Lisbon filmmaker Alex Cole has already reached the modest crowdsourcing goal he set for his upcoming short film “Grace.” But that doesn’t mean people should stop giving. 

“We did reach 100 percent,” Cole said about the $800 budget he set, “but that was just to rent the cameras and equipment. So any other funds will go toward feeding the cast and crew and paying for film festivals.”

Plus, as the recent graduate of Lisbon High School notes, “the plan is to rent an Airbnb for a few days for the house scenes,” with exterior locations in Greater Portland intended to show off some of Maine’s (thankfully free) outdoor glory. 

“It’s about using the community around us to make the most cinematic experience we can,” said the first-time director, adding, “Maine has not showed up enough in films – I’m excited to show off Maine in my film.” (As an aside, the Legislature needs to pass those ever-pending tax incentives for in-state film production so we don’t have to see the next “Maine-set” Stephen King movie ineptly attempting to dress up Nova Scotia again.)

For Cole, being an aspiring Maine filmmaker stems from being an aspiring Maine actor. Crediting his time at Lisbon High under the theatrical tutelage of drama teacher Jennifer Fox (who’ll be playing Cole’s mother in “Grace”), Cole makes the point that, community theater aside, it’s a tough road for young working actors in Maine.

“You’re always on your feet, trying to eat,” he said. “There’s very limited work to get in Maine, so making your own project is really the only way to be in a film.”

Cody Alexander Curtis of Bath, Cole’s creative partner. Photo by Charlie Abrahams

So that’s what Cole’s done, enlisting a fellow Maine actor and filmmaker in Bath’s Cody Alexander Curtis to form a creative partnership that’s gone so well the pair are planning the big leap of moving to New York next year. (“Sometimes you have to go where the business is,” admits Cole.)

But that’s only after Cole’s ambitious plan to finish and premiere both “Grace” and a planned second film (a “50s-style film noir” titled “Up In Smoke”) in early 2022, in which Curtis and Cole will co-star.

But “Grace” comes first. Cole is currently crewing up for an October shoot for the planned 25-minute autobiographical short about a troubled young man navigating his first, intense romantic relationship.

“I was inspired by real life,” Cole said, explaining that, like so many great works of art, “Grace” came to him in the aftermath of “getting dumped.”

“It’s a very personal story,” he said of the drama, co-starring Maine actress Savannah Leavitt. “I’ve seen friends go through marriage, or at least ‘true love,’ at a very young age, and this is a story very close to home.”

Cole won’t share everything about the fraught backstory of the protagonist he plays in the film, but “Grace” creative partner Curtis says, feelingly, “This is from Alex’s personal experience, what he’s gone through. It’s really about how, no matter how damaged a person can be, they can find a way to eventually overcome that, that things will get better and heal over time, especially with the right people around.”

In the end, that’s what being an independent filmmaker is all about, too. Noting that much of the initial support for his film has come from those people in his life (teachers and students from Lisbon High chief among them), Cole says, gratefully, “It’s a really weird feeling to have gotten all this support from the community, especially being from a small town in Maine. I really expected we’d only hit 50 percent, or something. It just shows how the arts community in Maine might be small, but it’s very tight-knit.”

For Cole, “Grace” was a matter of having a story he needed to tell and then creating the opportunity to bring that intensely personal tale to life. He cites the rags-to-Oscars story of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s “Good Will Hunting” as a major inspiration for that sort of DIY filmmaking, and if he’s starting necessarily smaller, well, that just makes for a better success story later. 

“Acting is the one thing that makes sense to me,” he said. “It’s the one thing I’m passionate about. Acting onstage, or in front of a camera, it’s a feeling I never knew was possible. It makes me feel complete.” 

You can continue to support filmmaker Alex Cole by donating to “Grace’s” fundraising page at the crowdsourcing site Indiegogo.

To learn more about Cole and fellow up-and-coming Maine filmmaker Cody Alexander Curtis, they encourage a look at their various social media profiles (where you can also learn about Curtis’ film “Suffocation,” which is currently winning awards on the film festival scene).


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