PORTLAND, Maine — If you love spectacular, silver screen superhero blowouts, heavyweight art films with Oscar-worthy acting performances or thoughtful filmmaking of any kind, stay away from this particular night at the movies.
It’s not the film festival for you.
However, if short, trashy films devoid of most redeeming qualities are your jam, step right up and get in line.
The Shit in the Dirt film fest is what you’ve been hankering for.
This festival honors a do-it-yourself — even if it sucks — ethos of filmmaking, where bad storytelling, low budgets and questionable production values are celebrated.
The one-night extravaganza of terrible short dramas, comedies, documentaries and other films too strange to categorize gets underway at the Apohadion Theater on Hanover Street in Portland at 7 p.m. Friday.
Advanced tickets are advisable. The show is likely to sell out.
Stephen Bennett and Maverick Keegan founded the amateur-only, guerrilla movie gala. The pair met as film students at the University of Southern Maine and have curated 31 short films for the third installment of their occasional event, culled from thousands submitted from all over the planet.
We sat down with Bennett and Keegan to find out more about their unique film festival.
BDN: First off, how did your festival get its name, the one I’m not sure I can print?
Bennett: We made a bunch of films together in college and most of the films were pretty shitty, in general. One time, I was showing one of my films to the class, and the professor asked me to name the genre, and I said it was “shit in the dirt” in the sense of, like, there’s so much amateurishness in it — it’s shaky handheld camera, over the top acting, all that kind of stuff.
BDN: Now, that feels like a genre that needs its own film festival?
Bennett: Yes. I think it’s easy to write these kinds of films off. Like, oh it’s just a bad film. But there are films that are so terrible, they’re good. One side of the spectrum is films that are so low budget, you think, wow, that’s pretty good for such a low budget. Then there are films that are just so bad, they’re great — like, I can’t stop watching it because it’s so bad.
Keegan: This is about people who aren’t looking to get any money out of it. It’s about people, all around the world, just doing it just for the sake of creating these films. We’re just trying to give them a platform. When you make a film with your friends for fun that should be celebrated.
Bennett: There are so many folks who are really talented at video production in the technical sense. But when it comes to telling a story, there’s nothing there, or it’s the same three stories over and over again.
Keegan: We like seeing what people are able to imagine.
Bennett: It’s running and gunning, not, “let’s take five hours to set up lights and shoot 30 seconds worth of content.”
BDN: How many submissions did you get?
Bennett: We got about 3,050.
BDN: How the heck did you watch them all?
Bennett: We used a judging pool of about 10 friends — or victims, you could call them.
BDN: How long are most of these films?
Bennett: Most of the films that we selected are in the ballpark of three to four minutes. There’s a handful of one minute ones, too.
BDN: Is this festival appropriate for all ages?
Bennett: No. It’s not for kids. But we do keep out anything transphobic or anti-gay — any of that kind of stuff. There’s nothing racist.
BDN: Any violence?
Bennett: Plenty of violence, plenty of graphic violence. Yeah, car chases, car crashes. There’s even a paper mache car chase.
BDN: Drug use?
Bennett: There’s definitely some drug use. People make a lot of films about weed.
Keegan: No nudity this time, though.
BDN: Are you giving out awards, like most film festivals do?
Bennett: Yes, lots. For best over-the-top performance, for the best DIY spirit. Stuff like that.
Keegan: We have some of the more traditional categories like best actor, actress, best ensemble, too.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.