21 October 2013 | rtomkinse
I want to move to Hillport, Maine!
You can mount a digital camera on an old roller skate and become a filmmaker. That's one of the tips we learn from How to Make Movies at Home. But this is not really a how-to movie. It's the story of a band of young filmmakers still living in the coastal Maine town where they grew up, working in the restaurants and hotels there to support their passion. They spend all their free time filming and then gathering at house parties to screen the films. Along the way it occurs to Jonah (magnetic Elizabeth Lardie), the young woman who is the driving force of the group of guys, to make an instructional video. That's how we learn about framing shots, lighting, sound, camera angle, lenses, and even an incredible five-minute history of film.
The problems start when a big-time Hollywood producer and his crew come to town planning to film a new TV show there. This is not a welcome development. The expense-account executives and the homegrown, guerrilla movie makers get in each other's way at every turn. Eventually they get so tangled up it could undo them all.
According to the movie's website, the basic premise mirrors how writer-director Morgan Nichols and his band of filmmakers ("Like a rock band. Or a band of monkeys.") got their start, making a movie every Saturday. The practice definitely paid off. This is his (their) third independent feature. I haven't seen the others, but this movie is a joy.
The entire cast is so strong that it's hard to believe you can't go to Hillport, Maine, and see the mayor, Henry (Joe Foster, director Nichols's real-life high school English teacher), driving around in his vintage convertible.
I saw this movie at YoFi, the Yonkers (NY) Film Festival, on October 12, and now I want everyone to be able to see it at their local theater. It will make you happy. It's a wonderful valentine to shoestring movie making, a sweet love story about staying true to yourself, and a fun romp with some serious education slyly slipped in. As in real life, we learn the biggest lesson from this movie by example: Budget and big names are not the important things. Have a big heart, a tight crew, and a good story.