“Eco-conscious, urban bohemians:
She Doesn’t Like Guthries is your happy place.”
Written by: Max Mogensen, Special to the Sun Journal
It’s possible to define a hipster by the stereotypes that have inspired so many bad internet jokes. That is:
Skin-tight jeans, a flannel shirt, Wayfarers maybe, tattoos, biking down the street on a fixed-gear holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The headphones in her ears are playing a band that I’m sure you’ve never heard of. She eats organic. He frequents second-hand shops and farm-to-table restaurants and never shaves his beard.
But that’s a really superficial and one-dimensional definition for a complex, shifting term that once stood for a specific countercultural movement. Today, it’s mainly used to describe youth-style trends.
The definition of hipster offered by Oxford American is vague enough to include anyone outside the “cultural mainstream,” so that’s about as helpful as a thrift store without a vintage section.
Luckily, there’s the crowd-sourced bastion of ever-changing pop culture references, Urban Dictionary. The most popular definition (160,000 thumbs up) says that hipsters “value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter.”
It also purports that although “‘hipsterism’ is really a state of mind, it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store-inspired fashions [sic], tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers and sometimes thick-rimmed glasses.”
Not far off, actually, from the definitions given by some locals.
“There are people that actually create a new style that hasn’t existed yet, or they just start a new thing. And once that trend becomes more generic or people start doing it all the time, they kind of move on. I would say that hipsters . . . they just like to be different.” That’s Cody DeGraff, a millennial living in Lewiston.
A hipster is “somebody who likes music and art, and drinks local coffee, and has tattoos,” according to Catherine Tanous, a 20-something who grew up in Auburn and now lives in Portland. “I feel like they tend to be very philosophical people, but open minded. They like organic things. They’re thinkers.”
The picture that’s developing is of an urban millennial, someone interested in music and the arts, and conscientious about their choices. But someone too who tries to be outside the mainstream. The stereotypical hipster would eat local, organic and artisan food, have obscure artistic tastes and hobbies, and have a unique fashion sense to remain distinguishable.
It would be really good to talk to some hipsters, of course. Apparently they’re around and pretty easy to identify. Nonetheless, that poses a bit of a problem. It seems they’re not eager to admit to actually being a hipster.
Hipster is something you call someone else, not something you call yourself. At most it might be used to identify some aspect of style, but is never used comparably to, say, Democrat, vegetarian or locavore.
And it becomes even less a badge of honor when a term that is identified with the counterculture is co-opted by mainstream marketers.
“If you want to talk about the sociology of a hipster, there could be an hourlong talk about that,” says Ariel Berube, an employee at Bull Moose in Lewiston who could apparently moonlight as an anthropologist. “I think there’s different kinds,” she says, “like any other stereotyped group. I think you have your hipsters who won’t like the mainstream, but then you have the hipster who doesn’t know they’re a hipster.” Someone, according to Berube, who makes informed and generally healthy decisions, someone who is progressive and who is “naturally irritated with socio-political problems, but they don’t know they’re a hipster. And I think there are people who get irritated with them,” and question the sincerity of their choices.
“Hipster has become a catchall term for people who have contrary views,” says Berube. “I wouldn’t think I am (one), mostly because it’s become a hard term to identify with.”
OK, so you don’t want to call yourself a hipster, but we know you’re out there. And there are some who say L-A’s a perfect place — and that it’s the perfect time — for young movers and shakers to help steer the Twin Cities in new and exciting directions.
Hipsters among us
Tom Ardia, a local tapster and beer aficionado who runs the bar at Marche Kitchen and Wine Bar on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, says a burgeoning element in the Twin Cities is elevating the cultural and commercial environment of the area.
This group of people, he says, is concerned with where their food comes from, who makes it and its environmental footprint. They’d rather head to three separate stores downtown than one department store on outer Main Street. They value organic and local options, and will pay more for them. And style and ambiance matter to them. And, says Ardia, they’re good for business.
He doesn’t actually say the word hipster, but acknowledges they’re part of the group he’s talking about.
