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Has camera, will travel

Filmmaker Richard Kane is all over the Maine map, painting moving portraits of
noteworthy artists and the state's natural wonders.

By BOB KEYES, Staff Writer October 11, 2009

SEDGWICK — Richard Kane keeps showing up.
    He was at the Camden International Film Festival one day and an energy conference in Augusta the next. In between, he had a meeting of the Maine Film & Video Association in Rockport. Before that, he was in Portland for the opening of one of his two new films, "Protecting the Nature of Maine." And mixed in there was a date in Bucksport for the opening for his other new film, "Rock Solid: The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium." Among all that, he managed to get some work in.
    
Kane, 58, may be the busiest filmmaker in Maine. He didn't necessarily plan to release two movies at once, but they ended up on parallel tracks. At the same time, he continues to plug away at the ambitious Maine Masters Project, an ongoing series of film portraits about outstanding Maine visual artists. The latest in that series is a film about Stephen Pace, which came out last year. Kane is working on a profile of Beverly Hallam, a York County painter, and a movie about Carlo Pittore also is under way.
    
Meanwhile, he's preparing for his next big movie, a project that will explore Maine's foray in deriving energy from the ocean. Thus his attendance last Tuesday at the energy conference.
    
But even when he's done with one project, he's never really done. On morning last week, he was tweaking a sequence in "Protecting the Nature of Maine" about the 50th anniversary of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The 30-minute film is part of a double-bill of Kane movies Thursday night at the Grand in Ellsworth.
    

"Even though it's premiered, I just made a new version," Kane said, explaining his work on Final Cut Pro, his software of choice. "I noticed a glitch the other night at the Farnsworth."

ARTISTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Since moving to Maine to live full-time in the late 1990s, Kane has developed a niche for making films about artists and the environment, two subjects that concern him deeply. But he put himself in a position to make films he cares about by slogging away on the front lines of movie making and film work for many years.
    
It was during that slogging that he realized he needed a change. Kane was living near Washington, D.C., and working as a sound guy for a national news outlet in the late 1990s. The big story at that time was the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
   
 "I was starting to go brain-dead sitting in front of the Watergate building and waiting for Monica Lewinsky to come out of her apartment," he said.
    
He and his wife Melody decided it was time to move to Maine. They had been summering around Deer Isle since 1990, and Melody, a potter, was increasingly drawn to the quiet life of coastal Maine.
    
They cast aside their D.C. lives and moved to Maine in 1998, building their home a year later on a woodsy lot overlooking the Bagaduce River a few miles from Castine.
    
The first few years were difficult, and even with his success today, Kane finds himself struggling to raise enough money to get films made. He spent two years and raised $15,000 to complete "Rock Solid."
    
He started filming when the first sculpture symposium began at Schoodic in 2007 and completed a five-minute promotional film, which he shopped around to attract funding. As the money trickled in, he completed the film.
    
"It's tough to make a living making a half-hour film for $15,000," Kane said. "But it's something I'd do again and do it over and over again."
    
Kane latched onto the Schoodic project after he heard symposium founder Jesse Salisbury of Steuben talk about it in Ellsworth.
    
He appreciated the passion that Salisbury evoked at the meeting, and decided the project was worth documenting. Kane approached Salisbury with the movie idea. Salisbury was interested, but could offer Kane little more than access.
    
"We just didn't have it in our budget to do anything like that. But he took the initiative to get a grant and start it, and then write another grant and continue on with it," Salisbury said.
    
All the while, Kane juggled the Schoodic project with better-paying commercial work. Salisbury remembers Kane coming and going from the sculpture site at Schoodic as he landed unrelated work in Washington and elsewhere.

LENDING HIS EXPERTISE
Robert Shetterly, president of the Union of Maine Visual Artists, credits Kane with raising the level of the quality of the Maine Masters film series.
    
Shetterly and others with the Union of Maine Visual Artists began the series a decade ago. They wanted to capture interviews and document the work of important Maine artists, but they had limited film experience.
Kane offered that expertise.
    

"He knew a lot more about filmmaking than I did, because I knew nothing," Shetterly said. "But he got an immediate grasp about how to make something like this work. He knew what we were trying to achieve and how to make it happen."
    
In the years since, Kane has taken the project on wholeheartedly. He raises all the money for the movies, and helps promote and distribute them as well. For the Pace movie, his wife wrote a curriculum guide to help Maine educators use the film in the classroom.
    
Kane is proud of all of his work, but holds in high regard his efforts on the Maine Masters project.
The series has become his passion.
    
"It's an important series, and has in every episode real lessons about what it means to be an artist and the importance of the artist relating to nature," Kane said.
    
"These movies work because they are real," he continued. "I think that's the standard for any movie I make. Is it real? Is it authentic? That has to be the standard. It has to hit you in the heart. That's what I'm trying to do with these films, to reach people emotionally."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 207 791-6457 or at: bkeyes@pressherald.com

Copyright 2010 by The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. All rights reserved.

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