Looking back … and forward to the Detroit movie

Sonya Reese, photo by Noah Stephens

“We lost a lot of businesses and homes. [The riots] had a negative impact on the black race.”
– Fiat Chrysler Automobiles employee Sonya Reese

I just finished an incredibly rewarding week volunteering for the Traverse City Film Festival. One of the many films that I did not see is Detroit by Mark Boal & Katherine Bigelow that opens tomorrow (Aug 4). The trailer (below) looks amazing, and Bigelow is still the only woman to win an Oscar for Best Director.

Photographer Noah Stephens has been featured before for his work in the People of Detroit series. He was hired by the film to document the people and landscape as they are 50 years after the Detroit riots of 1967.

The photo shows Fiat Chrysler Automobiles employee Sonya Reese. Sonya and her daughter Ivy were interviewed and photographed in Gordon Playground. The playground was built on the site of the blind pig where the 1967 riot began. The park was remodeled in June 2017. The park is located on the precipice of prosperity. To the east are the mansions of the beautiful Boston-Edison historic district. To the west is the Dexter Bar.

More photos at The People of Detroit: 50 Years Later and see more of Noah’s work (and hire him)at noahstephens.com.

Don’t Skip the Fresh Coast Film Festival!

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Skipping Stones, Lake Superior Presque Isle Park, photo by John McCormick

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, the first-ever Fresh Coast Film Festival takes place next week (October 13-16) in Marquette. It’s a documentary film festival celebrating the outdoor lifestyle, water-rich environment and resilient spirit of the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest. In my article about the festival on Absolute Michigan I made a list of some of the films that were most exciting to me, including the one in the trailer below, Skips Stones for Fudge. It’s the story of competitive stone skippers Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars and Kurt “Mountain Man” Steiner that features the championships at Mackinac Island.

The film is just one of a diverse offering, and the festival will also make the outdoors a part the fun with guided outdoor activities to introduce visitors to the outdoor playground of the Marquette area. Rock climbing, fly fishing, sea kayaking, waterfall hikes and mountain bike rides will be offered as well!

View John’s photo from Presque Isle park in Marquette bigger, see more in his My Favorites slideshow, and definitely follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook!

Detroit’s Grande Ballroom

Jeff Beck Group and Rod Stewart at the Grande Ballroom

Jeff Beck Group and Rod Stewart at the Grande Ballroom, photo courtesy Louder Than Love

The documentary Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story premieres on Detroit Public Television this Friday (Dec 18) at 8 PM. Dan Austin of Historic Detroit has a great look at the history of Detroit’s Grande Ballroom that says (in part):

Designed in 1928 by Charles N. Agree for dance hall entrepreneurs Edward J. Strata and his partner Edward J. Davis, the Grande started off as a place Detroiters would go to dance and listen to jazz and big band sounds, but it would later achieve immortal status in the annals of music history as a rock venue. It is arguably the birthplace of punk and hard-driving rock, where bands like The MC5 and The Stooges cut their chops and became legends.

The building was designed in the Moorish Deco style and contained storefront space on the first floor and on the second a ballroom with Moorish arches featuring a floor on springs that gave dancers the feeling of floating. The dance floor held 1,500 dancers and was one of the largest in the city. Its ground floor had several retail tenants, such as W.T. Grant Department Stores, Beverly’s and a drugstore. The neighborhood was a predominately Jewish enclave in the 1930s and ’40s.

…Russ Gibb, a social studies teacher at Maples Junior High School in Dearborn was a popular local radio DJ at the time. Gibb took a trip out to San Francisco to visit a friend in early 1966 and paid a visit to the storied Fillmore Auditorium and saw The Byrds. When he returned to Detroit, he set out to bring Bill Graham’s Fillmore to the Motor City. He scouted out several locations, including the then-closed, since-demolished Gayety Burlesque theater on Cadillac Square downtown and the ballroom of the Statler Hotel on Grand Circus Park, which also has been razed. He settled on the Grande, which was near the neighborhood he grew up in back in the 1940s and entered a rent-to-buy deal with the Kleinman family.

Read on for the story of how the Grande Ballroom grew through local acts like the MC5 to become the place to play in Detroit in the late 60s, hosting amazing acts including Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, the Yardbirds, The Who, Cream, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat, the Jeff Beck Group, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, the Velvet Underground, Canned Heat, and many more.

