Letters

Letters 11-24-2014

Dangerous Votes You voted for Dr. Dan. Thanks!Rep. Benishek failed to cosponsor H.R. 601. It stops subsidies for big oil companies. He failed to cosponsor H.R. 1084. There is an exemption for hydraulic fracturing written into the Safe Drinking Water Act. H.R. 1084. It would require the contents of fracking fluids to be publicly disclosed to protect the public health.

Solar Is The Answer There have been many excellent letters about the need for our region, state and nation to take action on climate change. Now there is a viable solution to this ever-growing problem: Solar energy is the future.

Real Minimum Wage In 1966, a first class stamp cost 5 cents and minimum wage was $1.25. Today, a first class stamp is 49 cents, so federal minimum wage should be $11.25.

Doesn’t Seem Warmer I enjoy the “environmentalists” twisting themselves into pretzels trying to convince us that it is getting warmer. Sure it is... 

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A Traverse City Film Festival Oral History

The Traverse City Film Festival, now among the most noted in the nation, began as a whim a decade ago.

Patrick Sullivan - July 21st, 2014  

It appeared from nowhere. It crawled from dinner party conversations. It took shape at a lunch at Amical. It quietly made its way onto the city agenda.

Soon scores of volunteers knocked down cobwebs, scrubbed floors and walls and alighted the sparkling marquee of the State Theatre.

Organizers worked around the clock to line up films and invite guests. At the same time, a rival festival hastily organized to warn residents that the TCFF was nothing but a leftist plot.

Despite it all, that first festival, held July 27-31, 2005, was a resounding success: it saw 50,000 admissions to 54 screenings of 31 films. For the first time movies like Casablanca and Jaws screened at Traverse City’s Open Space.

To mark the milestone, Northern Express talked to 15 people who were there at the beginning, including festival founder Michael Moore, co-founders, and early volunteers, some of whom have stuck around and some who didn’t.

AN IDEA IS BORN

JOHN ROBERT WILLIAMS

TCFF co-founder; photographer

Michael and I had been friends for way longer than the film festival by quite a long time. He and I had been kicking around the idea of a film festival since probably ’99 or 2000, even before that...Every year something was wrong. So the idea kept percolating. In very late April of 2005, my cell phone rings, and he goes, ‘Hey, let’s do it.’ And I say, ‘What, lunch?’ he said, ‘No, let’s do the film festival.’ I say, ‘OK, Mike, when do you want to do this?’ He says, ‘This summer.’

DOUG STANTON

Best-selling author; TCFF co-founder

If you remember, things were so politically charged at that time, after the first [George W. Bush] election, it was hard for people to have dinner together because they may have voted one way or another. And that really kind of poisoned atmosphere still carried through in 2004. [My wife] Anne had started a group called TC Common Sense and Mike and [his wife] Kathy would come to those meetings at our house. And so, it was a sense of socializing in a political action group, but yet transcending it by bringing film to town with it. It was the sense that it was new and it was not old guard. That it was different.

MICHAEL MOORE

TCFF founder; Oscar-winning filmmaker

I think I was in between Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko in the beginning of 2005 and I brought up the idea again to him and to Doug, and everybody was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this, let’s do this.’ And so in May of that year, probably the middle of May, I said we should get everybody together. Let’s have a meeting of who we think might be interested in this. So we all had lunch at Amical. I can remember the exact table it was.

SONDRA HARDY

Author of books about philanthropy; first TCFF fundraiser

There were five of us and we met at Amical. At that point Michael was a little wary of the idea but kind of liked it. He had some funny ideas, like we could show the movies in Doug’s basement or somebody’s barn, on the side of the barn. But then he got serious.

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.

WILLIAMS

When I was on the [Rotary] Charities board, we did a ‘futuring’ event one time, out on the Boardman River at a little place, and we all had to write down what we thought were the most important things for Traverse City, and blah, blah, blah...And the first one I listed was a film festival, and [Rotary executive director Marsha Smith] said, ‘I think John has lost it.’ And they’re like, ‘In Traverse City? What?’ And I gave them all of the reasons why it would work and they were like, ‘No.’

MOORE

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.’ And I said, ‘I’d like to see it. How can we get in there?’ And he said, ‘Well, we could call up [Downtown Development Authority Director] Bryan Crough.’ And so we call Bryan Crough. Bryan said, ‘No way, you don’t want to go in there; there is no insurance; the liabilities are too great to put films in there during a film festival.’ I said, ‘Come on, are you free right now? Just bring a key down here. Just let me at least look at it.’

