Over the past year-and-a-half, Michigan has developed a national reputation as a great place to make films. Well, it seems that some misguided legislators in Lansing want to yank the rug out from underneath this growing state industry, one that has employed thousands of production staff, actors, extras, carpenters, electricians, caterers, etc., on Gran Torino, Whip It!, Betty Anne Waters and so many other big screen offerings. Next Monday, October 26, there will be a rally in Pontiac to save the Michigan Film Tax Incentive so, if possible, please attend.
Chrysler and General Motors file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Automotive suppliers Visteon and Metaldyne announce they're doing the same. Sales in most business categories across Michigan plummet, while unemployment figures continue to rise. Hard to believe, but all is not lost in the Great Lake State, no matter what much of the mainstream media would have you believe. A splendid new online destination is out to prove just that.
"An upbeat approach to local news" is the credo at Michigan Positive, filled with encouraging developments in our region. Publisher James Melton -- who, I should note in the spirit of full disclosure, is a member of my social network, Michigan Creatives -- publishes the site through his company Melton Media, which he founded in 2009. Contributor Sarah Snow is Melton's wife, a former Detroit City Council candidate, and native Chicagoan, also proud to call the area home. A Wayne State grad, Melton has serious journalism chops, having worked at both Crain's Detroit Business and WWJ Newsradio 950. Given their backgrounds, and obvious passion for our state, I've selected Michigan Positive as my "Arresting Site of the Month" for June.
Peruse the frequently updated Latest News section, which holds enlightening pieces like the recent one centered on Michigan's rise within the life sciences industry, and check out the site's Featured Stories section, each of which give you a vivid snapshot of our state at its finest. I recommend you join the Michigan Positive Community, as did I, where you can connect with others who also love our peninsulas. As it states on the Michigan Positive home page: "Explore. Participate. Enjoy." Well said.
Begun in 2005 as a way to educate the public about the state's largest city, an area non-profit operates with the belief that "The more people know about Detroit, the more they love it." I agree completely. Maureen Kearns and Jeanette Pierce are the co-founders of Inside Detroit, a Web site whose compelling mission has inspired me to name its online presence May's "Arresting Site of the Month."
Perhaps the best way to begin your tour of the site is at the Virtual Welcome Center, a directory of Detroit's bars and restaurants, art galleries, living options, and more. This is particularly handy if you're new to the area or have never really explored the city in depth. But it's also a guide for those who have lived here most (or all) of their lives, as there are plenty of new events and developments, and even Motor City regulars are bounds to uncover some hot/cool new destination or valuable piece of information. Once you're physically in town, visit the Downtown Welcome Center, located at 1253 Woodward Ave., open 11am-6pm Monday-Saturday.
The sharp folks at metromode have recently given space in their terrific publication to Pierce, who further details Inside Detroit's mission. Clearly, Pierce and Kearns have a deep passion for the city, as they answer the question: Why Detroit? Also check out the site's numerous and helpful links, sign up for their e-newsletter, and explore the many treasures of the Web site...and of Detroit itself.
Last week, National Public Radio aired the series "Remaking Michigan, Retooling Detroit." I wasn't able to hear these pieces when they aired, but I've gone back to listen, and applaud NPR for their usual in-depth treatment. Hopefully, people around the country were able to get a more accurate sense of the region, as we have what generously can be described as a big screen image problem. All in all, the network covered plenty of ground, and it was a job well done.
Donald Harrison, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, graciously took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the 47th installment of this internationally renowned gathering. I wrote about
AAFF in this space a few weeks ago, and am pleased to present it here from the
perspective of the visionary Harrison, who has crafted a remarkable six-day event that kicks
off tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, March 24 and runs through Sunday, March 29. I should note that I
was heavily involved this year as a volunteer, which included
screening more than 300 of the 2,600+ submitted films, and assisting with media
relations and other publicity. Flattered and thrilled to be part of the
process, I strongly encourage you to attend the festival's themed competitions and special programs, and to check out its content-rich website, where you also can receive updates, rate/review films, and more.
This year’s Ann Arbor Film Festival received more than 2,600 submissions from around the world, up 25% from the 2008 event. Why do you think there was such a spike?
Donald Harrison: We received a record number of submissions for several reasons: a) there are more people with stories to tell and access to the equipment to produce a film b) the international publicity the AAFF received defending artists and free speech c) as an independent filmmaker myself I know how to get the word out to that community.
Talk about the process of choosing from that large group the 125 films that made it into the competition section of the festival.
DH: We took a lot of time and care to find the best work for this year's festival. We have more than 40 screeners in our community, 2 rounds of the selection process and additional measures to give films a second chance for consideration. I personally reviewed over 400 films, as they came in, and wish I could have watched even more. It's a large-scale process, but one we take seriously and with appreciation for the massive collection of creativity we receive.
