WATERVILLE — Every year at the Maine International Film Festival, an accomplished movie star gets honored with the Mid-Life Achievement Award.

However, unlike other ceremonial awards, the receiver doesn’t walk away with another gold statue or emblazoned plaque.

They’re in Maine, so they get a moose.

Artist Laurel McLeod has designed the award for the last 12 years, and its been awarded to such stars as Terrence Malick, John Turturro and Ed Harris.

“They all seem to like the award, compared to a gold statue,” McLeod said Monday, minutes before actor Keith Carradine walked away with her latest incarnation of the award.

Each moose is decorated specifically for the winner. In years past, McLeod has bought a moose and decorated it to fit the theme of an honoree’s memorable character. This year, however, McLeod went the extra step, making the moose from scratch, modeling it after Carradine’s breakout performance in “Nashville.”

The moose’s head is made of papier mache and the other parts are made of odds and ends. For example, the microphone is part of a screw.

“This one was a little more involved,” McLeod said. “I got sick of what I had to choose from. I wanted the moose to be unique and just like his character. (Carradine) was really fit in that movie.”

McLeod said she’s been an artist all her life and was approached by her daughter, Festival Director Shannon Haines, to design the award after the awards of the first couple of years had little originality.

“The awards weren’t particularly special,” McLeod said. “One that I remember from when I was a volunteer at the festival, we gave away a stuffed moose. Shannon said to me, ‘Would you like to give it a shot?’ I said I’d love to.”

Since MIFF’s mascot is a moose, the choice for the award was easy. What McLeod focuses on now is how to make the award better.

“I try to improve it each year,” she said, adding that’s why she made Carradine’s from scratch.

Over the last 12 years, McLeod has had the chance to converse and hang out with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

“It’s always fun to meet them and just see their personalities,” she said. “Most of them are just like us.”

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]

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