As published in Michigan Movie Magazine
written by Carrie LeZotte
One of Us Films will be hosting a showcase of locally produced short films on April 21 and 25 at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak. The line-up includes the documentary, Regional Roots – the Birth and Evolution of Detroit and Its People, which won Best Detroit Doc at the Ferndale Film Festival, This Year Will be Different, a 48-hour Film Project winner for Best Holiday Film, and the narrative shorts, Felix Graves and Hunting Blind.
As the first documentary to receive the Michigan tax incentive, Regional Roots captures 300-years of Detroit history in 26 minutes. Briefly skimming politics and industry to provide context, the film uses the immigrant experience to explain the roots of Detroit’s cultural and ethnic communities. In addition to moving images from the National Archives, local museum and library collections contributed their photos, images and artifacts to create the historical film. Film footage includes Diego Rivera painting his mural, Detroit Industry, and selections from Detroit News reels that haven’t been seen since theater showings in the 30s.
Short films serve both as a calling card for directors and actors and are most often seen at film festivals. For a film community, they create an opportunity for production crew to move up in a department, from 2nd to 1st Assistant Camera for example, earn days on set for union eligibility and for many, provide an entre to a production career.
While Hunting Blind was able to take advantage of the film incentive and had the budget to pay crew, Production Manager Marty Shea had to tap his Chicago contacts to fill key set positions, because qualified, local crew were already booked on long-term feature projects. Shea lived in Chicago, working between the two markets until the incentive passed and he moved back to Michigan.
He hasn’t been the only Michigan born talent to move back. Assistant Director Patrick Priest, returned to Niles, Michigan, where he grew up, to work in the film industry and earn his days for a union card. Priest’s work on the T.V. show, 24, introduced him to actor Brian Kimmet, originally of Ann Arbor, now based in Los Angeles. Kimmet was flown in to work with the Michigan-based cast for Hunting Blind, including Glenn Dossin and Dennis Janiske.
While Hunting Blind was budgeted around $100,000 and employed forty people throughout all phases of the production, the One of Us Films Showcase will also feature Felix Graves, made on a shoe-string budget with volunteers and donated equipment. Keith Jefferies co-directed and shot the film with co-director and writer Jeff Meyers.
Jefferies, who owns Ann Arbor-based Ascalon Films, worked on five short projects and the feature Naked Angel in 2009, “I said I’d never do another short again but having the film incentive really helped us. It’s raising the level of everyone. Even if it’s not an incentive project your working on, the smaller budget films are training new crew.”
Jefferies also shot This Year Will be Different as part of the 48-Hour Film Project, where filmmakers compete to see who can make the best short film in 48 hours. Lauren Thompson produced the short, which used over a dozen non-union actors, many performing on screen for the first time.
The one-hour One of Us Films Showcase will follow LUNAFEST, a touring festival of films for, by and about women. The LUNAFEST program includes the premiere screening of locally produced Best Girlfriends, written and directed by Barbara Troy.
Tickets for the One of Us Films Showcase are $10. Lunafest tickets are $15 for the 2-hour program. You can purchase a combo ticket for both screenings for $20. For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit www.oneofusfilms.org/screenings
One of Us Films Showcase, April 21st at 8:00 and April 25th at 6:00
Lunafest, April 21st at 6:00 and April 25th at 8:00
Main Art Theater, 18 North Main Street, Royal Oak, MI 48067