Traverse City Film Festival Recap

Who Will Be the Next Generation of Storytellers? Spartans Will.

My name is Katie Dudlets, and I am one of ComArtSci’s interns, which means that I am responsible for telling the stories of the faculty, staff and students of our college. Last week, I had the opportunity to cover the Traverse City Film Festival and experience all of the amazing creative work that Michigan State University and ComArtSci had to offer. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, let me fill you in on what you missed.

Stay With Me,” the psychological thriller produced as a part of the Theater2Film program, was premiered in front of a packed house on Wednesday. The film was completely sold out, and audience members were jostling for seats. Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky few that wasn’t able to see the feature due to the lack of available seating, but I heard the film was spectacular. I became part of the set-up crew for the after party, which was an awesome way to celebrate the film’s cast and crew. Karl Gude and Dean Prabu David toasted to the students’ extraordinary efforts in storytelling, from the musical score to the cinematography, from the acting to the final editing. Students mingled and laughed together, happy to celebrate the final product with their fellow filmmakers and family members.

Later that night, The Woz hosted its opening party at Hotel Indigo. Techno music played over the crowd as they strapped into virtual reality headgear and were transported to another world. Gamers young and old crowded around the mobile video games along the wall as spirited teams of five dueled it out around a wooden barrel, fingers flying over controllers as one group of pirates tried to dominate the other. Groups of two or three held their arms out to keep the animated Sparty from falling and clapped to make him jump over obstacles. Yes, they looked ridiculous. The Woz was a spectacular showcase of what can happen when brilliant minds bring together innovation, imagination and skill. It was a fantastic gaming experience for all who attended.

On Thursday morning, our artist-in-residence Timothy Busfield debuted “Tenure,” a 25-minute short produced by students as a part of his “The Television Pilot” class. The episode was well-received by the audience for its authenticity in showing a woman’s struggle to balance her love life and a successful career. It was featured as a part of the “All The World’s a Stage” shorts and Busfield answered questions about his experience following the showing. Every heart in that auditorium melted a little when he spoke about his wife, Melissa Gilbert, who was the leading actress in the film. “I love working with her,” said Busfield. “She’s my favorite actress. She’s my favorite person.”

Friday was another big day for ComArtSci. The morning started off with an illustration of true journalism as the collection of short films, “Inside Flint,” provided the audience with a look into the lives, struggles and frustrations of the people living in the Mid-Michigan city. I sat in the theater listening to the incredulous laughter and outraged snorts and shouts from the crowd as they reacted to the sad truths on the screen. You really couldn’t help but see the true significance and power of journalism in that moment - if it weren’t for the incredible journalism of people like Curt Guyette, it’s possible that the water crisis would still be an unknown. The spoken word piece “Hard to Swallow,” by Flint’s own hip-hop artist Mama Sol, was part of the “Faces of Flint” series that aired on WKAR and was created by producers in collaboration with MSU School of Journalism faculty and students. It was a much-needed piece of art in the mostly hard-hitting series of shorts. Mama Sol managed to eloquently put into words the pain and anger the city had experienced, and had us all wanting to do more to help.

Later that afternoon, MSU students once again had the spotlight. In similar fashion to the feature film just days earlier, there was a completely packed house for the collection of documentary and fiction films made entirely by students. What struck me most was the way in which these individuals had managed to depict not only raw emotion and hard-to-describe concepts, but also their ability to tackle difficult issues like bipolar disorder and the Line 5 oil pipeline conflict.

The World is Beautiful” brought us on Charlie’s journey of discovery through incredible moving sketches and a quirky voiceover. “Creativity: A Gut Reaction” breathed life into a poem on the thrills of creativity and the ache of losing it. The short thriller “Amorphous,” inspired by the stories of the author H.P. Lovecraft, unnerved the audience as an unfortunate hypnotist gets more than he bargains for in a motel room with a disturbed young woman and her brother. On The Way Up gave us an intimate view of a relationship complicated by mental health issues and an attempted suicide and made viewers question what they would do in Sophia’s shoes.

And finally, “Immiscible: The Fight Over Line 5” lit the room with tension as we learned of the environmental threat lurking under the Straits of Mackinac. This threat is known as Line 5, the 64-year-old Enbridge oil pipeline with the potential to damage Michigan’s over $22 billion water tourism industry. Each of the short films had a unique story and had the audience’s attention from the opening scene of the first film to the credits of the last.

The creative work displayed from Michigan State at the Traverse City Film Festival made me not only proud to be a Spartan, but also insanely excited about what we are doing here at ComArtSci. We are truly producing the next generation of storytellers.

By Kaitlin Dudlets