There are numerous themed competitions in this year’s AAFF, one of which is “Terra Firma,” a program spotlighting works that have feminine perspectives. During the selection process, do you actively look for themes, or do they emerge on their own?
DH: We look for the best films and let the themes emerge from there, which sometimes results in closely knitted themes or other times in loosely related ones. We value variety and surprise within our programs, and see the themes much the way you can imagine geographic lines on a map -- they're not actually real on the land, but they're useful guides.
This is the 47th annual event; is the Ann Arbor Film Festival a brand?
DH: Yes, the AAFF has an international reputation and a "brand" for showcasing cutting-edge, challenging, creatively inspired films. This become clear when we cold-called venues across the U.S. and overseas and received great responses from some of the world's leading contemporary art museums, cinematheques and new media galleries.
If someone has never been to the festival, but is planning to attend this year, what should they expect?
DH: The first time AAFF audience-goer should expect artistically-crafted films, an adventurous spirit, a welcoming atmosphere and an engaging experience. We don't expect everyone to like or understand every film, but we believe in the quality and artistic vision of the films in our programs. There's a tremendous range of the type and styles of films in our festival and I believe there is at least one program that any fan of film, story or art will love.
Focusing on the impact Michigan will feel as a result of the stimulus package -- the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) -- that President Obama signed into law on February 17, Governor Granholm and her staff have assembled an online resource that lays out the details, answers questions, and provides links that allow citizens to dig deeper to uncover additional information. As such, I've selected the Michigan Recovery & Reinvestment Plan pages (at Michigan.gov) as the "Arresting Site of the Month" for March. Now, these pages are not an individual "site," per se, but as they help clarify and demystify the stimulus package, I feel strongly they merit this monthly award.
Hopefully, these pages will help us all better understand this complicated matter. I'll announce the next Arresting Site or Blog of the Month on Monday, April 6. Please submit candidates for that award by Monday, March 30. Thanks.
I launched the social network Michigan Creatives today on Ning, and here is the introductory post:
Thanks for joining us. Our goal on these pages is to connect the myriad creative professionals who live and work throughout Michigan and, as a result, make this a better state for everyone. The term "creative" definitely covers a lot of territory, but we're talking artists, photographers, filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians, broadcasters, teachers, librarians, designers (Web, game, fashion, etc.), hair stylists, interior decorators, and so many others. If you're not a full-time creative -- often a tough gig to find, eh? -- no worries. We want you in the fold, because it makes us that much stronger, more visible and, we hope, better able to attract new business to and for Michigan. Oh, and let's have some fun here. In these times, that's vital.
This site is built on the Ning platform, which allows users to interact much like they do on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and other social networking venues. Take a look around, because Ning has plenty to offer. Customize your profile, set up events, add badges and widgets, post videos/photos/music, start discussions in the forum section, make new professional and personal contacts. Please remember to invite friends, family, and colleagues who, like you, have a creative vision, and a shared interest in helping spark a turnaround in the Great Lake State.
Working diligently to "...become the world's foremost business
incubator, leading to an economic renaissance in the city, state and
region," a splendid organization has for the past five years led the
charge to inject new life into Detroit's economy which, in turn, can
help Michigan as a whole regain its footing. Wayne State University,
General Motors, and Henry Ford Health System collaborated in 2004 to
— located on Burroughs off Cass in the city's New Amsterdam district —
which continues to bring together entrepreneurs, students, community
partners, and others in order to promote growth in such industries as
alternative energy, life sciences, and advanced engineering. Thus, I
have selected its online component as February's Arresting Site of the
Anyone whose livelihood is tied directly or indirectly to the automotive industry knows just how vital it is to their economic health, and to that of the country as a whole. Unfortunately, many in Congress just don’t get it, and would prefer to kick General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler to the curb, rather than approve the much-needed, overly-debated bridge loan. Two forward-thinking Detroit-area residents have said ‘Enough!’
Steve Still and his wife, Jenny Arnold-Still, have just launched a website that demonstrates clearly why we still need the Big 3, and helps dispel numerous misconceptions. (In the spirit of full disclosure, my wife and I have known Steve and Jenny for years, we’re also friends with Steve’s daughter, and I’m working a contract position for a business that administers the main website of one of the aforementioned companies; hence, I have a vested interest in this matter. Nonetheless, this isn’t about us, it’s about millions of people who soon could be out of work). As such, I have selected AutoJobsMatter.org as my “Arresting Site of the Month” for December. Please note the calls to action, including the December 4 rally in the Motor City, the auto industry fact sheet, the link that takes you to a printable window sign that will allow you to show your support, and more. Learn about Steve and Jenny, and spread the word about their important, fact-filled online resource.
Note: Nominations for January’s site or blog of the month are due on Monday, December 29, and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, January 5. Thanks for your participation.