MONMOUTH — Bill McLean is rolling now.

The opportunities, the potential, the “what-ifs” have been building to a crescendo.

“I’m pretty excited,” he says, describing the buzz that his movie, “Scooter McGruder,” is already creating.

“McGruder,” the first feature-length film from McLean’s movie company, Freight Train Films, will make its debut today at the inaugural L/A Film Festival.

The movie is one of five feature-length films to be nominated for a festival People’s Choice award.

McLean said he has been energized since “McGruder” received its final touches earlier this year. But getting the call from festival organizers that his film was up for a People’s Choice put McLean into a whole new stratosphere.

“I could have lifted a truck,” he said. “My wife still can’t believe they nominated us.”

The story of the making of “Scooter McGruder,” like many good movies, begins with a man who finally decides to chase after his dream.

McLean, 43, acted in his first film 21 years ago and became a full-time actor three years ago. McLean has dozens of films to his credit and has worked with some of the biggest names going, including Mel Gibson, Blair Underwood and Ray Winstone.

“I’ve wanted to make a film company for about five years,” McLean said.

He finally took the plunge two years ago at the urging of a friend, Vanessa Novak, who would go on to play McGruder’s love interest in Freight Train Films’ first movie.

Freight Train Films was born in McLean’s home in Monmouth.

“McGruder,” a romantic comedy McLean wrote in 2008 using free script-writing software he downloaded off the Internet, was filmed in 2009, edited in 2010 and then sent out to be professionally mastered for sound. The movie came back in January and has been on something of a fast track since.

There were about 5,000 movies made across the world in 2009, McLean said. About 123 of those will be screened by a distributor. About 60 of those will be sold and distributed.

“We have four guaranteed screenings,” McLean said, holding up four fingers for emphasis.

McLean submitted McGruder to the L/A Film Festival just hoping it would be screened so McLean could gauge a live audience’s reaction.

Festival organizer Molly McGill said the festival received about 200 submissions from around the world. About half of those will be shown during the festival, which will be held today at venues across the Twin Cities.

A selection committee watched every submission and gave each a grade, McGill said. The scores were tallied and the films with the top five scores in each of five categories –short film, feature-length film, documentaries and experimental — were nominated for a People’s Choice award.

“In general, watching the Maine films was a delight,” McGill said. “We measure up quite well to (movie makers) in the rest of the world.”

McLean’s five children each have a part in the film, which was co-directed and co-edited by McLean’s wife, Tiffany McLean.

“Believe it or not, I found a way to sneak in all my children,” Bill McLean said.

But this is not just a family affair.

McLean said he hired an experienced crew and then went to work finding experienced actors.

To guard against hurt feelings, McLean created a five-person panel to hold casting calls and pick the best talent available — not necessarily those who had a connection with McLean.

About 100 people showed up, about 90 of whom came armed with a head shot and a resumé.

Novak’s star shined particularly bright, McLean said.

“This is her first lead role,” he said. “Her character had to be funny, sexy, likable, tomboyish all at the same time. I can’t say enough good about her.”

Those who see the movie will see familiar faces — including Novak, of Gardiner — and plenty of familiar locations, including the Gardiner Common.

Turning the movie over to his wife and co-director Jeff Sullivan proved to be easier than McLean imagined.

Sullivan understood McLean’s sense of humor and always managed to bring a new and interesting angle to the scene, McLean said.

“I was terrified,” McLean said. “He understood. He got where I was coming from. Everything on the film went off without a hitch.”

“McGruder” is the story of Scott McGruder, a 40-year-old hapless handyman trying to put his life together by winning over the woman he loves and dealing with those who will not leave him alone.

“McGruder” is a composite personalities that include McLean, a friend, “and a little bit of a surfer dude.”

McLean has tested the script and it never failed to draw at least a chuckle, he said, particularly among women.

“They’d smile every time,” he said.

McLean said he wanted to make “McGruder” to show the depth of talent here in Maine.

“I wanted to show people that Maine film makers can do something other than zombie films and slasher films,” McLean said. “If you’re 5 or 95, you will laugh. That’s a guarantee.”

McLean has six other scripts for Freight Train Films to shoot over the next several years.

He’s hoping “McGruder” will make a big dent in putting the company and the movies it makes on the map.

“I hope I can sell ‘Scooter’,” McLean said. “My biggest thing is to sell it and get it distributed. I want to make people laugh across the world.”

“Scooter McGruder” is set to makes its debut today during the L/A Film Festival, 1:05 p.m., at the Hilton Garden Inn, 14 Great Falls Plaza in Lewiston.

For more information log onto www.lafilmfestival.org.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

 

 


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