“There are plenty of things that are happening here,” he says. “Now you can start seeing it. . . . I think a lot of people would rather know that with the cash they’re spending they’re supporting (local) people. Having an age group be an (active) part of a community will drastically influence the look and feel of that community.”
The growth of this contingent has been natural and organic. Ardia is actually a good example. A Lewiston native, he left Maine for Los Angeles, returning four years later with an expanded perspective and palate. An entire generation of young people, some who have spent time in other places before returning to the area, have begun embracing elements of this progressive culture, whether in terms of lifestyle or fashion.
Their choices in regard to style, food, work, art or politics might be labeled, for lack of a better word, as hipsterism — though most of them probably wouldn’t call themselves hipsters. It’s actually not so much that a community of hipsters has developed, but rather that hipster choices have spread into the mainstream community.
Tom encourages more like-minded, creative types to think about moving to Lewiston-Auburn. The area is “still a pretty unsculpted piece of clay,” he says, meaning there are options and resources for energetic and enterprising people. As opposed, he says, to a place like Portland that’s already chock-full of such movers and shakers. (Portland, I should note, has been ranked as one of America’s best cities for hipsters in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s last two surveys, peaking at No. 5 in 2012.)
Ardia is not the only local business person who sees the potential value of the hipster movement.
“We embrace it,” says Jane Driscoll, senior vice president for Advancement at Goodwill Northern New England, speaking from her office in Portland. If the stereotypes are right, Driscoll is making a safe play. Hipsters are well-known for making bold fashion out of the thrift store selection. (It can be seen as a sociopolitical statement or simply a way to stay stylish on a budget.)
And, Driscoll says, they definitely make up part of the customer base at Goodwill. “They are folks that are looking for funky styles, like vintage,” she said in defining the subculture. “They’re trendy. . . . (They have) a little more awareness, a caring about the environment, being creative. And they’re out looking for their style and not something that’s cookie-cutter.”
This, according to Driscoll, makes the demographic a natural fit for thrift store shopping.
“I wouldn’t say there is marketing that is targeted (specifically to hipsters,) but we notice that there is an increased commitment to value buying, in both senses of the word ‘value,’ whether you want look at it from the point of sustainability or from the point of saving money.”
At Bull Moose in Lewiston, employee Ariel Berube says she sees “people who I think fit into those various facets of being a hipster. They’ve adopted the fashion or lifestyle choices that don’t fit into the norm.” But that’s not to say they’re all so easily classified or that they would identify themselves as hipsters.
“You’ll get people who come in here and they’re wearing plaid . . . but they’re also buying death metal or rap,” she says.
In Lewiston-Auburn, several businesses on Lisbon Street between Pine and Main attract the young and culturally hip, according to locals, among them Forage Market, Downtown Handmade & Vintage, Lyceum Gallery, Fuel restaurant and Marche. Other businesses in Lewiston are Bull Moose Music and She Doesn’t Like Guthrie’s.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It is because of the spread of hipster attitudes that such businesses have been able to get traction, most selling pricier, if healthier, offerings. The subculture values art and creativity, locally sourced and handmade products, artisanal food and independent businesses. Forage over big box, Fuel before chain eateries. And according to those interviewed, Guthries comes in as the No. 1 hipster hot spot in the Twin Cities.
“I would maybe guess it’s the music that’s playing, the atmosphere, the posters we have on the wall, the coffee shop vibe,” says Paige Bedard, a Guthries employee, in explaining hipsters’ affinity for the venue. “We offer some healthier options,” she added.
But Bedard doesn’t confirm the suggestion that Guthries represents a designated hipster hangout. “I don’t really know,” she says. “We might see some hipsters, maybe in terms of like Bates (College) kids.”
Bedard believes that most of the hipsters she sees at Guthries are college kids. Does she think the term has simply come to represent a new, mainstream demographic. “Maybe,” she says, without offering more.
Would she call herself a hipster? “People might look at me and consider that I could be a hipster. But I wouldn’t put myself in any specific group.”
A history of hip
“I wonder if this is just part of the evolution of the word hipster.”
