-directed short films to a (virtual) screening on Sept. 17, including one by Kaminski. “Why not?” she says. “It’s always good to go out on a high note.” 

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

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