2013-08-08 / Life in Leelanau

Leelanau jumps feet first into film fests

By Patti Brandt Of The Enterprise staff


A YOUNG BOY dreams about becoming a jazz musician in a short film shown as part of the inaugural Young Michigan Filmmakers Festival held Monday at the Old Art Building in Leland. A YOUNG BOY dreams about becoming a jazz musician in a short film shown as part of the inaugural Young Michigan Filmmakers Festival held Monday at the Old Art Building in Leland. For those who regularly bypass the movie with five copies on the local video store shelf in favor of the one- or two-copy indie film, the Sleeping Bear Film Festival may be just the ticket.

Not out to compete with bigger film festivals held elsewhere — like the Traverse City Film Festival — the Leelanau County version will feature vintage gems not even seen on the Turner Classic Movie station, as well as family favorites and new films from relatively unknown directors.

The inaugural Sleeping Bear Film Festival begins at 9 p.m. Saturday in the outdoor venue at Studio Stage on Lake Street in Glen Arbor. Admission is free. In case of rain, movie-goers should call Lake Street Studios at 334- 3179 for an alternate location.


DAN LISUK, left, president of the Leelanau Community Cultural Center, peruses the concession stand Tuesday at the W.T. Best Theater in the Old Art Building. Also shown are Linda Broughton, assistant director of the LCCC, intern Elliot Allen and board secretary Jill McFarlane. DAN LISUK, left, president of the Leelanau Community Cultural Center, peruses the concession stand Tuesday at the W.T. Best Theater in the Old Art Building. Also shown are Linda Broughton, assistant director of the LCCC, intern Elliot Allen and board secretary Jill McFarlane. This week viewers will be treated to a series of short films entitled “Moving from the Museum.” The series of 17 films, which is under 60 minutes long, was the end product of the Many Voices Project, which joined a cross section of the Ann Arbor community including students, artists, musicians and community leaders. They attended a series of workshops and production sessions at which they were taught the skills to make a short film. Each film is inspired by a piece at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and each is under four minutes long. Filmmakers ranged in age from 14 to 59.

Another new event, the Young Michigan Filmmakers Festival was held this week at the new W.T. Best Theater, located in the Old Art Building in Leland. Movie buffs were treated to 17 films ranging in length from 49 seconds to 58 minutes long, all of which were created by high school and college students around the state.

“This is our first film festival and we hope it is successful and will lead to an annual event,” said Judy Livingston, director of the Leelanau Community Cultural Center.

More than 40 films were submitted, and seven jurors honed the list down to 17 that were shown during the fourhour festival. Most were about five minutes long, Livingston said.

The festival, as well as several movies that have been shown since spring — including Oscar winners “Argo” and “Life of Pi” — showcases the $30,000 in new equipment that was installed to create movie-viewing capabilities. The equipment was funded by community donations and by Rotary Charities of Traverse City, Livingston said.

“This is all just trying it out and seeing what our audience wants,” Livingston said.

Movies have attracted anywhere from about 20 to about 60 people, she said, and there was nearly a full house for Monday’s event.

Harry Fried, who owns Studio Stage and is director of the event, said he plans to show movies about four times per year. Films will be for all ages and will encompass all genres, he said. In addition to obscure family films, movie lovers can expect to see early talkies, new or emerging films from unknown filmmakers, and, of course, silent films, sometimes with a live band to accompany them.

“These are films that you wouldn’t get a chance to view anywhere else,” Fried said. “Many people are unaware of how cool silent movies are.”

Fried, who has been in charge of the Manitou Music Festival for the last 10 years, is originally from Ann Arbor, where he was heavily involved with the film festival there. Because of that involvement he knows all kinds of filmmakers, which kind of spurred the film festival, he said.

He also has been showing films on and off at Studio Stage for several years. One of those movies he has shown is “The Mascot,” which is the earliest feature length stop-motion film ever made. Stop-motion is an animation technique in which an object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames to create the illusion of movement. A silent, Fried hired a live band to play along with the movie. The band can interpret the movie and play whatever music it wants, something Fried said audiences loved.

“They were speechless. It’s just amazing,” he said, adding that the term ‘silent movie’ may be a misnomer.

“They weren’t silent at all. They just weren’t talking.”

People should value old movies for the same reason they value antiques or like old art and read old books, he said.

“One of the cool things about silent movies is that they are old,” said Fried, though at the time they were made they were considered a contemporary development. “The people that made these movies in the 1920s were as modern then as we are today.”

So is there enough interest in movies for the new film festivals popping up around the county?

Board vice president Tom McConnell thinks so.

“Real film lovers can’t see enough films,” he said.

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