That’s Ariel Berube, an employee at Bull Moose in Lewiston, talking about why she sees so many customers who, fashion-wise, fit the bill of a hipster, but who differ so much from the stereotypes when it comes to other characteristics, like musical preference or political stance.
Today, it would be silly to suggest that “hipster” has a definition of its own design.
“People see it on a magazine and that’s what a hipster is,” said Berube, citing hipster taste-makers (Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel among them) who, over the last decade or so, have had the brilliant idea of capitalizing on “cool” by marketing the hipster aesthetic and mentality to a mainstream audience. Hippies, mods, punks, preps or bohemians, very few subcultures are immune to commercialization.
But “hipster” has a longer history than most realize. The term was first applied, all the way back in the late 1930s to those who liked “hot” jazz and bebop. These were the “hep cats” (later “hepsters” and, by the mid-1940s, “hipsters”) who shunned the contemporary mainstream as well as the social mores of the time.
First used to describe the predominantly black musicians and those in the jazz community, the definition expanded in the ’40s to include the provocative, young white folks who frequented jazz clubs, danced, experimented with sex and drugs (marijuana, or “tea” as it was called then, was chief among them), held anarchistic political views, sought increased racial equality and generally looked for “kicks.”
Clarinetist Artie Shaw famously cited Bing Crosby as an early hipster. In this environment, hipsters were those that turned away from the social norms and systems that they believed had failed them, much like the bohemians and dadaists before and the hippies after them. In fact, the term “hippie” is itself a diminutive slang word for “hipster.”
While the real hipster, in mid-century America, was concerned with social change, equality and pushing the boundaries of convention, the “hippie,” who was latching onto the movement in the ’50s and ’60s, was often just there for the party. The “hippie” was usually the well-off, white kid who came simply for the music, the sex and the drugs.
By the 1970s, the hipster movement had given way entirely to the hippies. And when they cut their hair and threw away their last hits of LSD, it was the end of a subcultural movement that had spanned at least four decades, starting in the raucous but practically invisible clubs of the black community and being pulled, grudgingly, into the mainstream.
When the weedy husk of the movement inevitably collapsed, so empty that it fell in on itself, it was because of two main factors: the legions of empty-headed youth who had filled the subculture, and in so doing emptied it of any substance, and the marketers who latched onto it in hopes of selling more records, influencing tastes and generally commercializing.
The same might be said of the current hipster movement, which was reignited in the late 1990s by bohemians in Brooklyn, and embodied some of the contrariness, the questioning of social conventions and the attitude of experimentation that had characterized the original hipster subculture. Modern hipsterism came out of the dominant revolting sub-cultures around the turn of the decade. It traces its roots to punk, grunge, urban culture, neo-hippies and goth styles, hence things like skinny jeans, tattoos, gauged earrings and undercuts.
Over the next decade, the oppositional style and lifestyle choices of the hipster movement were slowly embraced, first by celebrities and taste-makers and then by enterprising marketers and then by more and more of the general public.
Some say the concept of hipster has finally died, even if the term remains in our lexicon.
A 2010 piece in New York Magazine, aptly titled “What Was the Hipster?” asserts that “it is evident that we have reached the end of an epoch in the life of the type.” Even at that point, the piece claimed, “hipster” existed mainly in shopping malls or as a pejorative, having already been abandoned by in-the-know brands like American Apparel and Gawker.
The “Bobo” (a bourgeois bohemian — call it a French hipster) was just coming into its own at the turn of the century. Eight years later and the “French elite declare the Bobo extinct,” read the headline of a 2008 piece in The Guardian. The “urban, wealthy, left-wing (group), conscious of fashion and the environment, reviled by their compatriots, both courted and denigrated by politicians,” was all but dead.
It’s easy to say, then, that while the people and their progressive viewpoints may still exist, in 2014 the term has likely come to the end of its marketability.
Yet hipster lives on, in places like Maine — often the last to catch the wave or see the wave’s departing backside — and elsewhere, including Travel and Leisure magazine’s ongoing “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters” rating.
