Now on the third Monday of every month, youll see high school kids put on quite a show. They take tickets, sell popcorn, and present a student and major feature film. Prior to the curtain opening, they promote their movie pick to the local media.
Each of the three area high schoolsTC Central, TC West and Suttons Bayhas formed a chapter under the overall umbrella of the High School Student Film Club, which will run year-round. The night kicks off with a screening of a short student film. The student filmmaker comes on stage at the State to answer questions, which is always a lot of fun. After that, the students introduce that nights feature and explain why their club chose the movie. Student tickets are $6 and the public is welcome at regular admission prices.
For the students premiere in January, they screened Rob Reiners hilarious Spinal Tap, complete with Traverse City West students in costume, selling the popcorn at the counter. The student short was the crime caper Domination Station and wins the award for best use of exploding watermelon in a film.
The second film club night in February featured the western 3:10 To Yuma, the original 1957 version. I asked Elmore Leonard, who wrote the original story, as well as Gretchen Moll, who appeared in the 2007 remake, to grant interviews with our Traverse City Central High School students, and both artists generously agreed. That says a lot about what kind of people they are, and showed the students that doing this kind of thing is not a pie-in-the-sky idea.
The student short was a comic documentary titled Senioritis (Truant officers, to your marksgo!).
The March movie pickEverything is Illuminatedcame from Suttons Bay High School. They kicked it off with a series of animated shorts the Suttons Bay students made in connection with The Art Place, a project headed by photographer Ken Scott.
So this is where you come in. First, Ive had a blast meeting these bright, energetic students and their committed teachers.
But to make this club even better, we need your support. Most importantly, come to the theatre and witness for yourself what these students have to say about their own movies, and about those they think we should see.
Bring a student with youtheyll have a great time. After the show, Horizon Books next door to the theatre, offers discounts to students who pull up to the coffee bar needing caffeine before they head home to study. (For Spinal Tap, Horizon made a signature drink with three shots of espresso, called... A Spinal Tap.)
Our fourth student film club night is April 21, with American Graffiti. In the meantime, Ive asked film director Jim Gartner to do a guest edit of the student films well show April 21, and to take part in the discussion with the film-maker at the screening.
Jim, a Traverse City resident (his wife graduated from Central), made the movie Glory Road with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Movie director Terry George, who made Hotel Rwanda and Reservation Road and serves as a Traverse City Film Festival board member, has agreed to be guest director in May.
You can also support the film club by offering up ideas. Do you know anyone working in this art form whod be willing to lend an hour talking to our students? If you have expertise of any kind in film editing, for instanceor if you have equipment or money to give, please call us. Perhaps you have space for an instructional lab for students.
So far, the club members have secured a webmaster to donate a website. On it, they plan to talk about filmthe good, the funny, and the awful.
Other things the website can cover: upcoming film festivals, student internships with filmmakers, scholarships for film school. The skys the limit.
WHY DO THIS?
When John Robert Williams, Michael Moore, and myself board members of the Traverse City Film Festival assumed ownership of the theatre from Traverse Citys Rotary Charities, we did so on behalf of our town and film-lovers everywhere. We hold the theatre in trust for the benefit of all.
As part of the Rotary mandate, the State provides artistic experiences for the wider community. In that spirit, the State offers highly popular community nights called Cinema Curiosa; Indy Flix; and the Inter-Faith Film series.
All of us at the State Theatre are deeply committed to giving back to the community, which so energetically makes the theatre possible. When I was a student in Traverse City, people took the time to let me see that it was possible to make a life and a living in the arts.
It used to be true, way back in the late disco-era when I was in high school, that everyone talked about moving to the big city where there were good jobs and good movies. We want to put an end to that.
The film club aims to nurture the students desire to learn more about movies and make a living with this art form. The moving image is the alphabet of the 21st century.
What makes this possible is new and cheaper digital technology. We have to prepare students who want to take part in this new growth industry. (One of the film club advisors, in fact, wonders if film and video production cant become part of the vocational-tech program in order to qualify for more funding.)
Having said that, even if you dont want to make the next No Country For Old Men, life is richer when you understand the art form. A rising tide in arts literacy lifts everybody up.
For more information, contact Charles Rennie of Traverse City West at 932-1967, Doug Stanton at 935-4183, Jim Filkins at Traverse City Central at 933-3546, and Scott Tompkins of Suttons Bay High School at 271-8677.