2014-04-04 / Community

South Portland filmmaker finds way around snag

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

Kenn Gonneville and Corey Norman on the set for filming of “The Hanover House.” (Courtesy of “The Hanover House”) Kenn Gonneville and Corey Norman on the set for filming of “The Hanover House.” (Courtesy of “The Hanover House”) SACO – A South Portland filmmaker is organizing a new film festival at the Saco Drive-In that he hopes will become an annual event.

Corey Norman, 33, directed and cowrote “The Hanover House,” which was scheduled to debut this week at the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival. However, the Lewiston festival was canceled after its founder, Joshua Shea, was arrested March 20 for possession of child pornography.

“The Hanover House” is a film about a man named Robert Foster who has been estranged from his father. Foster hits a little girl with his car after attending his father’s funeral.

Seeking help, he goes to a nearby house, where his dead father answers the door and Foster is forced to face his inner demons. Norman said the film costs approximately $20,000 to produce over a two-year period.

To secure a new premier date for the film, Norman contacted Ry Russell, general manager of the Saco Drive-In, to schedule a showing. Norman also invited several other horror filmmakers whose works had been slated to premier in Lewiston. On Friday, May 9 and Saturday, May 10, “The Hanover House” and “How to Kill a Zombie,” directed by Tiffany McLean, of Monmouth, will premier at an event now being called “Dead at the Drive-In.”

Norman said he didn’t know Shea very well, but his arrest negatively affected 49 filmmakers, all of the festival’s ticket-holders and the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.

“It’s unfortunate that so many people were punished because of one man’s mistake, or one man’s transgression,” Norman said. “It really was a devastating blow.”

Despite the cancellation, Norman said he has become accustomed to taking a bad situation and making something better of it.

“Every piece of this film has been left up to serendipity,” Norman said. “Every time we were faced with something that looked very bad – whether it be pipes bursting in the house or the festival being canceled – we tried to stay positive. And every time, something better comes along.”

Norman said Russell “really stepped up to our aid and wanted to see the festival saved.”

Since all the films scheduled to be screened in Lewiston couldn’t be included at the Saco event, Norman reached out to the other horror filmmakers so they could all benefit from premiering their films together. Norman said “Dead at the Drive-In” could become the first annual horror film festival in the area. Two short films will also be shown – “Natal,” directed by Norman and “Say Goodbye,” directed by Shawn McGrath of Lewiston. “Say Goodbye” will premier at the event; “Natal” premiered last year at the “Damnationland” horror film festival in Portland.

Kenn Gonneville, director of photography for “The Hanover House,” developed a passion for photography and film while taking a class with Dan Roberge at Biddeford High School.

“To this day, the tools I learned in that class I use all the time,” Gonneville said.

Now 32 years old, Gonneville lives in Saco and works at Ray’s Truck Service. Gonneville said his employers have been supportive of his filmmaking and have allowed him to take time off to shoot films for a week or two.

Gonneville met Norman at Southern Maine Community College, where Norman teaches film and is chairman of the school’s communications and media department. Norman said most of the crew for his production company, Bonfire Films, are former students or alumni from the college’s film program.

“We have a really strong bond,” Norman said. “I trained a lot of these guys.”

Gonneville works with the director of films on framing shots and producing the visual style for a film.

“(Gonneville) is a team leader and right-hand man,” Norman said. “He’s been working on this film with us for the last two years.”

Gonneville said he thought about working in the film industry for a living, but found he enjoyed working on creative projects more than commercial films.

“I love doing it, I love having a creative outlet,” Gonneville said. “I thought I wanted to do it for a living, making commercial videos, but it wasn’t as fun as doing these kind of projects. I like filming and framing and being creative as opposed to doing it as a job.”

Gonneville said he remembers his parents taking him to the drive-in when he was a child. The venue is a good fit for the films, he said, and will allow more people to attend, as the drive-in has room for 500 vehicles to park at any one screening.

“I think Biddeford and Saco is a really good place for this,” Gonneville said. “In Portland, you get a decent turnout, but there’s so much else going on. But Biddeford-Saco is a really good place for it because it’s not so inundated.”

Gonneville said while Portland has a good indie film scene, it’s only a matter of time before similar events are a regular occurrence in Biddeford and Saco. The explosion of video content online at sites like YouTube and Vimeo have made films more accessible to audiences, and more people are producing films of their own.

Norman said he hopes “Dead at the Drive-In” will be the first of many film festivals to take place in the area. He said he is excited about the event because the drive-in was an important part of his childhood.

“To take our film and screen it there is a very fantastic opportunity,” Norman said. “I’m so looking forward to it. It’s great when something crazy happens but then something awesome springs out of it.”

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‘Dead at the Drive-In’

For more information about Dead at the Drive-In, visit the websites of “The Hanover House” and the Saco Drive- In: thehanoverhousefilm.com and thesacodrivein.com.

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