WATERVILLE — When the box office at Railroad Square Cinema puts tickets for the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) on sale, it’s something of an unofficial start to the annual celebration of the work of independent filmmakers from around the world, according to Shannon Haines, executive director of the Maine Film Center, which presents the annual festival.

“That’s when it starts to feel real,” she said.

The film festival, in its 17th year, runs for 10 days, from July 11 to July 20. The second day of the festival, Saturday, July 12, will see Waterville become something of a center for artistic expression in Maine, as the film festival will team with the Waterville Arts Fest for a day of creativity.

“In our programming of Arts Fest, we really thought a good collaboration is to have film activities correspond to the traditional art activities at Arts Fest,” said Jennifer Olsen, executive director for Waterville Main Street, one of the lead organizers of Arts Fest.

Haines said the film center sees the efforts to associate the International Film Festival with the city’s Arts Fest as a natural collaboration.

“MIFF has a strong audience that comes to Waterville for film, so if they’re here and can experience art on a broader realm, that crossover can naturally happen,” Haines said. “People are excited to have it coincide with MIFF again.”

MIFF is set to begin Friday night with eight films showing, including the opening night ceremony film “Boyhood,” a film shot over 12 years with the same cast, aging like the characters they play.

“The opening night film is pretty spectacular. It’s opening the same night in New York,” Haines said.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Main Street from Temple Street South will be closed off, as more than 50 local and statewide artists line the street to display and sell their work.

“We thought it would maximize the experience for both the Arts Fest audience and the MIFF audience,” Olsen said, “so in between movies they’re seeing they can enjoy this day of art.”

Arts Fest is organized by Waterville Creates!, a newly-established consortium comprised of Common Street Arts, Maine Film Center, Waterville Public Library, Waterville Opera House, Colby College Museum of Art and Waterville Main Street.

Representatives of the organizations began to meet last year to find a way to combine efforts and strengthen the vitality of Waterville, according to Olsen.

“We asked, ‘How can we begin this work and what would make sense to start with?'” Olsen said. “The Arts Fest is the first project Waterville Creates! is working on together.”

Artistic activities are planned throughout Waterville Saturday, including an Outdoor Family Clay Day by Common Street Arts, where the studio will bring the pottery wheels out to Castonguay Park for families to get their hands dirty making pottery, a hands-on woodworking activity sponsored by the Colby College Musuem of Art, which is in part a celebration of Maine artist Bernard Langlais’ exhibit opening at the museum, and the Waterville Opera House will be encouraging improvisation performances also at the park. Stained Glass Express at Railroad Square will be having glass-fired beading demonstrations and mosaic building with local artists. Silver Street Tavern will offer live music throughout the day.

“One of the things we want to do is increase our impact around the arts and really get organized and market that,” Olsen said.

BOX OFFICE OPENS

Some avid filmgoers took advantage of the first day of MIFF ticket sales to be among the first to buy tickets for the film showings.

Oakland residents Nancy and Abbott Meader, who were at Railroad Square Cinema Monday afternoon to take in a film, said they plan to purchase their MIFF passes as they have since the inaugural Maine International Film Festival in 1998

“We were here at the beginning. It was adventuresome for them to take a project like this on,” said Abbott Meader, a former Colby College art professor who has attended the film festival each year since its inception. “It started small. I think when it began they were still projecting 16-millimeter film.”

From its first year, the festival has grown to its current 10-day, 100-film extravaganza, with many of the filmmakers present for their showing.

“We’re known nationally and even a little bit internationally as a festival with outstanding programming,” Haines said. “It’s easier to attract guests now.”

This year, six-time Academy Award nominee and three-time Emmy Award and Tony Award winner Glenn Close will accept the mid-life achievement award, the festival’s annual honor given to Hollywood stalwarts, including John Turturro, Ed Harris, Peter Fonda and its first honoree, Jos Stelling — who received the award when it had a slightly different name, according to Meader who watched the ceremony in 1999.

“When Stelling got his award, he said in a playful way, ‘Well I intend on continuing to make films and I’m not sure if my life achievement is entirely accomplished,'” Meader recalled. “We all laughed and they changed the name of it to the Mid-Life Achievement Award. It was a very funny moment.”

Waterville Creates! Arts Fest is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, while events for MIFF will be happening all weekend long. For a detailed film schedule, go to miff.org.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

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Twitter: @jessescardina