Jeff Griecci and Ian Carlsen review footage of a scene while Phil Cormier and Kalle Bailey set up the next shot on the first day of filming “Nice People” in April 2017. Photo by Allen Baldwin

The synopsis for Maine filmmakers Ian Carlsen and Jeff Greicci’s new Maine-made film, “Nice People,” hinges on one particularly evocative line: “‘Nice People’ is five interconnected Maine stories about people suffering from kindness.”

How can you suffer from kindness? Well, the very nice Carlsen and Griecci were only too happy to explain.

“There’s very much a level of niceness that a lot of Mainers possess that will get us into trouble,” said Carlsen. “There’s an impulse to do good things and think others are good people, but not to see things from an objective perspective. We get in over our heads.”

Griecci, who spent several years working in the film industry in Los Angeles, adds, “There’s something about New England niceness that’s all about honesty. It’s like curtness, but not mean in a weird way. Ian and I found the double meaning of ‘Nice People.’”

Of course, it helps that Carlsen and Greicci are both genuinely nice guys and longtime friends and collaborators in the Maine film scene. That since “Nice People,” which is now making the painstaking film festival rounds with an eye toward a Maine premiere later this year, was a uniquely drawn-out and demanding project. Begun over five years ago, “Nice People” has been a truly collaborative labor of love for two friends whose initial idea for a feature film made up of five interconnected tales of Maine life was finally finished only after a full half-decade of weekend shoots, juggled schedules, and peerless dedication from the filmmakers and their equally committed professional cast and crew.

NICE PEOPLE (2023) Official Trailer from Mint Films on Vimeo.


In such a no-budget, extended creative endeavor, collaboration is key. Said Biddeford resident Greicci, “I’d been away on the West Coast, and when I came back, I was gung-ho about getting back into creative narrative work again. I wanted to do a feature.”

“And I wanted to do a short,” countered Pownal resident Carlsen, who’s collaborated with Greicci many times through their company Mint Films. “So eventually, we decided to make five shorts and basically squish them together.”

Squish they did, although not without some pretty lofty goals for “Nice People,” as demonstrated by the enthusiastic pair’s roster of filmmaking influences on their project.

“We took loads of inspiration from people like Robert Altman, Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki,” noted Greicci, citing a shared dryness and darkness of humor amongst the three movie giants. Pointing to the interconnected stories of Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth” and “Mystery Train” as influences on “Nice People,” Greicci also noted a particular Mainer’s kinship with the lonely, icy, wind-swept tales spun by Finnish auteur Kaurismäki.

“He loves following the losers,” Greicci said of the director of “Ariel” and “Leningrad Cowboys Go America.” “He champions losing. It’s so charming and tragic but also funny. Plus, the Finland landscape feels so similar to Maine in the winter. It’s gets cold up here, and there’s a sort of funny, self-inflicted harm of dealing with Maine winters that we all put ourselves through. It’s sort of special and sad in all of us.”

Susan Clark, Tadin Brego and Jeffrey Charles Day. Photo by Phil Cormier

Indeed, the shifting main characters of “Nice People” are that special sort of Maine folk the former Portland residents know all too well – despite the film passing on some of the more clichéd Maine movie trappings. “We were adamant about wanting to make a Maine story, set in Maine,” said Greicci, “But we wanted to avoid the tropes used again and again. No lobstermen, lighthouses, drug dealers, boats or islands. We love ’em, but there are more stories that can be told.”


Carlson concurred (after noting that their no-budget film couldn’t have afforded a boat or lighthouse rental if they’d wanted one). “Doing this on a super micro budget, we relied on things that were actually going on around us. We drew from things we’d overheard, from friend-of-a-friend stories. We rooted the film in real stories. And if we couldn’t go big on budget, we thought, ‘Well, what can we maximize?’”

Titi de Baccarat in “Nice People.” Photo by Phil Cormier

Having worked in the Maine film scene for more than a decade each, the chief resource at “Nice People’s” disposal were actors. “We know so many great actors,” said Carlsen. “People who would be fun for this type of person or that one. We’d build something for those folks. The film necessarily becomes about small, slice-of-life social interactions that slowly unravel and get out of hand.” The filmmaking duo are also effusive about the film’s original soundtrack, with music, including a score from local musician Jimmy Doherty, playing an integral role in setting “Nice People’s” unique mood.

Said Greicci of their narrative of interconnected character tales, “There’s an inherently New England feeling that grows out of our own lives. Right out of the gate, it was something that felt like Maine.” Added Carlsen, “It’s really a love letter to a rich time in Portland history, sort of from 2010-18. We were living in the city and reacting to these people. There was so much joy in our lives in that.”

Shannon Campbell. Photo by Phil Cormier

Praising the “Nice People” cast for bringing some top-shelf talent to their low-budget Maine movie, Carlsen further expounded on just what it is in the Maine character that lends itself to the film’s parade of uncomfortable comedy. “There’s a quality Mainers possess where they feel the need to do something morally right and justified, but they don’t have the full perspective on what other people are bringing to the conversation. For me, that interaction, where you think you’re doing the right thing but you don’t have the full picture – that can lead to comedy, and in some cases tragedy.”

For a no-budget, Maine-made feature hinging on awkward social interactions and subtle character work, “Nice People” might seem like a hard sell. The film is making the festival rounds, with Greicci and Carlsen patiently – not to say nicely – awaiting responses and planning the film’s future. “We have plans for Maine screenings, and other things,” said Carlsen. “We’re just letting the process run its course.”

As for their five-year collaboration, would these two busy Maine filmmakers do it again?


“You never start a project planning for it to take five years,” said Greicci. “It was just the simple reality – we went into this as a labor of love, we brought in so many players who were so generous in their work. Filmmaking’s not a singular art, it’s a collaborative effort with many moving parts.” Added Carlsen, “We have a lot of faith in each other’s work and talents at this point. That’s what makes Jeff such an excellent creative partner, his drive to get something done, to get started, to be in progress, filming. I love his camera work, his eye, the way his brain thinks about film. That’s the key, really. I feel very valued and trusted to feel like I have something to give to this creative relationship.”

“Nice People” may suggest the downside to Maine niceness, but, damned if these Maine filmmakers aren’t awfully nice.

For more information about “Nice People,” check out the film’s Instagram page, and Jeff Greicci and Ian Carlsen’s Mint Films website,

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

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