We would hope that, in the decades following the “summer of love,” even as a broad social movement geared down, the best elements of that subculture — open-mindedness, hopefulness, compassion for living creatures, flower headbands — slowly diffused into our collective consciousness. Perhaps this is the stage we are now at vis-a-vis the hipster movement.
Perhaps hipsters are becoming difficult to isolate because, well, they’re gone. But what is left is a handful of characteristics that we can all embrace, regardless of how we identify ourselves or how we’re identified on the subcultural spectrum.
Skinny jeans aside — in fact, throw all of the aesthetic elements away — and you have the soul of the hipster movement: a desire for social justice, mobility and equality; a healthy fear of corporate influence; a love of art; a desire to live in a healthy, fair world; a strong sense of irony. Forget the labels (as the true hipsters have been doing since the beginning). If you possess these qualities, we can all overlook a bad haircut.
Why the hipster hating?
Today, “hipster” is a word often shunned and avoided by those who might best be identified by it. In fact, since its resurfacing in the naughts, it’s hard to tell if the word was ever used as a self-identifier. It’s a term put on one group by another, and even among hipsterish people it’s become a pejorative.
A quick story illustrates. Shortly after I took on this piece, I ran into an old friend who I thought might offer some expert testimony on this theme. I thought this not because she is someone I would label a “hipster” (I’ve got more tact than that!), but because she has always been someone, in my mind, who pursues a unique, personal and unswervingly confident sense of style, whether in fashion, art or other medium. When I approached her, however, I made the mistake of beginning the conversation: “Hey, I think you might be able to help me out. See, I’m writing a story about hipsters . . .” That was as much as I needed to say before she gave me a couple choice words. I didn’t get any printable quotes. Her reaction was a consequence of my inadvertent suggestion that she was a hipster.
If we head back to Urban Dictionary, we’ll find more hipster-hating. The second most popular entry jokingly reads: “Definitions are too mainstream.” And the third entry, in similar fashion, states: “Someone who listens to bands you’ve never heard of, wears ironic tee-shirts, and believes they are better than you.”
It’s true that sarcasm, cynicism and sometimes an artistic pretentiousness are well-worn stereotypes of the hipster. But does this really explain all the hating?
Overall, the top-rated definition that Trey Parasuco gives on Urban Dictionary is flattering. And it even offers a little more insight into the mindset of the haters: A “lot of anti-hipster sentiment evidently comes from culturally-clueless [sic] suburban frat boy types who feel that the more sensitive, intelligent and culturally aware hipster ideal threatens their insecure sense of masculinity. Anti-hipster sentiment often comes from people who simply can’t keep up with social change and are envious of those who can.”
Indeed, it’s tough to find a resource on the topic — whether an interview, an academic piece or simply a blog posting — that doesn’t treat the subculture critically, dismissively or, most commonly, as if the author is trying to avidly convince the audience that he or she is not a hipster.
“One could say that irony is one of the facets of being a hipster,” said Ariel Berube, an employee at Bull Moose in Lewiston.
Cody DeGraff, a millennial living in Lewiston, suggested that hipster-hating was a natural part of the mentality. If your aim is to be ahead of the curve when it comes to fashion, media, food, etc., and the very term with which you identify has been slowly co-opted by marketers and pulled into the mainstream, then you must distance yourself from the term.
When tweens and frat brothers are borrowing from hipster opinions and sensibilities, then the true hipster must abandon the terminology (if not the original opinions and sensibilities) or risk being lumped in with a group that has arrived belatedly at what the hipster came to when it was still novel.
Written by: Kathryn Skelton, Staff Writer, Sun Journal
LEWISTON — On Friday, Oct. 31, Erik Moody stars as a man struggling with psychological trauma in “Dark,” a thriller in the Damnationland film series airing at Guthrie’s new theater.
Last summer, he was the voice of a paratrooper in the History Channel’s miniseries, “D-Day in HD.”
And last year, he was on screen as the shady Jesse in “Beneath the Harvest Sky.”
