‘King O’ Cats’ is cat’s meow

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AUBURN – Leland Faulkner’s screenplay about a dead cat and his feline mourners spent more than a decade in the attic.

“It gathered dust, but it stayed in my mind,” said Faulkner, a performer and filmmaker who lives in Auburn.

In 2003, he dusted it off. Working with a cast of actors willing to be paid only if the film made money, Faulkner began part-time production. He shot for several days in October 2003 and October 2004 and after that worked to complete the editing in his spare time.

“The King O’ Cats” was finally completed a week ago.

The 19-minute movie – shot in Lewiston, Auburn and Otisfield – is scheduled to be shown Monday afternoon at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville.

It will be screened Friday at the New York Independent Film Festival in Manhattan.

On the strength of a rough cut, the movie has already been named the winner of the Waterville festival’s Maine Short Film Competition.

The film is the tale of a gravedigger who falls asleep on the job and wakes to see the funeral for the king of cats.

“It completely freaks him out,” Faulkner said. Then even stranger things happen, said the filmmaker, coyly trying not to give away his ending.

“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” he said.

Faulkner managed to bring several friends to the production. Maine dancer and choreographer Karen Montanaro did the choreography, including working with a troupe of nine ballet dancers in leather cat masks. The leads were played by Nancy Smithner, a New York University theater professor, and Avner Eisenberg, best known for his title role in the “The Jewel of the Nile.”

Faulkner did most of the editing himself, building on a lifetime of skills.

A former owner of the Celebration Barn in Paris, Faulkner graduated with a film degree from California’s Brooks Institute and spent several years working in Hollywood for the TV and film industry. His time was split between features and documentaries. His most high-profile project was a job with animators on the Tom Hanks film, “The Polar Express.”

Faulkner left Hollywood for Maine five years ago to live more cheaply and to re-ignite his performing career.

He currently performs across the United States and Asia in a variety of styles including mime, shadow work and character creation.

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