Two weeks ago, York native and University of Maine alumnus Kyle Rankin found out that his latest feature film, action thriller “Run Hide Fight,” was accepted into the Venice International Film Festival, the oldest and one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. A pared-down, socially distant version of the festival is set for Sept. 2-12 in Italy.
Rankin, who now lives in Los Angeles, was thrilled to be able to attend the festival, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and planned to go to Italy along with members of the film’s cast and its producers. They are all being allowed to fly to the European Union next month as they qualify for an exception to the present travel ban from the U.S. to the E.U.
There was just one problem: after grabbing his passport, Rankin realized it had just very recently expired.
Unfortunately, Rankin found that nearly all passport offices nationwide are closed, and the ones that are open have a backlog of thousands of passports to process. Passport expedition, normally available for an additional fee, is on hold indefinitely. When he spoke to a professional passport expeditor in L.A., she told him that, essentially, it wasn’t going to happen.
“This is the biggest deal of my career,” said Rankin, whose other films include the Portland-shot “Night of the Living Deb,” and “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” which starred Shia LaBoeuf and was produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. “And I was pretty heartbroken that I wouldn’t be able to go to the premiere.”
After posting the news about “Run Hide Fight” being accepted into the festival, his old college roommate, Patrick Doak, congratulated him and made some recommendations on places to eat in Venice. A lightbulb then went off over Rankin’s head.
“I asked him, ‘Wait a minute, are you still in D.C.?’” Rankin said. “And he works for Angus King. So I asked him if there was any way he could help me with my passport situation.”
Within 24 hours, Rankin was in touch with a caseworker from Sen. Angus King’s office, who immediately got to work. Rankin received his renewed passport on Wednesday, and plans to fly to Italy in early September for the Sept. 10 premiere.
“I feel like someone was really looking out for me,” Rankin said. “I’m really so grateful to Senator King for helping me. This is such a huge moment for me and for my career.”
Rankin said he’s a little nervous about flying given the current state of the pandemic, but said he feels comfortable that he’s going to Italy, given that the country now has among the lowest daily case counts in Europe after it was one of the early epicenters of the pandemic worldwide in March and April.
“The Italian government really wants the festival to happen,” Rankin said. “We’ll all be getting COVID tests before we get on the plane and following all the protocols, of course. Oddly enough, Italy feels like a pretty safe place to be. They’re like New York. They got hit really hard, and they are taking it really, really seriously.”
“Run Hide Fight” is an action thriller about a high school taken hostage by four students intent on carrying out a massacre, and the 17-year-old Zoe Hull (Isabel May of Netflix’s “Alexa & Katie”), who leads her classmates in a tense attempt to survive.
Rankin, who graduated from York High School in 1990, originally had Kennebunk High School in mind as the setting for his film when he wrote it in 2016. Rankin said he tries to shoot his movies in Maine as often as possible — despite pushback from studio executives, who don’t want to fund films made in Maine because of the state’s relative lack of tax incentives for filmmakers — but “Run Hide Fight” was shot in Texas in October 2019.
“[Our film producer] Dallas found this defunct school in this small town in Texas that was completely empty, so we had a window to go in and shoot, and it really looked perfect,” he said. “But I still do always want to shoot my films in Maine whenever I can.”
“Run Hide Fight” does not yet have a release date.
“It’s the best movie I’ve made so far in my career,” Rankin said. “I’m incredibly proud of it.”