Asked about her career since arriving in Maine in 2015, Topsham filmmaker Phoebe Parker takes a moment.
“Let’s see, this year…I’ve done set design for a play, acted in a play, done weddings with another photographer, done video interview style commercials, done wardrobe, been supervisor of the scenario of an advertisement (without any experiment in this field), I create a photo library for the town of Brunswick, I assemble advertisements for the health insurance.
Reflecting for a moment, Parker summed up, “When people ask me what I do, I do a lot.”
Parker is not joking. A peek through his professional website shows Parker’s excellent eye in photography from his many travels and right here in Maine, and his forays into documentary filmmaking, among other professional services. Her first short, “Nat Bell, Logger,” was completed shortly after Parker moved from Los Angeles to Maine, while her second, a short about young girls at a mountain bike camp in the Maine called “Fly Girls”, received an audience award from the Maine Outdoor Film Festival.
As Parker says of his large-scale artistic work, “I think life is really about play, and as an artist, I’m intrigued by so many different things and art forms. Ultimately, it’s all about the experience of being human.
Or, in the case of Parker’s as-yet-untitled Damnationland premiere in October, the experience of being a human-sized mosquito monster facing heartbreak, love, and horror. But let’s go back.
“I grew up in Texarkana, Texas, an environment where getting into the arts wasn’t considered a legitimate career,” Parker said.
Upping the ante for a place where the arts are definitely career material, Parker found herself in Los Angeles at the age of 24, where she, despite a self-proclaimed crippling fear of embarrassment and a lifelong case of “impostor syndrome”, plunged into the professional. acting.
“I was in LA for 12 years,” she said, “and while I wouldn’t say I was very successful, I had fun.”
While traveling to Boston for a Women in Comedy Festival, Parker took a day trip to Portland, and like so many people from far and wide, Maine hooked her. “I thought, ‘Hey, that’s great in Portland!'” recalls Parker, whose decision to move across the country was cemented by proximity to the Portland-based Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Which (temporarily) closed its doors when Parker arrived in 2015.
But Maine has a way of keeping you, and Parker, finding she really loved places with variable winters and weather, held on, eventually graduating from the revitalized Salt Institute in 2017. Meanwhile, Parker found herself inadvertently making her way into the Maine theater scene, via a chance craving for a signature Maine sandwich.
“I met (Portland actor) Matt Delamater (“Tumbledown,” “The Tender Bar”) at Eventide Oyster Company because I really wanted a lobster roll,” Parker laughed, recalling how that encounter chance saw her book her first three Maine acting jobs. “I booked two rooms without auditioning and thought, ‘I like it here! “”, Says Parker, “That would never happen in LA”
But what about that mosquito-man?
“As for Damnationland, they contacted me because – I don’t know.” As Parker recalls, Mackenzie Bartlett and Allen Baldwin (co-producers of the annual All Maine All Weird Short Film Festival) may have known Parker had helped out on another Damnationland film in 2018, but their invitation to be one from the directors of this year’s resurrected post-COVID Damnationland still scared her – which meant she had to accept.
“For me, life is about putting yourself in situations to be brave,” Parker said, “to say, ‘Here’s this opportunity that scares me, which means I should do it. They invite you, and you’re so flattered and honored, but I didn’t think I was going to have time, so I decided to do it anyway. I was absolutely right not to have the time, by the way.
Parker’s contribution to this year’s Damnationland is apparently inspired by another Maine feature – the mosquito. (Listen, if Maine has lobster rolls, it’s gotta balance the good with the bad.) Telling the story of a magic spell gone wrong, a love spell gone terrible, d A vengeful trader and unlikely rom-com-style interspecies love interest, Parker promises his Frankenstein-esque tragicomedy film set in Maine will be every bit as bizarre as this description suggests.
“It wasn’t something I had in mind to write,” she said of her contribution, which is being filmed in preparation for the State Theater premiere of Damnationland on October 27. . “It’s kind of typical of my art in that it’s intuitive and then later on I realize, ‘Oh, that’s what I meant.’ It’s campy, and it’ll look low-budget on purpose, because it’s a ridiculous story.
Maybe (OK, definitely). But Phoebe Parker is enthusiastic about the support and collaboration she has found in Maine’s film (and theater and photography) community since moving here from the entertainment hub of Los Angeles.
“Moving here to Maine, I really think a smaller market is what I needed,” Parker said. “I felt that I could flourish here. I’m still a little fish, but now I’m in a pond, instead of the ocean. Plus, there’s such a community here, that I feel like I was very lucky. I loved LA and feel like who I am because of my experiences there. Yet there is such a vibrant community here and there is so much to do. There is such a spirit of collaboration. People will come up to you and say, “Do you want to come and do this?”, and even if it’s something you’ve never done before, if they decide they like your energy and vision artistic as a person, they’ll give you a chance. None of this would have happened in LA”
As Parker succinctly puts it, “It’s pretty easy to fall in love with Maine.”
Look for Phoebe Parker’s story of insectoid love and loss in this year’s Damnationland. And discover his many other artistic activities at phoebeparkerphotography.com.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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