KATHLEEN GLYNN

Film and television producer; Moore’s former wife

We knew how to make the connections as far as getting projectors. We’d been in all kinds of alternative locations to watch movies and we knew that you could build a theater in a high school gym. So none of that really intimidated us at all. But at a certain point, and I’m serious, we are getting to like the beginning of June, I said to Michael, ‘I really think you need an event manager. You need somebody that knows how to do an event. I mean, we don’t do events like this.’ And I happened to be friends with a lawyer in Detroit, her name is Susan Brown, because she vacations in the area.

SUSAN BROWN

Detroit-area attorney; TCFF co-founder

Michael was saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to redo the State Theatre, which has been closed for years, and we’re going to use the Opera House and we’re going to do some outside movies at the Open Space.’ And I said, ‘Oh, that sounds great. Do you have a volunteer coordinator?’ and his eyes kept getting bigger and bigger. I said, ‘Do you have, like, garbage cans? Do you have brooms for the theater?’ And he just said, ‘Hmm. We hadn’t really thought about that.’ And so did Doug. I’m a lawyer in my real life. I had just started a job that January. And Michael said, ‘What’s it going to take to get you up here for two months to put this on?’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t do that. I just started a new job.’ So he said, ‘What’s your boss’s email address?’ and I told him. He actually wrote to my boss, who is a big fan of his movies anyway, and said, ‘What do you want to give her up for six weeks?’

GLYNN

She ended up going to her new boss, and saying, ‘Is it possible that I could take off, right after I start, these two weeks to do this film festival?’ His name is Jay Schwartz, and he said, ‘If you can get a signed Roger & Me poster from Michael, I’ll let you do that.’ And so that’s exactly what happened.

A GOOD IDEA NEEDS CASH

SID VAN SLYKE

City Opera House venue manager; vice president Northwestern Bank

I’m a movie buff, so the idea of being involved just from purely a movie interest excited me. But there was a lot of early reluctance, you know. I was younger in my career.

At the time there was some apprehension about getting involved. Anything Michael Moore was starting up came with a little bit of apprehension. I just thought it was a great idea and I talked to my boss at the time and I said, ‘They’re kind of looking at me as a potential first corporate sponsor.’ I remember telling my boss, who was John Pelizzari, president of Fifth Third bank, ‘You know, this could be the next Cherry Festival. And if we jump on board, maybe we could be the bank of the film festival. It could be a really big deal.’ And he said:

‘You’ve got to be out of your mind. There’s no frigging way we’re getting in bed with Michael Moore.’ Those were his exact words.

HARDY

I said, ‘So how much money would you need?’ because I’m a fundraiser by profession. And [Michael Moore] said, ‘Well, about 40 or 50,000 dollars.’ And I said, ‘OK, you get things going and I’ll raise money.’...So I agreed to raise some money. I started hoofing it up and down Front Street. Michael Moore wasn’t exactly everybody’s favorite in town at that time. It was very difficult actually. But [WTCM owner] Ross Beiderman came on board, that helped a lot, and John Pelizzari from Fifth Third Bank came on board, and once I had those two names, it was a lot easier.

VAN SLYKE

I came back and I said, ‘John, I’m telling you, I had another conversation with John Williams. I think this thing’s a go. It’s going to happen. So either we get on board or we sit back and wish we would have gotten on board.’ He kind of begrudgingly approved a sponsorship check in the first year and I believe we were the first corporate sponsor. There was a huge backlash in the first year about the community jumping on board with a Michael Moore film festival. There was this anti-film festival film festival that took place, headed up by a couple of folks that were very good customers of our bank. And they voiced their displeasure with our decision to participate and support, and it cost the bank a few accounts and some relationships. I will give credit where credit is due — John paid his dues in the early days because he caught a lot of that wrath. Nobody knew who Sid was at that point. They knew John, though.

CHARLIE WILSON 

TCFF filmmaker logistics; actor

My parents had been asked to donate money and I remember my dad [the late Buzz Wilson] just being like, ‘Oh, well, I don’t know what this thing is. Why am I going to give money to this group I don’t know anything about?’ But once he heard there was an anti- Michael Moore film festival — my dad was very big on free speech and freedom of expression — so once he heard there was somebody trying to shut this down, then he became involved and he emailed Michael and told him that he wanted to sponsor every movie that no one else was willing to sponsor.

