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Local News / Entertainment

Wednesday, 16 March, 2011 2:10 AM

Amy S. Weber named Michigan Independent Filmmaker of the Year at 2nd Annual MI Film Awards

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Director Amy S. Weber poses for a photo with her Michigan Independent Filmmaker of the Year Award.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

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BIRMINGHAM, Mich. -- The 2nd Annual Michigan Film Awards celebrated movies made in Michigan. The award ceremony was produced by the Detroit Independent Film Festival (DIFF) in association with the Uptown Film Festival. It took place on Saturday evening inside theatre 11 at the Uptown Palladium 12 in Birmingham, Mich. Answer This! and Sleeping Bear won most of the awards. However, Amy S. Weber was honored as Michigan Independent Filmmaker of the Year for the film she directed, Annabelle & Bear.

"It is such an honor to be honored, I was shocked when Robert called my name," Weber said. "It was exhilarating, exciting. I was very proud to represent Annabelle & Bear and my cast and crew who worked so hard. It's kind of a father-daughter story. What happens in the film is little Annabelle, she's two years old. She gets dropped off on the doorstep, almost literally, by her strung out mother at the doorstep of a father who she never met. He's a biker, rebellious, kind of loner type. It's a story about their journey together and the love that grows between them and how they heal each other."

Answer This! won for Best Michigan Feature, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Sleeping Bear took home awards for Best Michigan Short Film, Best Editing and Best Experimental Film. Bullies on Vacation won for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay. The complete list of honorees is below.

"It's a sci-fi, alien horror film, it;s really exciting," said Stacy Jorgensen, producer and actor in Grey Skies. "Seven friends go away to a cabin in the woods in the weekend. One by one they start disappearing and coming back changed. The entire film was shot on location in Michigan, just a little bit north of Clare. It was fast and furious, 18 days. This is actually our eighth festival. We've had a really good run starting with Shriekfest, which we won the Audience Choice Award. We started being sold internationally. We just sold in Thailand and we're closing another deal. We're in talks for a few companies for domestic."

Screenings took place at the Burton Theatre, RenCen 4, Uptown Birmingham 8 and the Uptown Palladium 12 theaters. It was the first time that DIFF collaborated with the Uptown Film Festival.

"It was a story that we kicked around for a few years," said Shane Hagedorn, co-writer, co-producer and co-star of the film, Handlebar. "Michael and another talented screenwriter from New York called Justin Muschong had developed a brief outline of a story. It took a few years and finally we go, we want to do these characters. Me and him sat down, we penned the script and before we knew it, we were on set. It was shot in Lansing and East Lansing. I've written a few feature films that I've yet to produce. I'm in pre-production for movie called Road To Eden, hopefully shoot that this fall."

Some of the other big premieres during the festival include eCupid, Love is A Thieves Game, Kill the Irishman, Things Fall Apart, Demoted, Lucky and Guns, Drugs & Dirty Money.

"We're also here promoting Lucky, which is my third feature film as a writer-director," said Michael McCallum "It made its world premiere here at the Detroit Independent Film Festival last night. We had roughly 60 some folks here to see it. We're really happy for that turnout. We're in rough pre-production. Mr A. E. Griffin and myself are co-writing my fourth feature film as writer-director called Buffalo. That is a drama that my father, William C. McCallum, who also had a role in Handlebar and the award-winning Fairview St., will be the lead character in that movie."

Many of the films shown during the film festival were shot entirely within the state of Michigan.

"I run the screenwriting program at the University of Michigan," said Jim Burnstein. "Emery King is the Chairman of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council and I'm the vice chair. Emery came up with the idea of doing a joint project between Wayne State, Michigan State and U of M. This is a historic collaboration. Students from all three schools came together to make a short film, roughly a half of an hour called Appleville, that will premiere at the Detroit Institute of Arts on March 30. You should all come and see the red carpet premiere. It will be great."

The Michigan film tax incentives were also discussed

Currently, our state is offering the highest tax incentives for filmmakers in the nation. Michigan offers up to a 42 percent tax incentive for filmmakers who make their movies in the state.

"The minimum spend is $50,000," said Carrie Jones, the new director of the Michigan Film Office. "The governor has made his decision on what he'd like to see for allocation so the rest of those pieces will just kind of come out. I don't want to comment on that. We're pretty clear on what requirements productions need to receive the incentive. We haven't had too much of people not understanding the rules up front. So far in 2011, we've had five projects wrapped so far. We've had 136 projects wrapped since the incentive. We're working with the governor to find out what funding we have for this year. He put together a budget proposal on how he'd like to see the spending for 2012, 2013. "

If a filmmaker uses crew or actors from another state, that production will get a 30 percent incentive. If the entire cast and crew is from Michigan, the movie will get a 40 percent incentive. In 136 core communities, the production can receive a 42 percent incentive, which comes back as a check to the filmmaker about a year after the production has wrapped.

