By Rick Coates
The Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), now in its seventh year, at times
might seem a bit overwhelming with 150-plus screenings, all the parties,
panel discussions and pomp and circumstance the week brings.
No need to fret as the hundreds of volunteers along with TCFF founder
Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore and co-founders New York
Times best selling author Doug Stanton and Traverse City based
photographer John Robert Williams have planned a navigable week for the
casual and diehard film buff.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of the 2011 Film Fest. Start by
pulling out the center section of the Express (the TCFF Guide) where you
will find a synopsis of all the films as well as a schedule and location
of the showings.
Considering that there are more than 3,000 Friends of the TCFF who get
first crack at purchasing tickets it should come as no surprise that some
films sell out. Michael Moores response is simply you can take my word
that you can literally throw ten darts at the schedule and, no matter
where they land, you will have just programmed yourself one of the best
weeks youve ever had in northern Michigan.
Moore and TCFF Manager Deb Lake take pride in selecting films that will
entertain and enlighten; and after six previous festivals no one has yet
to complain. So while certain hyped up films will sell out, read deeper
into the program and seek out other films or toss the darts to make your
Now, if you are determined to see one of those sold-out films, there are
wait lines and usually minutes before a film starts seats become
available. Typically media, sponsor and VIP no-shows along with the
occasional ticket turn-in will allow an opportunity to see a sold-out
film; but arrive early -- this is not a best kept secret.
In the future consider becoming a Friend of the TCFF to have a better
opportunity to guarantee your seats.
Take in some of the other great amenities the region has to offer. By
mixing up your week between the films, panels and parties with some of the
cool things to do in the area you will get the best of all worlds during
To learn about area attractions, stop by the Traverse City Convention
and Visitors Bureau on the corner of Union Street and the Parkway
(across from the Open Space Outdoor Cinema) or by checking them out at
www.traversecity.com . Taking in some of the award-winning wineries of
the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas should be at the top of the
list. Another suggestion would be to visit the Village at the Grand
Traverse Commons (former State Hospital) with its shops and hiking
The TCFF has a Festival Loop and Smart Commute program in place to
make parking, getting around and riding your bike to venues simple.The
festival offers a free shuttle to all venues Wednesday-Sunday from 8 a.m.
until the last filmgoers and volunteers are returned to their cars. Park
at Northwestern Michigan Colleges Cherry Lot, near Milliken Auditorium,
where buses will stop every 5 to 15 minutes to pick you up and take you
around the Festival Loop.
Parking at NMCs Cherry Lot near Milliken Auditorium is easy. From there,
you can take the Free Festival Loop Shuttle while you park all day and
night without worry or cost. The Loop stops at each movie theater, the
free festival parking lot and the Larry C. Harding Parking Deck in
downtown. Check out the TCFF website for additional details including a
bike map (they have designated bike racks for TCFF participants) and
parking instructions for the Old Town Playhouse and the Lars Hockstad
Party Like A Rock Star
Everyone likes a great party and the TCFF is no exception. The week is
chock full of official and unofficial parties (these are usually
impromptu happenings at downtown restaurants and clubs).
TCFF parties feature guest filmmakers, actors and celebrities as well as a
lot of local flavor. Parties are catered by local chefs and feature food
and drink products from the region. The Filmmakers Party on Friday night
is quickly becoming the must-attend celebration of the week. Complete
party details and tickets available on the TCFF website.
Everything about the TCFF is a great deal. Moore and festival organizers
have kept admission prices to films and parties affordable. Certainly the
free films at the Open Space and the free Panel Sessions each morning at
9:30 at the City Opera House are among the best deals.
The Panel Sessions are a great way to learn about the art of filmmaking
from various perspectives. Highlights this year include Wednesday with
Kevin Clash and the entire filmmaking team of Being Elmo: A Puppeteers
Journey as they talk about the creation of their award-winning
documentary. Saturdays panel will raise some eyebrows with the theme
Whos Killing Hollywood In Michigan? Filmmakers, subjects, producers and
the head of the Michigan Film Office talk about taking a stand for the
hand and making great cinema art at the same time and the new governors
severe cutback of the Michigan Film Incentive.
All panels are free and those interested in attending are encouraged to
get advance tickets through the box office.
Meeting Michael Moore
The founder of the TCFF also happens to be one of the most famous people
in the world. Michael Moore makes himself available to the masses during
festival week but if you truly want some one-on-one face time with Moore,
here is the secret: call the TCFF office this week and make a substantial
Moore along with his wife Kathleen Glynn and a few others have bankrolled
the TCFF over the past seven years. Moore consistently says he is
looking for other angels to come forward. To Make a donaion, call
Enjoy the 2011 Traverse City Film Festival and checkout
www.traversecityfilmfest.org for additional details.