The tall, lanky 29-year-old has acted in more than 10 films, done voice-over work for countless TV and radio ads and has given a voice to the happiest acorn ever.
While Oakhurst was a Portland Red Claws sponsor, Oakie the acorn mascot used to bust out in song during game timeouts.
“I’m the ‘Do the Oakie Shake‘ …” Moody said. He grinned. “It’s out there now.”
Moody moved from Portland to Lewiston last May when his fiancee’s job brought them here.
Originally from Saco, Moody acted in his first play in sixth grade. He graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in theater, eventually spending six months in Los Angeles, long enough to make connections.
“I loved it,” he said. “I was able to do some small independent projects but really got a wonderful sense of that area. I got a call from some folks I met out there to come out and shoot in January.”
It’ll be his next film — a psychological thriller.
“I’m very grateful; I’ve been able to do a lot of random things,” Moody said.
The downside to such a long resume?
“I feel like I’ve constantly been running,” he said.
After teetering on the edge of burnout, Moody said he spent most of this year on the acting front, limiting his jobs to voice work. He’s trying to enjoy the here and now.
This past summer, he taught at the New England Film Academy. During the school year, he’s an ed tech III in Saco, working with third- to fifth-graders in a special education classroom. It’s a handy place to occasionally bust out in an accent.
“It’s trying to find some way to connect, to give them the invitation to trust you,” he said. “I feel you can do that through humor. If you nail the voice right, that’s when they’ll come up to you.”
About 10 years ago, Moody taught Readers Theatre in the area through L/A Arts in local classrooms. Students were cast in roles and read pieces aloud. Moody called it a “beautiful” experience.
“I look back to being a kid,” he said. “Sometimes you just really want to be heard.”
These days, Moody’s picking movie roles for the challenge, he said. “Dark,” directed by Ranin Brown, is a subtle, spooky short.
“This is one of the more challenging things I’ve had to work on, and I’d love for people to come check it out,” he said.
Damnationland 2014/Guthries Independent Theater grand opening
What: Damnationland is a shot-in-Maine-by-Mainers, horror-themed film series in its fifth year. This year, there are six short films.
Where: 22 Park St., Lewiston, the new home of Guthries Independent Theater.
When: Friday, Oct. 31. Doors open at 7 p.m., the movies start at 9 p.m.
Cost: Free, in honor of the theater’s grand opening night. There’s space for about 90 people.
Written by: Dennis Perkins
Sometimes the best ideas come from something small.
Just ask Colin Kelley, co-founder (with Maine filmmaker Craig Saddlemire) of Maine Microcinema, the Lewiston film series dedicated to showcasing Maine films. Begun in 2010, Maine Microcinema has provided a bimonthly venue for Maine moviemakers to present their works to the appreciative crowd of She Doesn’t Like Guthries, the interestingly named Lewiston eatery run by Heather and Randy Letourneau.
For the past four years, screenings have been held in the restaurant proper. But now, thanks to a recent successful fundraising campaign (and a lot of hard work), Maine Microcinema has a new home – right next door.
“Craig originally set up the screenings at Guthries,” explains Kelly who, when not helping Maine filmmakers get seen is the manager of digital media for Bates College. “Randy and Heather were very supportive, so he had a sheet, stuck it up in a girder, and hauled his own projector from home. Initially, I had some work I wanted to show, as did Craig. It wasn’t long enough to have our own screening, and we couldn’t justify one, being really new filmmakers, so we needed more people to even out that one showing. So many people turned out, and the response was so good, that we’ve done one every other month since then.”
Maine Microcinema has shown dozens of films, all made by Mainers and always with the filmmakers on hand to connect with a Maine audience at Guthries. It’s the definition of the term “labor of love” for all involved, with free admission supplemented by a pass-the-hat collection which goes to the filmmakers (most of whom choose to split the take with organizers).
Kelley cites Guthries’ intimate nature, great food and drink, and generosity with fostering Maine Microcinema’s local success – even with the challenges inherent in showing movies in a working restaurant.
