Award-winning independent film maker and Lansing native Michael McCallum takes on the classic film-noir genre with his latest short film, “Slow Burn,” which premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday at Stober’s Bar in Lansing.
“The idea for the film came from an approach to do a music video,” McCallum said. “A musician in California, Enjae (whose music is in the film), asked us to direct a music video, but instead, it turned into an idea for a short film.”
A co-production of McCallum’s company Rebel Pictures, UnSAFE film office and Vernacular films, “Slow Burn” was written by McCallum and A.E. Griffon. McCallum also directed and stars in the film; his past projects include “Fairview St.,” “Handlebar” and last year’s “Lucky.”
The 20-minute crime drama follows a young girl (Paige Graham) who is forced into prostitution by two local thugs (Dax Spanogle and David G.B. Brown) hoping to use her to pay off their own debts. Meanwhile, her concerned older sister (Kayla DeWitt) is pursued by the ruthless and persistent detective Trembo (McCallum). Desperate to escape the city and the corrupt characters on their backs, the sisters plot to turn the men against each other.
“What I love about noir is that wherever the protagonist goes, fate is always tripping them up,” McCallum said. “The characters are in a hole. The more they try to climb out of it, the deeper they make it.”
Because of its brevity, the film does not focus on the backstory of each character, nor does it dwell on the their motives. It immediately plunges into a world of sex, crime and deceit, leaving much up to the imagination.
“I don’t like when people spoon-feed you the story,” McCallum said. “Personally, I never try to talk down to the audience; I try to speak with them and speak at them. I don’t mind if they don’t get it. Not everything is explained.
“The audience is smart enough to connect the dots, to fill the holes, allowing the action to dictate the story, allowing the characters to lead where we go.”
“Slow Burn” was filmed entirely in Lansing over the course of four days, even though McCallum did not intend for the film to take place here. McCallum said almost all of the film was shot in sequence, which he feels “helps build the character.”
“We do it more so for the characters than anything else,” McCallum added. “I am concerned about every aspect of (the film), but I’m really trying to take care of the actors and the story.”
McCallum is also passionate about showcasing Lansing and supporting local businesses. Locations used in “Slow Burn” include Stober’s Bar, Lansing’s Irish Pub and CB’s Bucket Bar & Grille in Williamston.
“I love doing something that represents the area, promotes local businesses and utilizes what the area has to offer,” McCallum said. “Besides the businesses, I’m blessed to work and collaborate with tons of local musicians, like Sam Corbin, Jen Sygit and Cash O’Riley.”
McCallum will take the opportunity to showcase a local musician, DJ Dr. Sketch, who’ll provide music at the “Slow Burn” premiere.
“Ryan Kramer, who goes by Dr. Sketch, is an awesome DJ who has been so supportive. He was at the early showings at coffeehouses. I thought it would be a great way for Ryan to spin and to reach a new audience. Again, it’s a way for me to support everything locally.”
7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19
812 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing