BANGOR, Maine — Despite dabbling in filmmaking since the age of 6 and producing and-or directing several short films over the last 10 years, Jacob Caron had never entered a film in a competition.
Knowing about his love and interest for filmmaking, Tam Caron — one of his aunts — suggested he produce one and enter it in the 35th annual Maine Student Film and Video Festival.
The only problem was the Brewer High School student had just two weeks to create, edit and submit a film by the festival deadline.
“The good news was the festival rules weren’t too limiting. The bad news was I had two weeks to do it and it was the last two weeks of school,” said Caron, who lives in Eddington. “But I thought about it and figured I might as well go for it. No guts, no glory.”
Just over a month later, the 17-year-old senior-to-be is basking in the glory after his short film titled “Freedom of the Press” beat out 29 other entries and won the festival’s grand prize.
“I think there were 29 other film entries. It was kind of overwhelming. When I found out I won, I couldn’t believe it,” Caron said. “I expected someone else with a more dramatic or thematic film to win.”
Caron’s 13-minute film is part “Goodfellas,” part “Untouchables,” part “Stand By Me” and part “Doogie Howser, M.D.” without the M.D. It chronicles the activities of the New England Mafia, run by the youngest organized crime boss in the country, and a young, crusading journalist who has been hired by a local newspaper editor to do an expose on the criminal organization.
“This is by far the longest film I’ve done. The previous longest one was seven or eight minutes,” said the son of Drew and Nancy Caron. “My friends and I put this together in two weeks.”
And they did it under budget. Way under budget.
“My friends acted with payment of a large pizza after the shoot,” Caron said with a laugh. “I think my total expense was about $30 for clothes at Goodwill.”
Caron not only directed the film, he also acted (playing two parts as a TV reporter and the newspaper editor), filmed, cast and handled most of the production work. He even composed his own musical score.
“All the music for this had to be original. I play piano, so that helped me be able to mix a score for the movie,” he said.
Caron, who also is entering his film in the Portland Film Festival student division, did all the musical scoring on deadline day for the film’s submission.
The film was shot at various locations all over Bangor, Brewer and Orono, including his mother’s optometrist office. It was a marathon effort packed into a tight time frame.
“I could barely keep my eyes open in school some days. We were all exhausted,” said Caron. “We had several all-nighters, including the last day before the deadline.”
Caron unintentionally bucked a couple of trends with his movie. He went longer than the suggested 10-minute limit and he elected not to go with a drama filled with imagery, enigma or esoteric, outside-the-box themes.
“I wasn’t really too into that, so I figured I’d make something different, and something they hadn’t seen before,” he said.
At the screening of his film last Saturday, it was apparent many in attendance hadn’t seen this before.
“At the screening, there was a big population of children under the age of 10 because they grouped all the kids’ films together with the older one,” Caron explained. “Once the F-bombs started and the lead pipe [used in an implied mob beating scene] came out, the theater doors started opening and kids started leaving.
“There were a few dirty looks from parents and about half the theater cleared.”
Still, Caron, whose older sister Rachel is majoring in performing arts in college, got high marks from the three judges at the competition and won a two-week scholarship to the Maine Media Workshop to learn from filmmakers, editors and videographers from all over the world earlier this month.
“One of the festival officials said he couldn’t believe this kind of film came from a student,” Caron said. “They liked the cinematography, camera angles and the lighting.”
Not bad for a guy whose school doesn’t even have a film club. That made the workshop an even greater opportunity for someone hoping to major in film study at either the University of Southern California or University of California Los Angeles.
“The whole thing was a really cool experience,” he said. “Even with all the sleep deprivation.”