But that’s about to change, thanks to a recent fundraising campaign on the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, which raised more than a thousand dollars more than its stated goal of $7,500 to rent out and renovate the space next door to Guthries. “Randy came to me after a great screening,” says Kelley, “and asked about the idea of expanding the space next door for us and for Guthries’ weekly storytelling series, which always draws a huge crowd. I love our current space, but it gets pretty crazy, with the phone ringing or someone making a smoothie – it can cut into the experience. I said I loved the idea, and the next time I talked to Randy, he’d talked to the landlord and knocked a hole in the wall!”
That new space, with an estimated capacity of 75, will debut in a big way on Halloween night with a screening of the 2014 edition of the Maine horror anthology series “Damnationland.” And after that, Maine Microcinema plans to expand its mission further commensurate to its new digs.
“Our opening film (and last showing in the old space) is Maine film ‘How To Make Movies At Home’ on Oct. 15,” says Kelley. “Then ‘Damnationland’ to open the new space. Then, while we’ll keep the same mission we’ve always had to connect Maine filmmakers and their audience, we’re looking to do longer runs, and then to start booking independent theatrical films.”
Despite the myriad details that go into bringing in films from distributors (“A crazy amount of things go into that,” explains Kelley), the new Guthries Independent Theater is planning to become a destination for Mainers looking for arthouse movie fare – alongside Guthries’ usual fare. “Lewiston has a lot to offer,” says Guthrie. “People don’t think so, but they’re surprised when they come. Now they can come downtown, then see a great movie – along with a Guthries burrito and a beer.”
Asked about what advice Maine Microcinema has for any Portlanders looking to get inspired by their example, Kelley says, “You’ve gotta have more than one person. We’ve got a really wide group of people coming in with ideas and pitching in. There’s more will than way when you start out. And read up on distribution – that is quite a challenge.”
Well, if there’s one thing the Maine film scene is good at, it’s finding opportunities in challenges, and Kelley’s excited about the support shown by the Lewiston contingent. “People are really excited about this idea. It’s great that people donated to the Kickstarter, and now they have to come out and buy tickets. But if anyone can make this work, it’s Randy and Heather.”
For Portland filmmakers looking for a place to show their movies, for audiences looking for a new place to see challenging films, and for motivated Portlanders looking to fill our city’s arthouse theater gap – look to Guthries and mainemicrocinema.com.
Maine Microcinema is a pop-up free movie theater that spotlights Maine-made and Maine related movies. Credit WCSH/207
Maine Microcinema is a pop-up art show. Colin and Craig, the founders of the program, have a homemade screen and a projector and host shows at She Doesn’t Like Guthrie’s in Lewiston. All the movies they host are free and have a Maine connection – if they aren’t made in Maine than someone prominent in the crew is from here.
Michael Sargent runs an open mic storytelling program called The Corner. Credit WCSH/207
The Corner is an adaptation of one of humanity’s first defining features: storytelling. Organizer Michael Sargent picks five people to tell a short story – about 5 minutes – based around some theme (i.e. thrill, broken). There are also slots for people who show up to speak.
Heather Letourneau from She Doesn’t Like Guthries shares her recipe for butternut squash and apple soup. Credit WSCH/207
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 ½ pounds of your favorite Maine apples peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1 large butternut squash peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 tbsp of brown sugar or Maine maple syrup
- soup stock of your choice
- Generously coat the bottom of your large soup pot with oil. Add the onions and apples, saute on medium heat.
- Add brown sugar or maple syrup and continue to cook until apples are soft and onions are translucent.
- Add butternut squash and just enough water to cover your ingredients.
- Heat on medium high heat until the squash is tender.
- Add your stock according to your salt preference and directions for the brand of your choice.
- Once your soup is cooked, set it aside to cool before you blend it.
- Blend the soup in batches to your desired consistency.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Written by Daniel Hartill, Staff Writer, Sun Journal
LEWISTON — The owners of She Doesn’t Like Guthries plan to create their own theater.
Randy and Heather Letourneau, who opened their restaurant seven years ago, have knocked out a closet wall in the back of their 115 Middle St. eatery to access to the former Maple Room theater at 22 Park St.