CITY APPROVAL NEEDED

MOORE

Remember: we’re two years into the war at this point. Fahrenheit 9/11 had come out the previous summer. My Oscar speech. You know, there was a lot of hostility toward me. I got back from the Oscars to my house there on Torch Lake and a group of men had put a dump truck full of horse manure four feet high, blocking the driveway. And tacked about 20 signs on our trees, essentially telling me to move to Havana. ‘Get out. Get out of here.’ And by May of 2005, when we decided to do the film festival, I had already experienced quite a bit of trauma from being assaulted on the street. There were at least a half a dozen times when I was assaulted. Never in Traverse City, but elsewhere around the country.

WILLIAMS

For years when we had meetings, we’d have to have a bodyguard at the door. There were constant death threats on this guy. All the gunners were just completely out to take him out. For years. I mean, we would go into Amical — we’d have most of our meetings there — and we’d sit at the north windows. We’d have to have two guys at the door. And Mike would always have his back to the door and I’d be watching over his shoulder the whole time. That’s no way to live.

MOORE

I was a little worried that this may not even get off the ground if the right-wing elements in the area learned that I was going to be doing this. I said to the small group of us — we’re going to need Rotary to let us use the theater, and John said that won’t be a problem, John was very active in Rotary. We’re going to need Bryan Crough for the Opera House. That’s not going to be a problem; Bryan’s a forward thinking guy. We knew the people from the

Old Town Playhouse; we knew that wouldn’t be a problem. But we’re going to have to get the city to let us use the Open Space for the outdoor films. And so the strategy was that we remain very quiet about the film festival until we had the vote from the city council.

HARDY

The city commission, they were not particularly fond of Michael’s politics either. And all this had to get through the city commission in four weeks, three or four weeks. All these permits. It was something that Mary Gillett did with Bryan Crough’s help. Bryan backed up everything we did, including getting the City Opera House. He was always back there helping. Everybody helped. They all did.

MOORE

My goal was to basically fly in under the radar, get the approval, and then nobody will be able to do anything about it. And that’s exactly what we did. We got ourselves on the agenda. We didn’t tell the local press what we were doing. We just kept it very, very quiet. In order to get on the agenda, the meetings are on Monday night, you have to submit by Thursday, if you want to get on the agenda. So I was very nervous between Thursday and Sunday, and sure enough, by Monday morning, a couple of the conservative right leaning citizens of the area got wind that this was going to happen at the city commission meeting that night. They tried to organize during the day. I know people that got phone calls. They really tried. But it was too late. And we were there. We had everybody there.

STANTON

We needed some liquor licenses. We needed some variances. Just some allowances. Mike was living in Torch Lake and John grew up here as did I, so we went into the city commission and introduced the idea of the festival to the commission. It was the first time — I mean, people asked, ‘Well, what is a film festival?’ It was such early days that there weren’t many people around who’d actually even been to one.

MOORE

Doug and John were a big help in terms of, I don’t want to say that they were acting like my beard, but basically they put a calming face on the festival. A face that would calm people down. You know, they’re hometown boys. Everybody loves the Williams Brothers’ stuff in the cherry parade. Doug Stanton was a best-selling author in his own right. Good looking guy and friendly to everybody. So they helped create that firewall between the opposition and the rest of us who were actually doing the work to create the festival.

THE RETURN OF THE STATE THEATRE

TIMOTHY GREY

Filmmaker; first-year TCFF volunteer

We had many meetings. We did a big press conference and announced our plans to have the first annual Traverse City Film Festival and people volunteered. It was all volunteer based at that point. And I somehow was given the charge of renovating the entire State Theatre in six weeks, [laughs] to get an occupancy permit from the fire department.

And at that point that place was unusable. It had no screen. The stage was destroyed. Seats were pulled up. It had problems. Lots of problems. There were some birds and some rodents.

BROWN

Michael had a vision that people would just donate. Sort of like Field of Dreams. If they ask them they’ll just give it to us. You know, I’m from Detroit, I’m thinking, ‘No, they won’t.’ And they did. Everything was donated. Everything. He got all sorts of people in to fix the State Theatre. People who had real jobs. Carpenters and plumbers and electricians.

The amount of work that got done in nine weeks by volunteers, most of whom had full-time jobs, was absolutely amazing.

GREY

I don’t know how but I was given the title ‘the Phantom of the State’ because I was there everyday for six weeks. I ended up quitting my job. I’d be there at 8 in the morning and leave at 2 in the morning. We were there everyday. We had to renovate all the bathrooms, we had to renovate the lobby, the front, pull the doors off, scrape them, we just re-did the entire thing. We re-did the whole thing and we made it look good. We shined it up and said, ‘This is what a community can do.’

