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Updated: July 22, 2022

Maine Outdoor Film Festival tweaks formula for 2022

Outdoor film screening on the Eastern Promenade of Portland Courtesy / Maine Outdoor Film Festival The Maine Outdoor Film Festival will be held at three venues, including Portland's Eastern Promenade, over the course of three weekends, between July 28 and Aug. 14.

The Maine Outdoor Film Festival, promoted as an annual celebration of adventure, conservation and the arts, used to take place at venues across the state before launching a Portland flagship event in 2020.

The annual gathering raises money for Teens to Trails, a Brunswick-based nonprofit that connects young people to outdoor activities.

With less than a week to go until opening night July 28, Mainebiz caught up with festival director Nick Callanan for a sneak preview and for his assessment of Maine's film industry.

Mainebiz: Why did you shift the venue from a traveling film festival to a Portland flagship a few years ago?
Nick Callanan: Since 2012, MOFF has been bringing films to Mainers where they are. We’ve held over 200 screenings at locations in every county in the state. In 2020, we saw an opportunity to fill a void in Portland by bringing a multiday film festival here. Portland is a perfect location for a film festival centered around outdoor adventure and conservation films.

Nick Callanan Porträt
Courtesy photo
Nick Callanan, a video and media producer at No Umbrella Media in Portland, is the director of the Maine Outdoor Film Festival.

MB: What effect has the pandemic had on the festival and your audience's make-up?
NC: With months of planning to launch our inaugural 2020 Portland flagship event completely disrupted by COVID, you could say the pandemic had a pretty large effect on the festival. Luckily, screening outdoor films at outdoor venues was one thing you could still do, even early in the pandemic. We were able to hold the event in front of small crowds, while monitoring the prevailing CDC guidelines to ensure safety and compliance. We also created a virtual option so folks could watch at home.

MB: What’s your take on the state of Maine’s film industry?
NC: Maine is beautiful, friendly and has so much talent. The state is primed for film and video work. There was a study from UMaine and the Maine Film Association published earlier this year that has data from almost 400 professionals, including freelancers, who are making their living in film or video in Maine, to the tune of over $20 million. And yet, that study only included individuals who responded to a public survey, meaning the economic impact of film, video and media creation is much, much higher than that.

With the Maine brand so strong right now, and with it being the golden age for streaming I think it’s inevitable that we'll see a growth in the number of productions — big, small, doc, narrative, commercial — in Maine in the coming years.

MB: What can Maine do to attract more film makers and productions?
NC: I’d encourage any marketing exec or state agency head who is currently using an out of state video firm to look at a Maine-based firm for their next project or annual contract. There’s a ton of talent here, we know the state, we know the people and most of us check our ego at the door.

For bigger Hollywood-style productions, I know the state has looked at tax incentives in the past, which I think many states have found to be a viable path to attracting more out of state productions, so I’d love to see that work continue. 

MB: What’s the thinking behind the festival's new three-weekend formula?
NC: To show films outside, it has to be dark, meaning you can really only hold one screening per day. Last year we held 12 screenings on 12 straight nights. But our attendees let us know in exit surveys that they’d prefer to not attend weeknight screenings, so this year we moved it to three weekends.

If we grow this year, I could see us going to two weekends next year, while holding simultaneous screenings at two locations. We looked at it this year, but we didn’t have the human power.

MB: Any ticket price adjustments you've had to make this year?
NC: Nope. Still $15 tickets, $110 Gold Passes and BYO Picnic, though many screenings will have food trucks this year. We also added a free public event, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival Field Day, on Aug. 13. 

MB: Who's your main competitor — other film festivals or other forms of outdoor recreation?
NC: I love other Maine film festivals. I plan on attending 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 back country, good for them — maybe we'll catch them on our Selects tour.

If I had to pick our main competition, I'd say Mother Nature — the wind can be brutal, and we've also had to postpone screenings because of rain.

MB: How many attendees are you expecting this year and how much do you hope to raise for Teens to Trails?
NC: We’re hoping for between 1,500 and 2,000 attendees, and that we can raise $4,000 to $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 we’re hoping for a good season so we run it back for Maine again in 2023.

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