Everybody thinks their job would make a great movie or a TV show. Nick Salve knows it.

“Starting when I was in high school, I worked for Funtown,” said the Gorham filmmaker of his time at the Saco amusement park and Maine summer institution. “I actually spent eight summers there between high school and college. I started out as a kiddie ride operator, moved up into the Astrosphere, and then got in to admin/management.” 

That time in the touristy environs of a bustling Maine amusement park is the basis for “Poseidon’s Gate,” an 11-episode web series about the comically chaotic, nuts-and-bolts running of a slightly dysfunctional Maine amusement park. Currently in pre-production, and with an attractive Kickstarter campaign on the way for donors, “Poseidon’s Gate” represents the longtime love affair between software engineer Salve and the world of roller coasters, cotton candy and the occasional mishap resulting from mixing cotton candy and roller coasters. 

“I met my wife because of Funtown, and my entire circle of friends,” said Salve, who also dropped the staggering (to me, at least) truth bomb that he did, indeed, run FunTown’s legendary Astrosphere. For those not in the know, the Astrosphere took the trusty carnival ride the Scrambler, encased it in a dome (first vinyl, now concrete), and shut off the lights, blasting ELO’s “Fire On High” while a laser light show (with some truly bananas imagery) flashes on the dome around you. I first encountered this groundbreaking feat of Maine-made psychedelic carny fun as a child and remain in awe of its trippy, stomach-churning brilliance to this day. But I digress. 

“Poseidon’s Gate” takes all of Salve’s intimate knowledge of theme parks to craft a workplace sitcom about the two adult children of the park’s aging owners as they attempt to convince their folks not to turn over the barely-solvent waterfront park to hungry developers. “The park is literally their lives,” Salve said of siblings Hunter and Celler. “They grew up wealthy and never had to accomplish anything, and view Poseidon’s Gate as the only thing they know how to do.” 

Salve has been working on “Poseidon’s Gate” as obsessively as Hunter and Celler do in order to save the park. Making a “proof of concept” pilot for “Poseidon’s Gate” (which you can watch for free online) back in 2016, Salve has been honing both his story and his skills ever since. “It’s changed a lot,” said Salve of his current concept for the series.

Watching that long-ago pilot, I agree with Salve’s reservations that there are some rough edges. “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” loom large over the documentary-style comic action, and, apart from some establishing shots, the theme park atmosphere doesn’t come through as strongly as it could. (The pilot was shot for free, using Southern Maine Community College’s offices.) And yet, Salve’s vision is bracingly assured for all that, with a game and more than capable cast of Maine actors turning out a consistently funny 19 minutes of TV shenanigans. 

That said, Salve wants potential viewers/donors to know that a lot has changed at “Poseidon’s Gate” in the intervening years of writing, planning and online MasterClass.com advice from writing inspirations Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes. Out is the “Office”-style documentary format, as Salve explains that the original pilot’s faux doc style was chosen to accommodate the need for the paid-with-pizza cast to have microphones clipped to their lapels. Also, taking sage advice from his TV writing heroes (which include “The Good Place’s” Mike Schur and “Superstore’s” Justin Spitzer), Salve installed a narrative countdown clock on his character’s season-long journey. 

Explaining that, unlike the long-ago pilot, Hunter and Celler are now the series’ central figures, Salve says, “The deal Hunter and Celler make with their parents is that the park has a year to make one dollar in profit. You need that ticking clock, where everything that happens has to work out or everything’s going to fail. Once you have that, you can hang all the rest of the fun stuff around it. The last second of the last episode of Season 1 is all about that one dollar.”

For Salve, filmmaking has been as much a part of his development as writing software – and theme parks. “I started out with my dad’s VHS camera and my friends,” said Salve. “I just knew I’d end up either making movies full time and video games on the side, or vice versa.” And while Salve’s current software job at Unum isn’t exactly video games, per se, his love of theme parks sees him taking his family for frequent Disney vacations. Purely for research purposes, I’m sure. 

Having consulted with Funtown’s Cormier family in preparation for “Poseidon’s Gate,” Salve says that the series’ park setting is ripe with potentially comical conflicts as part of his heroes’ bumbling quest for solvency. And while Salve maintains that the Cormiers remain much more capable than his fictional owners, the former Astrosphere operator assures me that he’s got more than enough ridiculous backstage stories to fill up multiple seasons of “Poseidon’s Gate.”

“The vast majority of people can relate to a theme park,” said Salve. “But nobody knows what goes on an hour before the gates open, what kinds of things do happen.” (Not to give anything away, but Salve does mention everything from bomb threats to stalled roller coasters to a kid getting his head stuck in a railing as theoretical plotlines.) 

Describing his vision for “Poseidon’s Gate” as “ ‘Superstore’ in a theme park,” Salve is hopeful that enough fans of both amusement parks and quality, Maine-made TV will help him realize his dream.

“With the proof of concept, the thought was, like with ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,’ that an executive would see it and say, ‘Here’s a million dollars,’” chuckled Salve. But, for a modestly-budgeted, Maine-made web series, the crowdfunding goals Salve has set are well within reach. Planning to film in summer 2022 at Old Orchard Beach’s Palace Playland (whose open grounds require far less disruption and permitting), Salve is excited to – with viewers’ help – finally open the gates to the beloved, down-at-heels Maine vacationland of his TV dreams. 

You can learn more about Nick Salve and “Poseidon’s Gate” at poseidonsgate.com. While there, you can watch the initial, genuinely promising proof-of-concept pilot and learn how to donate at the series’ Kickstarter page. 

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


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