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.

GREY

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.

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.

RISE AND FALL OF THE ANTI-FESTIVAL FESTIVAL

MOORE

The response from the community was extremely positive. But from the minority of right-wing people, they were going to stop it. They were talking about suing the city to get an injunction to stop the festival. They were going to do any of a number of things. Picket our films. They started having their own meetings. They formed their own organization. I forgot what the name of it is now.

They finally then decided that when it was clear that they couldn’t sue and they couldn’t reverse the city commission, and threatening the city commission didn’t work, they then decided to have what we called the anti- Michael Moore film festival.

WILLIAMS

Their headquarters were at the Park Place Dome. And we really needed the Park Place to house people. But there was no way when those people came in and did what they were trying to do to us, which was just be an antisocial, anti-everything, right-wing.

GARY HOWE

Film festival photographer; current TC commissioner

The Record-Eagle hired me as a stringer to shoot the portrait of the woman who had that anti-film festival. … And she talked the whole time. Like, ‘Be very careful with Michael Moore.’ And how he might take over the city. Yada yada. It was basically going to change Traverse City or it was going to destroy something. I can’t even remember the specifics. It wasn’t very specific. It was one and done. They ended up showing a documentary about Michael Moore. It wasn’t very family friendly, even though that’s how they pitched it. And how many times can you see Top Gun, really?

MOORE

They tried to scare people into thinking that’s the end of Traverse City, right there, if you let Michael Moore spew his political agenda throughout all of these venues and the park and the city, and all this, this is just going to hurt business and people are not going to want to live here because it’s too controversial and you know, etc. etc. There was a point right in the beginning of that fight with them that I worried. I thought, ‘Jeez, if they succeed, then this is the end of this.’ We’re not talking about rednecks from Buckley here. We’re talking about people with money. Business people. People in real estate and the stock market. These were people who had lived well off the system.

WILSON

I heard some wonderful story about that other festival. Apparently there was this movie called Why Michael Moore Hates America, and I’ve never seen it but I know they were showing it at their festival. There was supposed to be a clean version of it — again this is not a verified story — there was a clean version of that film and they thought that they had gotten that but they apparently showed the uncut version, which was just filled with profanities, and they started their festival with that and got five minutes into it and had to turn it off. And that was pretty much the end of that.

MOORE

In the first hour on opening night, we knew that it was not only a flop, it was an embarrassment to anybody who would call themselves a Republican. It was an embarrassment to anybody in Traverse City connected to it. I’m sure you’ve heard the story of how there were so many ‘f—ks’ and ‘motherf— kers’ — words, I’m talking about the dialogue in that opening night film Michael Moore Hates America. They basically hadn’t watched it. The title was good enough. That was all they needed was something called Michael Moore Hates America. I’ve heard anywhere from 15 to 35 people attended their opening night thing. But a couple of parents brought their kids, and there’s all this swearing going on. I don’t know if they shut the projector down or the Park Place did.

[NOTE: Northern Express contacted the Traverse Bay Freedom Film Festival founder, Suttons Bay resident Jeannie Aldrich. She declined to comment.]

LIGHTS!

DEB LAKE

TCFF executive director

I’d been laid off from a job and I was looking for work and I read in the paper that Michael Moore was starting a film festival and I was so excited. Film coming to Traverse City. So I immediately volunteered. And I didn’t hear back from them. I emailed and called several times and said, ‘I’ve got all these skills and I’ve got all this time, and really, you guys should use me. I can do whatever you need.’ And I finally got a call back on the Fourth of July saying that they needed help in sponsorship. I had no experience in that area but I said, ‘Sure, I’ll help you.’ I helped build databases and put together forms and they hadn’t started fundraising at that point, on July 4th, so the day after, on July 5th, I went over to Sondra Shaw Hardy’s house and she was heading it up along with some help from Mary Fisher and Cindy Robb.

MOORE

John and I went over there one day to the Hardy house and she had a volunteer that was helping her. And Sandy had said to me, ‘I have this young woman you should meet. She’s very smart. She went to an Ivy League school.’ And she was right. Five minutes after being in her dining room with Deb Lake going over what tickets we had left, I could see that this was somebody very special. Then she told me her minor was in film. And we left there, I said, ‘Oh my God, I think there’s a great find in there and not being used to the maximum extent, handling those tickets.’

