SOUTH PORTLAND — Amanda Lagrange was struggling to come up with an idea for her project in her advanced audio and video production class at Southern Maine Community Center.

The Edward Little High School graduate found inspiration in what she calls a “weird dream.”

The result is the 15-minute short film, “Mama’s Favorite,” one of seven student films that will be featured next month at the Mayhem Film Festival in Portland, Bridgton and Bangor.

“It’s a short, supernatural horror story about three siblings who have to band together to try to figure out the mystery of their mother’s disappearance,” Lagrange said.

Lagrange wrote, directed and edited the film, using seven local actors from Maine’s growing film scene.

The entire project took nearly six months, with the first semester focusing on preproduction areas like writing the script, location scouting, casting and fundraising. The filming, editing and other postproduction work followed during the second semester, culminating with a finished film and its premier at the upcoming May festival.

The Mayhem Film Festival began five years ago when one of the students in Corey Norman’s advanced film class at SMCC believed the program needed to screen the finished movies in a local theater. 

When both screenings at the Nickelodeon Cinema in Portland sold out that first year, a festival was born.

Norman, the director of “Hanover House,” has watched in amazement as the quality and substance of his students’ films reach a new level each year.

“Every year, the films get better and better,” Norman said. “In the students’ first year, they see the Mayhem films and get inspired for their own films. It turns into a friendly rivalry.”

Inspired by last year’s festival, Lagrange worked throughout the summer to come up with an idea for her second-year project. Nothing excited her until one night when she was asleep.

“I had a really weird dream where I was running down this hallway looking for someone,” Lagrange said. “I then woke up in the middle of the night and wrote a short paragraph, not really thinking about it. It just kind of grew from there.

“The film kind of changed a lot since then because it’s not quite related anymore, but it gave me the jump start that I needed.”

While Lagrange thought she had struggled to come up with a topic, Norman praised her for her early preparations.

“She came in here and knew exactly what she wanted. She had an idea right from Day 1,” Norman said. “She’s a very effective producer and her film is very polished.”

The films rarely start out so polished. Lagrange said she had the technical know how, but she had to overcome the self doubt that sets in when she was responsible for all of the decisions that needed to be made during filmmaking.

Learning to trust herself — trusting her opinions and trusting her judgment — was the hardest part of the process, but Lagrange also called it the best part of the experience.

“In the end, it’s 100 percent yours,” she said. “That’s a great thing to realize.”

Norman loves seeing that kind of growth in all of his film students.

“It blows my mind,” he said. “It’s like I’m looking at a different student when May comes around.”

The Mayhem Film Festival begins Tuesday, May 5, at the Nickelodeon Cinema in Portland. Additional screenings of the seven films will be held Thursday, May 7, at the Magic Lantern in Bridgton and Friday, May 8, at Central Gallery in Bangor.

Norman said they are hoping to have a fourth screening, perhaps in June, at Guthries Independent Theater in Lewiston.


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