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Wednesday, October 16,2013

Shot in the mitten

Lansing-area filmmakers compete in annual statewide festival

by ALLAN I. ROSS
Michigan will be transformed into the home state of Gotham City and/or Metropolis in the upcoming Batman-vs.-Superman movie scheduled to shoot here next spring. The film will be budgeted at about a quarter of a billion dollars, will bring scores of film industry professionals working in the to the state and will create hundreds of temporary jobs, ranging from on-screen extras to Porta Potty technicians. As far as movies go, you don’t get much bigger than that.

And then you have “On the Open Road,” an intimate 11-minute short about two brothers on a road trip. It was also made in Michigan — in Alma, about 45 minutes north of Lansing — and was completely executed by just three people, including local filmmaker Peter Johnston. And the budget?

“Next to nothing — probably $30 on gas and a few cents for a prop balsa wood airplane,” Johnston said. “I guess we bought lunch for the one crew member.”

Johnston’s film is one of 36 entries in the 5th Annual Made-in-Michigan Film Festival, unspooling this weekend in Frankenmuth. The festival was open to any independent movie exclusively made in the state, ranging from a 3-minute animated comedy to a feature-length drama. Other Lansingarea entrants are Michael McCallum and his 20-minute drama “Slow Burn”; Eric Proctor’s 15-minute documentary, “Small Town America: Looking Grand In Portland Michigan”; and Curtis Matzke’s feature length romantic comedy, “Complex.”

“I think itīs awesome to have festivals where indie filmmakers in Michigan have a chance to get their films shown,” Johnston said. “There are a lot of festivals that show really good work, but they pull it from all over the country. I think the state of filmmaking (here) is pretty good — there are a lot of people doing very interesting work.”

Made-in-Michigan is one of over a dozen such festivals held annually in the state, including Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival and the two locals, East Lansing Film Festival and Capital City Film Festival. McCallum’s film, which was shot entirely in Lansing, received accolades at several film festivals locally and nationally, including Michigan’s Uptown Film Festival, where it got honorable mention for best short film.

“Slow Burn” is the 11th film McCallum directed, but this is the first film for Proctor, who assembled a small team of Lansing-area film professionals for “Small Town.”

“And we got accepted into a film festival,” Proctor said. “Weīre one for one — thatīs pretty encouraging.”

He said the 15-minute piece, which is viewable on YouTube, is actually a pilot for a proposed TV travel series. The project grew out of his involvement with Portland’s Main Street Program.

“The rise in filmmaking technology has leveled the playing field for people trying to get their stories out there,” Proctor said. “You don’t need to have a huge budget anymore to complete a project that looks good and means something. You can now shoot professional-looking films in a small towns using your own equipment.”

Your move, Bruce Wayne.

Made in Michigan Film Festival

6 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 Bronner Performing Arts Center 525 E. Genesee St., Frankenmuth $5 Friday/$7 Saturday/$10 weekend pass. Cash only. madeinmichiganfilmfestival.org

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