Photo via filmfreeway.com

The first-ever University of Maine Documentary Film Festival took place on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Donald P. Corbett Business building. The festival featured documentaries centered around life in Maine and required that these documentaries were filmed in Maine with filmmakers who live in or hail from Maine.

The event was a success largely in part to Kelsey Gallant, a third-year studio art and psychology student.

“This event kind of fell into my lap. I work for the University Conferences and Institutes as a part-time work-study position. The festival is something we got a grant for before I was hired, but ironically enough I had recently begun to develop an interest in film. When they found out I was an art major, they asked me to take the lead on organizing this event,” Gallant said.

Gallant started out by emailing the submission flyers to every high school and college in Maine that she could get contacts for, as well as hanging up physical flyers around campus.

“We also used​ FilmFreeway​, which is a great medium where you can create a festival event and people from all over can submit their films,” Gallant said. “We ended up getting over 600 submissions, although most didn’t meet the specific criteria. We had a handful that did, and from those, we selected our finalists.”

There were a total of 11 films, both short and full length, chosen to be shown at the festival on Saturday. Three were from high school students, six from college students and the remaining two were by professional filmmakers in Maine.

The winner of the high school age category was Ian Dow, a senior from Winthrop, Maine. He was awarded a $200 gift card to the University Bookstore. His documentary, “Ingrained: A Craftsman’s Story,” featured local Winthrop wood-worker Todd Park.

“I was tasked by my film teacher to make a documentary that I could submit to film festivals in Maine. Todd Park is one of the teachers at Winthrop high school and I’ve known him for a long time, so I thought he’d be a great subject for a film,” Dow said.

Although filmmakers of all levels are encouraged to submit their work, Dow’s equipment and experience made his documentary stick out among the other entries.

“Last year I invested in a Canon 70D and that’s really served me well. I use a 50mm with 1.8 lense for my close up shots, which worked great in this particular film to show the details of Todd’s work. I also use a slider a lot, which is a nice tool to make the shots look more professional,” Dow said.

“With [“Ingrained: A Craftman’s Story], I wanted to get more professional with the audio, shots and editing and advance my filmmaking in that respect,” Dow said. “In the future, I want to go to [the University of Maine] for mechanical engineering, but I plan on keeping my passion going.”

Dow’s winning submission wasn’t his first documentary. For the past three years, Dow has been producing videos at his high school, submitting another documentary “Can-Am Crown Dog,” in the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, which he completed during his sophomore year. This first piece placed in the top 10. 

The festival also had an intermission, where a variety of complimentary refreshments were served to break up the viewing. The afternoon films were created by college and independent filmmakers. Topics varied from growing up on a farm in Pownal to the history of the annual Margaretta Days Festival in Machias. The diversity in style and approach made for an entertaining viewing experience.

The event was a unique opportunity to learn about the hard work and passions of people whose livelihoods make the state of Maine what it is. The University Conferences and Institutes hopes to continue hosting an annual film festival for creative minds of all ages.