The Maine Outdoor Film Festival, promoted as an annual celebration of adventure, conservation and the arts, used to be held at locations across the state before becoming a flagship event in Portland in 2020.
The annual gathering raises money for Teens to Trails, a Braunschweig-based nonprofit that connects young people with outdoor activities.
With less than a week to go until opening night on July 28, Mainebiz caught up with festival director Nick Callanan for a preview and his take on Maine’s film industry.
Mainebiz: Why did you move the venue from a traveling film festival to a flagship in Portland a few years ago?
Nick Callanan: Since 2012, MOFF has been bringing films to Mainers, where they are. We have held over 200 demonstrations at locations in every county in the state. In 2020, we saw an opportunity to fill a void in Portland by hosting a multi-day film festival here. Portland is a perfect location for a film festival that focuses on outdoor adventure and conservation films.
Nick Callanan, a video and media producer at No Umbrella Media in Portland, is the director of the Maine Outdoor Film Festival.
MB: How has the pandemic affected the festival and the make-up of your audience?
NC: With months of planning for the launch of our first flagship 2020 event in Portland completely disrupted by COVID, you could say the pandemic has had a pretty big impact on the festival. Luckily, screening outdoor films at outdoor venues was one thing you could still do even when the pandemic started. We were able to hold the event in front of small crowds while still monitoring applicable CDC guidelines to ensure safety and compliance. We also created a virtual option for people to watch at home.
MB: How do you rate the state of Maine’s film industry?
NC: Maine is beautiful, friendly and has so much talent. The state is equipped for film and video work. A study released earlier this year by UMaine and the Maine Film Association includes data from nearly 400 professionals, including freelancers, who make over $20 million in film or video for a living in Maine. And yet, this study only included people who took part in a public survey, meaning the economic impact of film, video, and media creation is much, much higher.
Because the Maine brand is so strong right now and it’s the golden age of streaming, I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see a growth in the number of productions in Maine in the future – big, small, doctoral, narrative, commercial Years.
MB: What can Maine do to attract more filmmakers and productions?
NC: I would encourage any marketing director or state agency director currently hiring an out-of-state video company to look into a Maine-based company for their next project or annual contract. There’s a lot of talent here, we know the state, we know the people and most of us check egos at the door.
I know the state has historically looked for tax incentives for larger Hollywood-style productions, which I think many states have found to be a viable way to attract more out-of-state productions, so I’d like to see that work continue .
MB: What is behind the festival’s new three-weekend formula?
NC: In order to show films outside, it has to be dark, so you can really only do one screening a day. Last year we held 12 shows over 12 consecutive nights. But our attendees let us know in final surveys that they preferred not to attend the midweek screenings, so this year we’ve moved them to three weekends.
As we grow this year, I would imagine next year we’ll go on two weekends and have shows in two locations at the same time. We looked at it this year, but we didn’t have the human power.
MB: Any ticket price adjustments you had to make this year?
NC: Nope. Still $15 tickets, $110 gold passes, and BYO picnics, although many shows will have food trucks this year. We’ve also added a free public event, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival Field Day, on August 13th.
MB: Who is your main competition – other film festivals or other forms of outdoor recreation?
NC: I love other film festivals in Maine. I plan to attend the Maine International Film Festival and the Camden International Film Festival this year. And if people miss the Maine Outdoor Film Festival because they’re out in the backcountry, good for them – maybe we’ll catch them on our Selects tour.
If I had to pick our main competition I would say Mother Nature – the wind can be brutal and we have also had to postpone shows due to rain.
MB: How many participants do you expect this year and how much do you hope to raise for Teens to Trails?
NC: We’re hoping for 1,500-2,000 attendees and raising $4,000-$5,000 for Teens to Trails.
MB: When do you start planning next year’s festival?
NC: We already are. It’s pretty much an 18 month cycle so let’s hope for a good season so let’s run it again for Maine in 2023.