"I'm all for keeping it, it's quite a shock to everybody here to suddenly have their livelihoods taken away from them," Burnstein added. "Twenty-five million dollar cap will not work, it will not sustain this industry. The industry, film, television, video game people have to come together. We've got to come up with a viable package that the legislature and the governor will agree to. Otherwise, it's game set and match, over for Michigan. I think there's definitely room for rolling back the percentage a little, even substantially as long as we're competitive with Louisiana and Georgia. The numbers you're saying, 35-30, that's the general ballpark."

Gov. Snyder introduced a plan in February that would cut the incentives to only $25 million per year to save the state some money. However, that would only be enough for a handful of movies. Many films that were going to be shot in Michigan have left for other states such as Louisiana.

"I'm in Michigan because one of my films, Demoted is premiering and it's good to see my family," said Warren Zide, producer of films such as American Pie and The Final Destination."It's essentially about two guys who get demoted to be secretaries, assistants, however you want to describe it, and the hell that they're put through. They realize what it's like to really be that. All of the American Pie films were done in California. We just made it look like Michigan. They worked out great. We're going to shoot another one, maybe, you know, come back here."

When asked if he would still film in Michigan if the incentive is lowered, Zide responded: "Absolutely. Yep. It's great crews."

The future of the film incentive is in the hand of legislators in Lansing. They will eventually vote on either lowering the incentive or capping it at $25 million or keeping it the same. Then, it will either get signed or vetoed by the governor. The process will start over if it is vetoed.

"As financiers, we're not receiving scripts just directly from the screenwriters," said Dale Johnson, a managing partner at ITS Capital. "We need to be working with someone like Warren that's actually working on packaging the product. We often say we're financiers to the business, we're not in the business. What we would do is sit down with Warren and look at the overall project. Obviously, the script is one of the most important elements. Then, we want to look at what's the team around that. Who are the producers? Do they have proven track record of delivering commercially successful product?"

For more information on the Detroit Independent Film Festival or the Michigan Film Awards, visit www.detroitiff.com. Visit their official Facebook page.

 

Additional winners of the 2nd Annual Michigan Film Awards

Feature films

Best Michigan Feature: Answer This! (produced by Mike Farah and Anna Wenger)
Best Director: Christopher Farah (Answer This!)
Best Actor: Christopher Gorham (Answer This!)
Best Actress: Arielle Kebbel (Answer This!)
Best Supporting Actor: Jason Waugh (Love is a Thieves Game)
Best Supporting Actress: Grace Anne Rowan (Lucky)
Best Screenplay: Christopher Farah (Answer This!)
Best Cinematography: Christian Sprenger (Answer This!)
Best Editing: Wendy Nomiyama (Answer This!)
Best Original Score: Kevin DiKempe (Bilal's Stand)
Best Documentary: Not As I Pictured It (directed by John Kaplan)

 

Short films

Best Michigan Short Film: Sleeping Bear (produced by Jack Cronin)
Best Director: Alexander Slain (The Lost and Found Shop)
Best Actor: Mark Kelly (Bullies on Vacation)
Best Actress: Rachel Clare Higgins (Playing House)
Best Supporting Actor: Brian Vander Ark (Bullies on Vacation)
Best Supporting Actress: Alana Jo Beckman (The Lost and Found Shop)
Best Screenplay: Brian Vander Ark (Bullies on Vacation)
Best Cinematography: Jacob Mendel (Zlata Rybka, The Goldfish)
Best Original Score: David Bateman (World of Art)
Best Editing: Jack Cronin (Sleeping Bear)
Best Art Direction: Mike Allore and Jaime Peralta (World of Art)
Best Experimental Film: Sleeping Bear (directed by Jack Cronin)
Best Academic Film: Timeless (directed by Mike Buoy, University of Michigan)
Best Documentary: Defying Deletion: The Fight Over Iraq's Ninevah Plains (directed by Andre Anton)

Related Story: 'Answer This!' to be screened during the Detroit Independent Film Festival

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

WJBK-TV Fox 2 Entertainment Reporter Lee Thomas was the emcee of the event.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Best Supporting Actress-Short award went to Alana Jo Beckman.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A large crowd for the 2nd Annual Michigan Film Awards.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson won the Producer of the Year Award. However, he could not attend due to prior commitments.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Michigan Film Industry panel discussion with Warren Zide, Carrie Jones, Dale Johnson and Chris Baum.

 

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