They plan to curtain the windows, erect a screen on the small stage and create a seating and dining area. If all goes well, they plan to begin showing independent movies by early November.
They’re also asking for help.
The Letourneaus have begun a campaign on website Kickstarter to help them raise $7,500. With two weeks left, the site has 43 backers and pledges worth more than $3,200. To see the video pitch, go to guthriestheater.com.
“We’re going to open it one way or another,” Randy Letourneau said. If (Kickstarter) works, I can fast forward. Instead of waiting three years for everything to be really nice, maybe if the community is as excited as we are, we’ll get a needed boost.”
One boost will come from years of experience hosting events in the small restaurant, from movies to live music to storytelling.
“We do so much in this small space that it becomes almost overwhelming,” Randy Letourneau said.
Guthries screened movies for the former Lewiston Auburn Film Festival and continues to host monthly Maine Microcinema screenings. Last September, it also hosted “The Corner,” a series of monthly storytelling events with people giving short, first-person monologues.
Music will remain at the restaurant, Letourneau said. But the new theater will host movies and storytelling and even improvisational comedy.
Colin Kelley, one of Maine Microcinema’s producers, believes the venue could draw new people to the area. Though the community has lots of movie screens with Flagship Cinemas in Lewiston and Auburn, they rarely run the kind of independent movies featured at art-house theaters like Railroad Square in Waterville or Brunswick’s Eveningstar and Frontier cinemas. Currently, Portland has no full-time art-house theater.
“I think having something like Guthries cinema is going to draw people who may have been overlooking the city before,” Kelley said. “And I think they’re going to be surprised at what they find.”
Kelley believes Letourneau’s food offerings — the restaurant plans to offer a theater menu of entrees, appetizers and movie munchies at the theater — will also be a draw.
“Part if it will be eating a delicious burrito and enjoying one of those cold, frothy beverages in that space,” Kelley said.
The atmosphere ought to be familiar to anyone who has spent time at She Doesn’t Like Guthries, Randy Letourneau said.
He doesn’t imagine row upon row of chairs in the theater. Rather, Letourneau plans on a mix of tables and laid-back seating. Visitors to the theater will enter on Park Street — there will be no public connection to the Middle Street restaurant — and pass through a ticket lobby and into the intimate theater space.
Capacity will probably be fewer than 100 seats and tickets will be kept under $10, he said.
“The goal isn’t for ticket sales to generate the revenues,” he said. Proceeds will likely come from the food.
It will give them the flexibility to keep admission prices down and curate the films, he said.
It’s the kind of deal that’s worked in the restaurant, where filmmakers and bands do not get paid from the restaurant. Rather, they pass around the hat after a screening or concert for people wishing to donate. The restaurant also hangs original art on its walls and takes no cut of any sales.
“We’re booked almost a year in advance for music. We’re booked almost a year in advance for art on the wall,” Randy Letourneau said. “We hope it’s going to be like that in the theater.”
Written by: Max Mogensen, Special to the Sun Journal
LEWISTON — Organizers estimated that as many as 1,000 people attended the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival on Saturday, surpassing expectations and encouraging thoughts of future events.
More than 100 films from local, American and international filmmakers were showcased in 13 locations around the Twin Cities, culminating in an awards gala at Fuel restaurant.
The festival screened work in several categories, including short film, feature film, documentary and experimental, at 10 venues.
While hundreds of attendees had bought festival passes ahead of time, by 9 a.m. Saturday morning the festival’s ticket office (Antonio’s New York Deli and Bakery) was crowded with many more trying to get the red bracelets that gave them access to the venues.
“All the bracelets we purchased,” said festival board member Joshua Shea, “Some of which we thought we’d use next year, are gone. My thought is that we’re looking at 800 to 1,000 people.”
Shea, the driving force behind the festival, said he conceived the idea last year and had been working intensely over the last nine months to accomplish it. The project gained momentum in August 2010, when L/A Arts and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network joined Lewiston-Auburn Magazine (published by Shea) to produce the festival.
