When Meghan O’Hara and Mike Attie flew from California to the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) in 2012 with a clip from their documentary-in-progress, “In Country,” they felt like kids at the grown-ups’ table.
“[Harvard professor and filmmaker] Rob Moss was there. And all these luminaries from Tribeca, POV, and Indiewire,” says O’Hara, a Massachusetts native who now lives in San Francisco. She and co-director Attie had come to Maine for the Points North Documentary Film Forum, a two-day program of workshops, panel discussions, networking events, master classes, and a pitch session, all designed to help independent documentary filmmakers connect with industry players and hone their presentation skills. O’Hara and Attie wanted to get feedback for “In Country,” their documentary about Vietnam War re-enactors, many of them veterans who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, who stage elaborate weekend battle re-enactments in Oregon.
“We were working in isolation. This was an opportunity to test it out in front of industry professionals,” says O’Hara. “We didn’t even know if anyone would respond to a film about Caucasian males in the woods with guns.”
They did. “In Country” placed first at the Points North pitch session, where they presented a concept that combined verite footage of the reenactments, profiles of the men who participate in them, and archival film from the Vietnam War. Their intention was to blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy, past and present.
“It’s immersive,” says O’Hara of the finished film, which screens Thursday at the Somerville Theatre as part of the Independent Film Festival Boston. “They’re in the woods for days at a time.”
The Points North pitch session, says O’Hara, provided the filmmakers with a tangible reward: Eric Masunaga from Modulus Studios in Boston offered them a complete sound and color mix after seeing their presentation at CIFF. But it afforded them other benefits, too.
“It transformed the whole trajectory. It was a huge confidence booster,” says O’Hara, who grew up in Townsend and attended Hampshire College before heading west for the Stanford University MFA documentary film program, where she met Attie. “We were able to garner support after Camden from [other prestigious festivals, including] HotDocs, Full Frame, and Sundance.”
The film does not yet have a distributor. After Boston, it will have its international premiere at the HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto.
Ben Fowlie, founder and executive director of CIFF, says “In Country” is exactly why the Points North Documentary Film Forum was launched. “[O’Hara and Attie] were emerging filmmakers, early in the process, and living outside of the hub of the indie doc world,” he explains. “The forum provided a connection to the industry that helped them finish their film.
“We look at the pitch session as training for new filmmakers. For the audience, it lifts the veil off the creative process.”
O’Hara and Attie will attend the 7 p.m. screening of “In Country” on Thursday at the Somerville Theatre. For more information go to www.iffboston.org.
Loren King can be reached at email@example.com .