Thursday, December 17, 2009


“There have been just a few times in my lifetime when I have felt so inspired and moved by people or an event that I am certain that it will remain with me for the rest of my life ……… AND remind me that anything is possible.”

This is how Carl Lakari, co-founder of Project AWARE, began his speech at the premier of the film “Influenced”.

“The vision of Project AWARE is a community where young people are leaders, and are addressing issues of concern in their lives from their perspective and in their voice…. a place where their voices, thoughts, concerns, and solutions are welcomed and heard… and from that place, youth-led action is taken.”

By the time Carl spoke I had listened to Alyssa McCourt, the 16 year old President of Project AWARE, Megan Hanson, sophomore at Seton Hall University and Project AWARE Summer Film Institute Leader, Josephine Cooper sophomore at Thornton Academy, Co-Creator, Producer, Writer, Director and Lead Actor and 13 year old Aleah Graham,Co-Creator, Producer and lead actor of “Influenced” speak in regard to their experiences with Project AWARE and the making of “Influenced”

Those four intelligent, articulate and driven teenagers let me know why Carl feels that “anything is possible”

The movie is wonderful. It has a professional look and feel because members of the Maine Film Community like Karen True of FiKari Productions and Jim Cole and Aaron Duffy of Gum Spirits Productions volunteered their time. They gave their deep knowledge and skills in mentoring more than one hundred young men and women who will remember the experience forever. The positive energy, working as a group to complete a project and the empowerment of seeing their work impact others gives each of these young men and women a boost of self-esteem that will help them over and over again as they live their lives.

“I have spent years talking and writing to business leaders, legislators, economic development groups and municipalities in regard to the economic and marketing impact that media production does and can have on the State of Maine. I am humbled by the emotional and empowering impact that media production and mentoring have had on everyone involved in the Project AWARE Program

That was the opening paragraph of my brief speech. Joining me onstage was my dear friend and fellow Maine Film Advocate, Barney Martin.

Barney began his portion of the speech by saying, “So how do we ensure that other projects like “Influenced” become a reality? How do we put the film industry on the map as a significant player in Maine’s economy?”

In the case of visual media projects like “Influenced” the answer is not visual media tax incentives.

Part of the answer lies in continuing to develop a sense of community and sharing that groups like The Maine Film and Video Association and The Maine Studios are helping to create.

Part of the answer lies in developing grant programs and helping groups like Project AWARE apply for them.

And part of the answer lies in having a State Funded Film Office that is proactive and involved.

The next “Project AWARE” film will bring together youth from the community of Sanford. James Harmon will lead the project. James is funded at the Sanford high School by the Sanford Safe Schools Healthy Students initiative and he is the advisor and supporter of Sanford students interested in the Sanford movie including kids from his Reconnecting Youth classes and the Sanford Film Club – which he advises. Gum Spirits Productions will take on a leadership role again.

What Project AWARE is creating is a sustainable business model that empowers youth and let’s us all know that “anything is possible”.

Take note Maine Visual Media Industry. We can do this too!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The MFVA, Maine Studios and the 48 Hour Film Project coming together to promote Maine Media production

The next meeting of the Maine Film & Video Association is 5:00PM Saturday, December 5, 2009 at the new Maine Studios, 235 Presumpscot St., Portland, ME, and features screenings of six of the 2009 entries into the 48 Hour Film Project including two of the top three winners with filmmakers presenting.

It is great that these organizations are working together. The Maine Film & Video Association is an established organization that works to bring media professionals together, the Maine Studios is a new and much needed asset to the Maine Media community while the 48 Hour Film Project has created a wonderful sense of excitement and collaboration among Maine filmmakers.

I would encourage all of you to attend this event, exchange ideas and grab some energy to help the Maine film community continue to move forward in 2010.