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Friday, April 29, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 17


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8/6/2014 2:00:00 PM
Wiscasset Filmmaker Releases New Documentary
Wiscasset filmmaker Sumner McKane's new documentary tells the story of turn-of-the-century photographer Isaac Simpson. (Photo by Isaac W. Simpson)
Wiscasset filmmaker Sumner McKane's new documentary tells the story of turn-of-the-century photographer Isaac Simpson. (Photo by Isaac W. Simpson)

Sumner McKane, a filmmaker, composer, and performer based in Wiscasset, has released a new historical documentary entitled "The Maine Frontier: Through the Lens of Isaac Walton Simpson."

He is also currently booking and presenting a live companion presentation to "The Maine Frontier," which he calls a docu-exhibit, in various venues throughout New England.

"The Maine Frontier: Through the Lens of Isaac Walton Simpson" highlights a collection of over 1,500 scarcely seen photographs taken around the turn-of-the-century by Amity, Maine native Simpson.

Simpson was not only a photographer but also a mechanic, woodsman, blacksmith, carpenter, musician, barber, and father of 13.

"The Maine Frontier" features the exemplary documentary photography of Simpson, and is complimented by archived and current films, interviews of Simpson family members, and a compelling musical soundtrack composed by McKane.

"The Maine Frontier" is a vivid and authentic illustration of northern Maine at the turn of the century and will transport viewers back to the region's pioneering frontier culture.

Simpson, his photographic subjects, his wife Effie, their friends, family, and co-workers exemplify the character and condition prevalent in northern Maine at that time.

Simpson's occupational skills brought him to woods camps and farms in the far reaches of northern Maine.

He witnessed and documented the construction of the Great Northern Paper Company mill in East Millinocket and the hundreds of immigrant laborers who were recruited to work and construct the mills.

He photographed the poor, the wealthy, the accommodations on Shack Hill and Little Italy in Millinocket, lumbermen, river drivers, farmers, and their families.

In trying to earn extra money to support his family of 13 children, Simpson created the quintessential photographic social history of northern Maine at the turn of the century.

McKane's historical documentary films and live multimedia presentations have attracted a diverse audience of history buffs and fans of live music, film, photography, and storytelling.

McKane's live companion presentations to his films employ rare films, photography, oral histories, authentic sound design, and live music. By pairing these various mediums in a live setting, the audience is taken on a virtual journey to a bygone era.

McKane's goal is to effectively bring an audience inside the character's environment and to make an emotional, audible, and visual connection to their stories, surroundings, and lifestyle.

McKane has spent the last three years touring with his docu-exhibit entitled "In the Blood - An Illustration of the Life, History, and Character of the Turn-of-the-Century Maine Lumbermen & River Drivers."

He has presented in over 20 Maine schools, to over 2,000 Maine students, and in community theaters, historical societies, and public venues throughout the state, usually to sellout audiences.

A live presentation of this nature turns a history lesson into an exciting event. For students, it inspires creativity and teaches that history, especially Maine history, actually is "cool." McKane's docu-exhibits are as entertaining as they are educational.

McKane's innovative multimedia work with "The Maine Frontier" and "In the Blood" earned him the 2014 Maine Arts Commission's Media and Performing Arts Fellowship.

In 2012, the Nielsen Ratings ranked the film version of "In the Blood" as one of the most viewed films on Maine Public Broadcasting's Community Film Series. McKane's work has also been featured on National Public Radio.

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