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.