Watch the trailer for the movie below and see many more photos of the Grande past & present, on the Louder Than Love website. Also don’t miss their collection of posters for some of the concerts at the Grande Ballroom from artists Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren, and Donnie Dope and be sure to check out the Louder Than Love group on Facebook for many more great photos!

Michigan Movie Moment: Christopher Lloyd, Mickey Matson and the City of Milwaukee

Christopher Lloyd on the City of Milwaukee

Christopher Lloyd on the City of Milwaukee, photo courtesy Mickey Matson/10 West

While Michigan hasn’t become the movie mecca that was envisioned when the state created its film incentive – in large part because it was abruptly gutted – movies are still being made here. Pirate’s Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson, was filmed in Manistee and Muskegon and premiers October 16 at the Grand Rapids Public Museum to kick off their 160th year. If you click that link, you can check out the movie trailer! It’s opening weekend of their new exhibition “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.”

Here’s a production skill showing Christopher Lloyd, one of the film’s stars, on the pilot deck of the SS City of Milwaukee, a car ferry that is now a museum in Manistee that plays a big role in the film.

View the photo bigger and see more and learn more about the movie at the Mickey Matson Facebook page.

PS: Every Friday & Saturday night in October, the City of Milwaukee does a really cool haunted Ghost Ship that’s a blast!

Just Great Movies: the Traverse City Film Festival turns 10

Traverse City Film Festival 2005

2005 Traverse City Film Festival, photo by John Robert Williams

There were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of materials that were donated by the community. It was a miraculous, Herculean feat. So cool to be a part of that. We had three meals a day for 35 to 40 people, donated from area restaurants for six weeks, every single day. And they’d drop it off. That’s how supported this thing was. The air was bristling with excitement for this thing and it was really, really cool. It was really cool to be a part of it.
~first-year volunteer Timothy “The Phantom of the State” Grey

I’ve been helping the Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) with their online media since my offer of assistance to festival co-founder Michael Moore after a film at the State Theatre that first year. The State was where I saw Star Wars, and the theater we all grew up with in Traverse City. It had lain empty for years, but Michael and company led a community effort that got the State open for that first festival and ultimately opened it for real. The transformation that this has wrought on downtown Traverse City can’t be overstated. As one of the most successful theaters of its kind in the nation, the State draws thousands of people downtown for movies every week. They stay to shop & dine and these film patrons are arguably the single greatest factor in Traverse City’s renaissance.

The State is also the home of TCFF which will draw tens of thousands of people to Traverse City for the 10th annual Traverse City Film Festival July 29 – August 3rd and sell over 100,000 tickets to 200+ films. As any TC business owner can attest, it’s a beautiful thing. The Northern Express has a feature this week titled A Traverse City Film Festival Oral History that tells the story of the founding through the memories of the people who were there. Despite the fact that Michael Moore was involved, it’s not a story of politics, but rather of a community working together to realize a dream. Here’s a few highlights:

Co-founder Michael Moore: The lunch began with deciding, ‘Let’s do this.’ And, ‘How are we going to do it?’ And I said, ‘You know, we could start out very small, like really just do it in somebody’s backyard. Or we could do it in a barn. I’m doing it for whatever you guys think we can do.’ By the end of the lunch we all got kind of excited about the possibilities of it all… By the end of it I think we decided that we would try to get like two or three venues — we talked about the Old Town Playhouse; we talked about the Opera House. We brought up the State Theatre but we were told that was not possible … I walked out of there and I was crossing the street, crossing Front Street there by Amical, and I turned and I looked at the State Theatre and I said, ‘Why can’t we use the State Theatre?’ and then I think John said, ‘Well, Rotary owns it now. It’s all closed up and it hasn’t been functioning in years and there’s no real projector there or anything. It’s just an empty building.’

Co-founder Doug Stanton: The defining image for me of the founding of the Traverse City Film Festival is a mason who showed up on his own, without being asked by anyone, to help restore the theater. I wish I could remember his name. His first name was Delbert. He was down on his hands and knees with a toothpick restoring the destroyed tile floor of the State Theatre lobby. He loved the the idea of this new festival so much. That embodied for me the community-driven heart of the whole enterprise. Its founding values to me are not driven by one person at all, but by a community.

Co-founder John Robert Williams: The night that we got the big screw-in fuses and the big push-in fuses from the ‘40s, the night we got through the breakers and made the marquee light up, and only half the neon came on — it’s actually an electrical motor that spins to make those chasers all blink around — we got that thing spinning, and we’re standing out there on a hot, early July night, it was just after the Cherry Festival, we got the lights going on the State Theatre and the cars were honking and people were jumping out of their cars taking pictures. It was like, ‘Oh my God, the lights are on at the State Theatre!’ Because they hadn’t been on in years. That was the pivotal moment for downtown Traverse City.

