Twelve years ago, director and Michigan native Michael Moore was interested in establishing a new kind of film festival—one far away from the glitz of Hollywood that focused on a simple goal: to show great movies.
In the years that followed, the festival continued to grow. Since 2009, U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Art's (LSA) Department of Screen Arts & Cultures has forged a relationship with the festival, serving both as a sponsor and supporting partner in many ways.
The 2016 festival, which will be held July 26–31, will feature faculty-taught workshops, short films by screenwriting students and a documentary by an alumna. U-M interns will assist with the events.
"The partnership formed between the Traverse City Film Festival and the University of Michigan Screenwriting program in 2009 has grown into something very unique and very special," said Jim Burnstein, the Russell Fraser Collegiate Lecturer in Screen Arts & Cultures and director of its Screenwriting Program.
"In return for the privilege of premiering our student films, the Screenwriting Program sends our distinguished studies and production professors from the Department of Screens Arts and Cultures to the festival to serve as moderators for audience discussions and to teach seminars in the TCFF Film School," Burnstein said.
U-M students collaborate across campus to present short films on the big screen
Two short films were selected from screenplays written by LSA students in last fall's Screenwriting 423 course, then produced by cross-campus teams during the winter semester.
"Our association with the festival has helped transform the 423 course into a true university-wide collaboration, bringing together two of our top screenwriters with a team of Screen Arts' most advanced production students, including directors, cinematographers, editors, and producers along with actors from both theatre and musical theater; art, sound and costume designers from the College of Art & Design; composers from the School of Music; producers from the Ross School of Business; and public relations and marketing students from the Department of Communications," Burnstein said.
This year's films are "Present Day," about a recovering alcoholic, directed by Ryan McDonough and written by Carly Keyes, and "The Dejects," about a student rejected from her dream college, written by Danielle Jacobson and directed by Claudia Fuentes.
The U-M student shorts will be shown at noon July 28 at the Old Town Playhouse.
Alumna Aviva Kempner showcases latest documentary
Aviva Kempner is a documentary filmmaker and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Her movies often center on the untold stories of Jewish Americans, such as her 1998 documentary "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg."
This year, Kempner, a U-M alum, will be in attendance for the festival's two screenings of her latest film, "Rosenwald," about the career and philanthropy of Julius Rosenwald, who dedicated much of his life's earnings to building schools for African American children in the Jim Crow south.
Kempner's film will show at Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum at 9 a.m. July 29 and 3 p.m. July 30 at Bijou by the Bay.
LSA faculty to share insights and advice on screenwriting, acting
As part of the TCFF's Film School series, members of LSA's faculty will impart expertise to budding filmmakers and interested festival-goers.
Burnstein will advise festival attendees on how to turn their ideas for screenplays into fully-fledged scripts. Drawing on his own experience penning feature films like "Renaissance Man" (1994) and "Love and Honor" (2013), Burnstein will offer his advice for budding writers at the Pitch Session on July 27 at noon at Scholars Hall at Northwestern Michigan College.
Additionally, Robert Rayher, a lecturer in Screen Arts and Cultures, will team up with casting director and actor Pamela Guest to present a workshop on acting for the camera. Their class will help participants find ways to bring the technical, external director's perspective together with the actor's inner storytelling. It will occur at noon on July 29 at Scholars Hall.
U-M interns are at the heart of the festival operations
Nine U-M interns from LSA have been working tirelessly in Traverse City since early June to ensure the festival's success. The festival has hosted a number of U-M interns in the past few years. These interns lend a hand in almost every area of the festival, from organizing, to ticketing, to even promotions.
"I compare the box office to setting up and running a small business for the summer," said Joseph Murray, a 2015 U-M graduate who has interned at the festival since high school. "It pushed me to develop my leadership and problem-solving skills in a fast-paced atmosphere. It also encouraged me to look into sustainable business as a possible area of interest."