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Wednesday, November 30,2011

Twenty1 is a lucky number for Griffin and McCallum

Filmmakers host a screening of their collaborations

by Mary C. Cusack

Filmmakers A.E. Griffin and Michael McCallum may be the
hardest working men in Michigan show business. It’s impossible to count
how many productions they have worked on, both independently and
collectively, because they don’t stop working long enough to draft a
proper curriculum vitae.


The pair has organized a fund- and awareness-raising
event at the Michigan Brewing Co. in downtown Lansing on Sunday.
Audiences will see five short pieces from Griffin’s body of work, most
of which feature McCallum in lead roles. A sixth piece by another
member of their film posse, Justin Muschong, will be included in the
mix.  


The event will support McCallum’s Rebel Pictures and
Griffin’s UnSAFE Film Office’s continued entries into national and
international film festivals as well as film projects in the works.


The event could be considered a premiere, according to McCallum.


“We’re excited about this because all of those films
haven’t played together,” he said, nor have they been screened publicly
in the Lansing area.


The films were created for an annual
event called the 21 Day Filmmaking Competition, sponsored by the
Philadelphia nonprofit Project Twenty1. Filmmakers have 21 days to
create a short film that contains elements specified by the organizers.


Griffin has participated in the competition for the past
five years. He said the challenge of making a high-quality short film
in 21 days intrigued him: “For me, it meant accepting the challenge to
tell a strong story; one with an emotional impact in less than 10
minutes.”


But while he has enjoyed participating, 2011 marked Griffin’s final year in the competition.


“I feel I’ve accomplished all I wanted to do with a
10-minute film in this style of competition,” he explained. To avoid
overstaying his welcome and risk falling into a creative rut, Griffin
said he “decided that it was time to retire from it when I was
confident we could leave on our terms and on a high note.”


A quick look at the films, along with the number of awards they have won at various film festivals:


“Red Seven” (best acting winner at the 2007 Project Twenty1 competition; also nominated for best film, best directing, best marketing):  An intense crime caper that is less about the caper and more about the relationships between the trio of would-be criminals.


“Playback” (Grace Anne Rowan won
as best actress winner in a short film at Detroit Independent Film
Festival in 2010; nominated for best acting and best editing at Project
Twenty1 in 2008): Grace Anne Rowan deserves her win as best actress for
this dark and slightly disturbing piece. While the audience is never
quite sure what has happened, we know through an audio tape narrative
and flashy flashbacks that something bad indeed has occurred.


“Tumbler: The Boom” (best writing winner at
Project Twenty1 in 2009): A film by Chris Kapcia and Griffin/McCallum
collaborator Justin Muschong, this imaginative short features a
voice-over that tells a fairy tale of New York, while the visuals
reveal the sad truth of scam artist Spencer’s attempt to make it big in
the Big Apple.


“Tumbler: The Echo” (best score winner at Project
Twenty1 in 2009, and honorable mention for best film at Detroit
Independent Film Festival in 2011): Griffin’s piece is a sideways
sequel to “Tumbler: The Boom” and also a cinematographic love letter to
the Chicago skyline.  Wayne,
who was Spencer’s unseen partner in crime in “Boom,” returns to Chicago
and attempts to patch things up with Michelle, the woman he left at the
altar. The story is told from Michelle’s point of view, but reality is
steeped in ambiguity.


“All of the Highs, None of the Lows”
(best acting winner at Project Twenty1 in 2010; nominated for best
actress (Shirley Clemens) and best supporting actress (Brittany
Risner), best original score, best soundtrack, best director, best
cinematography at the Maverick Movie Awards in 2010; nominated for best
actress (Shirley Clemens) at Detroit Independent Film Festival in 2011):  This film could also be called “Days of Vodka and Roses,” as a couple struggles with the husband’s alcoholism.  The
drama is juxtaposed with scenes of a pretty girl flirting over the
phone with her boyfriend while traipsing the sunny city streets. It is
a bit predictable that when the two stories collide, it can’t end well.


“The Girl with the Blue Eyes” (best director
winner and audience choice winner at Project Twenty1 in 2011; also
nominated for best film, best marketing, best sound design and best
editing): The screening ends with a bang with this action-packed piece,
a slick, abridged hybrid of “La Femme Nikita” and Hong Kong action
flicks such as “Naked Killer.”


‘Project Twenty1’


7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4


Michigan Brewing Co.


402 S. Washington Ave., Lansing


$5 cover includes live music


(517) 977-1349

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