Williams: Our opening night was a movie called Mad Hot Ballroom. We had this movie about these fifth graders ballroom dancing and learning this in New York City. Mike came up with this little plan… When the credit crawl started rolling at the end of the movie, we were going to switch over to this hot salsa music. We got the approval from the director to switch into some dance music, and so when Michael comes popping up out of the corner at the State Theatre, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, from P.S. 136,’ and he starts naming the kids’ names, and we switch over to the salsa music and here are the cast calls in black background and white type, and these kids come out and dance the winning dance, right in front of the audience. They convulsed. This entire audience came out of their seats as one. I mean the air pressure changed in the room. Whoomp. After Mad Hot Ballroom on that Wednesday night, ticket sales went nuts the next morning because everybody in town was talking to everybody else saying, ‘You can’t believe what these guys did.’

Lots more at the Express with Part 2 coming next week.

View John’s photo from the first TCFF bigger, see his work at his website and definitely check out the Traverse City Film Festival on Flickr for a ton more photos!

PS: Here’s my favorite piece of media we’ve ever created at TCFF, Song to Cinema. It’s well worth your time…

Division: The Movie seeking a little Kickstarter love

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Location Scouting, photo by Division: The Movie

DIVISION is planned to be the first feature-length film entirely filtered through Instagram. The story is inspired by local folklore from Traverse City and the nearby Old Mission Peninsula and begins when a young man embarks on a journey to cure his girlfriend’s writer’s block. Chaos ensues, sending the couple into questioning what is real and what isn’t. The real truth, or at least part of it, has been recorded by the couple and their friends.

As for processing the entire film through the popular photo-sharing site Instagram, Producer Cat Muncey explains their motivation:

Back when the photo app rolled out video capabilities in June, I got the idea to do a feature through it. First, it was unconquered territory and hadn’t been done before. Second, I thought it would be an interesting way to present a character’s story. Most everything people share through social media is self-edited, so you only see what they want you to view. There’s more to everyone’s story than what they are willing to share, and I think the use of social media makes is a compelling element within a suspense movie.

There’s been a lot of interest in the film locally. We are featuring small businesses and their goods throughout the film and focusing on sourcing local talent. It’s been kind of neat running into people around town talking about the project or recognizing me from our Kickstarter or social media. We’ve also gotten some nice media coverage around town and even on digitaltrends.com.

Really, the biggest aim of this project was to create a community experience. We are still looking for additional extras and filling in the blanks with some locations and we would love to have additional support from local people. If anyone is interested, they can find out more at our Facebook page or contact me.

They have just 3 days left to raise $3000 and complete their Kickstarter goal. Head over to Kickstarter to learn more about the project, see their video appeal, learn more about the Instagram processing and help them out!

More Michigan movies on Michigan in Pictures.

 

Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theater in Dearborn

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Ford-Wyoming Drive-in, photo by Gallopping Geezer

When I first saw this pic I thought it was yet another abandoned drive-in, but it turns out that the Ford Drive-in in Dearborn is open nightly with 5 screens! Their website just lists movies, but the Ford Drive-in entry at Cinema Treasures explains:

Opened in 1950, as a single-screener, with a colossal, late Streamline-style screen, the Ford-Wyoming could originally accommodate around 750 cars. It also once advertised a kiddie playground and boat rides for children.

The drive-in was acquired by Wayne Amusements in 1981, and by 1990, and grown to five screens. Another four screens were built during the early-1990’s.

Today, the still-very popular drive-in is the largest in the United States, parking-wise, with space for over 3,000 cars. (The largest drive-in screen-wise is the Thunderbird in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with 13 screens).

The Ford-Wyoming is open year-round, a rarity for drive-ins, and supplies car heaters along with speakers during the winter season.

Screens 6-9 were closed and demolished in May 2010, and in June 2010 it was renamed Ford Drive-In

WaterWinterWonderland has an entry with tons more information and photos  of the Ford-Wyoming Drive-in including some nice aerial views.

Check Gary’s photo out big as a drive-in screen and see more in his Ford-Wyoming slideshow.

More Michigan movie pics on Michigan in Pictures including a feature on another metro Detroit drive-in, the Wayne Drive-in.