Reflecting on the Emerge Film Festival

When trying to come up with a location to make a film, Maine is not often the first place you think of. A number of factors contribute to the lack of a film industry in the state, including the weather and Maine’s geographic isolation. Additionally, it is expensive to make films in Maine because the state does not offer very good tax incentives to filmmakers. John Joseph Picchiotti (R-Fairfield) introduced a bill this month that would increase the tax credits and wage caps that filmmakers would receive. However, more than just tax incentives are needed to bolster this industry, and a group of film buffs are trying to create this change.

Emerge Film Festival is a nonprofit corporation in Maine that was founded in 2014. Their purpose is twofold: to host an annual film festival by the same name that showcases independent films that were made locally, nationally, and internationally, and to cultivate a community of filmmakers and viewers in Maine. Their second film festival was held last weekend in Lewiston, and it featured a number of impressive films, several of which were made in Maine. Two feature films, Child of Grace and Bluebird, were among those.  So what does all of this mean for Colby?

Frankly, attending the Emerge Film Festival was one of the most fun things that I have done in my time at Colby, and it is something that I think many people on campus would enjoy. The films were phenomenal and included a broad range of genres. While I didn’t get to see Child of Grace, which won the festival’s People’s Choice Award, I did see Bluebird, which was awarded Best in Festival and was one of the best films I have seen in a long time. It left me with a knot in my stomach, and even a week later I’m wondering about the lives of the characters in the film.

There are many students at Colby who are interested in film,  but there isn’t a very big program for  aspiring  filmmakers. Cinema Studies is only offered as a minor here, so students have to create an independent major if they want to go beyond the coursework offered. Megan Lasher ’15 was one of these students, and she remembers the process of creating a major surrounding film as a challenge. “I not only had to prove that my major was cohesive, but also that film belonged here,” she said. “I had to re-write [the major] a few times to make sure the Committee understood how this major fits in at Colby and why it is necessary.” But it seems that  times are changing and that the demand for film classes is growing at Colby. “I am so confident that there will be an official film major here within five years, and that [Associate Professor of Cinema Studies] Steve Wurtzler’s work on campus will pay off to create a large, passionate film community on campus,” Lasher said. She cites the introduction of classes that focus on the production of films, which weren’t an option for her when she first proposed her major during her sophomore year, as evidence for this.

The directors of the Emerge Film Festival want to work to support aspiring filmmakers in the state of Maine and they are working to provide educational opportunities for student filmmakers. I believe that this is a collaboration that Colby and other colleges in Maine should not overlook. The  board of Emerge Film Festival is entirely volunteer-based and it is incredibly easy to reach out to and get in touch with them. With the festival, they hope to provide a space for filmmakers to showcase their work, and this does not exclude students.

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