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Portland filmmaker Maria Allred's debut tantalizes, confounds; it screens at the OMSI Empirical Theater

COURTESY PHOTO - Portland native Maria Allred was quite busy in the making of 'The Texture of Falling,' serving as writer, director, cinematographer and actor. 'It's a work of art for me,' she says. 'It's not for everyone. But, I do feel proud of it.'
As a child and teenager, Portland native Maria Allred never dreamed of being a filmmaker. Even into her 30s, she excelled at being an artist and enjoyed the healing arts and yoga.

Then she discovered filmmaking and the whole process behind it, eventually graduating from Portland State University with an undergraduate degree focused on film in 2012.

"It was not at all my passion and my heart," says Allred, a thirtysomething who'll see her first full-length feature film, "The Texture of Falling," screening at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's Empirical Theater. "I've always been an artist, but I never found the (film) medium.

"When I was a child I wanted to be a visual artist, an actress and a detective. I didn't have the cognitive framework for a director. I did find it late — 2011 — but I was on fire. I couldn't stop; I wanted to make films all the time. Since 2011, I've not put down a camera or left an editing bay. It's my purpose and passion."

Allred made short films that aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting's "Oregon Art Beat" and "Oregon Lens." But bursting into big theaters has been quite a thrill. Portland is the fourth city to host her film, after New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it screened at some festivals.

Oh, and she's not only a writer, director and cinematographer, she's a co-star. "Because of the methodology and content, I had to be in it, because of the film's ambition," she says. "It had to do with me and my artist journey. I had to play the character that was a mentor antagonist. That person is always an enigma, you never understand them, but it's what the film is about in the end."

Behind the camera, she's in control and in charge. In front of the camera, she has to relinquish control. And that dynamic worked in her movie.

Allred hears people compare her film style to Terrence Malick's, as well as David Lynch's in "Mulholland Drive." She calls it symbolic and "surreal" filmmaking, with some — using an art analogy — impressionism, modernism and deconstructionism.

COURTESY PHOTO - 'The Texture of Falling' co-stars Julie Webb among others, and it also features the cityscape of Portland prominently.The description of the film: "In this taut, stylish and multilayered psychological drama, four strangers come together — from the rubble and despair of crumbling marriages, stalled careers and secret desires — to push the boundaries of morality and explore their yearnings without inhibition. But anxieties rise as their chaotic paths collide, and it becomes clear that nothing is what it seems as the lines of reality blur and each of them struggles to grasp where fantasy ends, passion begins ... and how far is too far?"

Allred admits that it might be lost on people. She uses a unique combination of scripted and in-the-moment storyline, "driving where the story takes us."

"If I'm going to be honest, it is too deep (for some people)," she says. "It's a work of art for me. It's not for everyone. But I do feel proud of it."

And it's all filmed in Portland.

It's quite an accomplishment to have your first feature film be screened at bigger theaters. That's not easy to do.

It was a chance encounter that led "Texture" to being screened at the Empirical.

Allred's co-star and co-producer, Damien Genardi, also works as an Uber driver. One night, a customer said they should check out the Empirical. The OMSI folks wanted to support them.

"It's been a great rollout," Allred says. "In New York and Los Angeles, both premiere events were successful and wonderful, with a receptive audience."

She started out with a $24,000 Kickstarter campaign, but the film's budget ballooned to $225,000. She's still trying to raise money.

Allred is from Northeast Portland, and attended grade/middle school in Portland before moving to Vancouver, Washington, at age 14. Falling into "existential depression and a spiritual funk," she left home and hitchhiked around the country, living in the woods "for years."

Once home, she earned a degree from an alternative high school. As a younger adult, she was into healing arts and yoga, but never ventured into filmmaking until she was in her 30s.

What's next? Hopefully something where she can wear one or two hats in filmmaking and not several, she says.

"I have something episodic in mind, based on my experiences on the road," Allred says. "It'll be tied into living in Portland.

"And I want to make it fast. The last one ('Texture') took three or four years. The next one I want to be done in a year."

"The Texture of Falling" screens at OMSI's Empirical Theater, 1945 S.E. Water Ave., June 22-28. For more: www.omsi.edu, www.thetextureoffalling.com.

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