But, he said, he did not imagine the event would draw in crowds like those that packed venues on Saturday. At She Doesn’t Like Guthries, where experimental films were screened, attendees were lining the walls by noon. At Lewiston Public Library’s Callahan Hall, where documentaries were screened, the organizers struggled to bring in enough chairs. By 2:45 p.m., when the film “There Is My Home: Somali Bantu Farmers” began, there was hardly room to stand.
Fish Bones American Grill, where short films were screened, “was standing-room-only for quite a bit,” said Molly McGill, who handled media relations for the festival. The Hilton Garden Inn, which showed feature films, maintained “a healthy crowd,” she said.
“I’ve lived in this community for 25 years, and I love it, and I feel like there is this enormous potential here,” Jane Costlow of Auburn said during a break between experimental film screenings at She Doesn’t Like Guthries. Costlow said she had been to the festival’s fundraising dinner at the Bates Mill Atrium and had gone to test screenings for some of the films. She had also tried to buy tickets for the awards gala, she said, but they were sold out.
Joyce Morin of Lisbon came to the festival to see only “PAL Hop Days,” Bill Maroldo’s homage to Lewiston’s 1960s music scene. Morin’s brother, Ronny, was in The Royal Knights, one of the local bands featured in the film.
To decide which films to include in the festival, organizers used a “numerical judging system,” factoring in “technical quality, casting and story line” among other characteristics, McGill said. Nominees for a People’s Choice Award, voted on by festival attendees, were chosen in four categories: short film, experimental, feature and documentary.
Twenty-six of the 110 films screened during the festival were from Maine filmmakers, Shea said, while more than a dozen were made by foreign filmmakers. Ehab Morsi, a Syrian filmmaker who had six one-minute films in the festival, flew all the way to Maine to be in attendance.
Taylor McIntosh, an Edward Little High School alum and Keene College film student, had two films in the festival. His experimental film “Motion Picture” won the People’s Choice Award for its category.
“I guess I was trying to show how framing something in a certain way can change your view of it,” he said of the film.
Greg Bergeron of Auburn, whose experimental film “Caterpillar” was shown during the festival, was glad to see how much support the film festival received. “It’s a different community here” than in Boston or New York, he said, and the success of the festival suggested the emergence of a unique artistic community.
Craig Saddlemire of Lewiston won the award for Best in Maine for “The Rehearsal: One Week Before Inspired Voices 2010.” He also showed an experimental film, “Cat Window,” which takes place almost entirely in Lewiston.
“The more people can commit to the community that they’re in, the more diversity we have and the more stories we have to tell,” Saddlemire said.
In general, filmmakers seemed energized by the success of the festival, McGill said. “We want independent filmmakers out there to know that there is that support … to help them keep doing what they’re doing.”
Thirty-five volunteers, including Don Libby of Auburn, helped organize and run the event. Libby, who has worked with Community Little Theatre and the Freeport Community Players, expressed satisfaction with the current artistic climate of the area, though he suggested that more could be done. “Encourage it,” he said, “and maybe we’ll be the next big film festival, like Cannes.”
In the afternoon, before the showing of “PAL Hop Days” at the Franco-American Heritage Center, Shea was thinking about next year.
“We thought it was really important to show that there are so many fantastic local filmmakers doing great work,” he said. “We’re not going to limit ourselves. We have a long-term plan to make this one of Maine’s premier film festivals.”
Awards for People’s Choice:
Documentary: “There Is My Home: Somali Bantu Farmers of Lewiston, Maine” (Amy Brown, New York)
Experimental: “Motion Picture” (Taylor McIntosh, Auburn)
Short: “The Bully” (Jared Kimball, Portland)
Feature: “Scooter McGruder” (Bill McLean, Monmouth)
Best in Show: “The Third Letter” (Grzegorz Jonkajtys, Los Angeles)
Best in Maine: “The Rehearsal: One Week Before Inspired Voices 2010″ (Craig Saddlemire, Lewiston)
Executive Producer Award: Donato Corsetti