Dylan Howard is very excited about movies. Whether he’s writing them, filming them, watching them or talking excitedly about them — or all four — his passion for filmmaking is evident as soon as you start talking with him. So much so that in order to express his enthusiasm, and to do something for the small Maine coastal communities that he loves, he created the Image Gazer Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday, June 16.
Over the course of four days, the IGFF, now in its second year, will screen 11 professional films and a number of short films by high school and college students at four Hancock County locations. They include Stonington Opera House on Thursday, Blue Hill Town Hall on Friday, Alamo Theatre in Bucksport on Saturday and The Grand in Ellsworth on Sunday.
“It’s my way of giving back to the communities that I love, and to have that film festival experience come to Down East Maine, which doesn’t have a film festival,” said Howard, 21, who lives in Brooksville. “And to shine a spotlight on these beautiful theaters that we have.”
Of the 11 major films that will be shown at the festival, three were filmed in Maine. “Will Barnett: Tracing the Soul of the Work,” directed by Dale Schierholt, about the Maine painter and printmaker, and “Protecting the Nature of Maine,” a film by Richard Kane about efforts to protect Maine’s wilderness, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, on Thursday, June 16, at Stonington Opera House.
“Flash Phenomenon,” a documentary by Ricky Leighton and Justine Conte, is about the many steel drum bands that have come out of the Blue Hill area over the last few decades, and will have its world premiere at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 17, on an outdoor screen at Blue Hill Town Hall.
“The festival is about both showing off Maine films and bringing in other films to complement them,” said Howard. “We are having it as a kind of touring festival so that people can visit all these communities in the area.”
Other films include a special screening of the critically acclaimed Sundance Film Festival favorite “Moon” at noon at Alamo Theatre at 85 Main St. in Bucksport. “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward,” the third film in a series by director Peter Joseph that focuses on reforming the global economy and the social structures that go along with it, will be shown at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, June 18, also at the Alamo. There also will be musical performances throughout the four days, including music from singer-songwriters Dan Chase and Nick Travis and the Atlantic Clarion Steel Band.
At 6 p.m. Sunday at The Grand, 165 Main St. in Ellsworth, the festival will conclude with a screening of Howard’s own film, “Sculpting Peace,” a profile of Rhode Island-based artist Mimi Sammis, who explores ideas of peace and unity through her sculpture, which has been commissioned by the United Nations and for Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. Awards for the various categories in the festival, including student films and documentaries, will be given out after Howard’s screening.
Howard may only be 21 years old, but he already has nearly a decade of film experience under his belt. Though he was born in Blue Hill, he spent his early grade school years in Providence, R.I. When he was 10 years old, he got to meet Jim Carrey on the set of the movie “Me, Myself & Irene,” which was filmed in Providence. From that moment on, he was hooked.
“That really kind of sealed the deal for me. I started acting and writing stories and learning about movies,” said Howard. “I started doing filmmaking workshops all over the place and just learning, learning, learning. I love everything about movies. I love being on set, I love using the camera. It’s an invigorating process.”
Howard and his family moved back to Maine in time for him to go to high school, and he graduated from George Stevens Academy in 2008. Since then, he has surrounded himself with people from the community that are knowledgeable about all areas of the arts, from Bill Raiten, artistic director of New Surry Theatre, to Linda Nelson, executive director of Opera House Arts in Stonington. He has directed commercials and videos for area organizations and businesses, and he has formed the Image Gazer Collective, a group of like-minded Hancock County graphic designers, filmmakers and photographers, to work together to bring interesting creative events to the area.
If this year’s event is a success, Howard hopes to further increase the IGFF’s reach by holding screenings in other parts of Maine and New England. Additional festival events for this year are Saturday, July 2, at Camden Opera House; Saturday, July 24, at Colonial Theatre in Belfast; Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 10 and 11, at Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor; Saturday, Aug. 27, at Hammond Hall in Winter Harbor as part of Schoodic Arts for All; and at Avon Theatre in Providence, R.I., in September.
For a full schedule of Image Gazer Film Festival screenings and events, visit dylanhowardfilmlife.me. Four-day passes for the festival are $30 and individual days are $15. Tickets can be purchased at the box offices of all four venues.