LAKE

I was asked to come into the office and help. This was the weekend before the festival was to start, and they were like, ‘Well, we need to let the volunteers know when they’re shifts are going to be,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, they probably would like to know, since the festival starts next week.’ And so they said, ‘Here’s a spreadsheet we put together based on what people had emailed in about when they could work, when they wanted to work.’ So we put together the schedule based on that. I figured out a way to email this out to everybody, let them know when their shifts are, which wasn’t easy to do because there were just no systems. There was no email system. There was nothing. There was just me. I brought in my computer from home. It wasn’t even a laptop. I had to actually carry the thing in. My desktop computer.

HOWE 

They realized they didn’t have any posters up. So they just gave volunteers chalk. So all across the sidewalk there was chalk, you know, just to tell where things were. It just kind of signified that first year, and the second year, really. It was just like, ‘Oh yeah, we need that. What’s the quickest way to do that today?’ It’s like, ‘Chalk.’ It was kind of cool, just following around some of the key volunteers, the managers particularly, and seeing how they handled things and the chaos that turned into something that I thought was just a great first year.

WILSON

I think my father volunteered me. He was like, ‘We can go to Sweden another time.’ I was like, ‘OK, but what am I being volunteered for?’ He was like, ‘It’s a film festival.’ I was like, ‘There is no film festival. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ So they volunteered me. And then I went to this founders’ party and I met Michael and I forget who told me, but basically I was supposed to be in charge of the panel discussions.

CAMERA!

LAKE

On opening night I was in the office and everyone else of course was down here at the State Theatre and I was manning the phones and the fire chief called and said, ‘We’re going to have to shut you guys down. We can’t let you start the film festival, because there are no fire extinguishers here at the State Theatre.’ And I looked around my office and I noticed that there were two fire extinguishers sitting right here at my desk. So I said, ‘I’ve got two here, how many do we need?’ and he said, ‘Two would be good.’ So I picked up the two fire extinguishers and ran them down. We were in the Masonic Building. I ran. It was really, really, really hot, and fire extinguishers are really, really, really heavy, but I ran them down, and got them over to the State and they let us do the festival.

BROWN

We were a little concerned that people wouldn’t come because they would think of it as a political statement despite the fact that none of Michael’s films of course were shown. So it was really sort of holding our breaths to see what the turnout was going to be.

WILLIAMS

The ticket sales weren’t that good at all, coming right up to it. I mean, it was like, Mike and Doug Stanton and I, literally every night, we would sit down at Amical out in that outside area there and we’d talk until two, three, four in the morning, every night trying to figure out what the hell our next move was going to be coming up to it.

MOORE 

I think we all were very worried that this could fall apart or the opposing film festival would take away the attention from what we were trying to do. So it was touch and go there for a while. Then I announced the films I had chosen. The filmmakers that were coming. And it sounded pretty exciting to everybody. There was a line out the door the day that the tickets went on sale.

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.’

ACTION!

VAN SLYKE

We were of course completely unprepared for the success of the first year. We had no idea what we were going to see. The whole thing happened in about six, seven weeks. But we recruited someone who was kind of the queen of cash. I think she was a cashier at a big box retailer. It was literally, the first year, there were people running around downtown at 2:30 in the morning with garbage bags full of cash, coming from various venues, to where the festival office was, [the Masonic Building] right here on the corner.

WILSON

I did [the panels] and it was fun but it was over by like 11 o’clock in the morning, so I just went into the office and I met Susan Brown and Deb. I just said, ‘Whatever else you guys need me to do, I have all day, I have nothing to do.’ So I just did the most diverse set of random errands the first year. Everything from getting keys copied to being sent to Walmart. I was told to buy as much toilet paper as could fit in my car. I remember buying like a hundred rolls of toilet paper and then just stuffing it in my car. I guess the entire festival was out of toilet paper or something like that.

BRYN LYNCH

TCFF volunteer; Spanish and French teacher

I worked in the box office a lot that first year. At one point the person who was driving around to the different venues, my shift was over and she was overwhelmed because she was trying to cover everything, so I stuffed money in my pockets and walked down to the office. Looking back now, I think it was probably Deb Lake who was sitting at the desk, but she was, like, horrified when I started pulling out [all this cash]. But I didn’t know what to do with it, you know? I wasn’t going to leave it.

VAN SLYKE

I remember walking into the room one night and here’s this girl sitting at nothing more than a folding card table and she literally has a mountain of cash in front of her. I kind of help her count some stuff down and we’re sitting there with this big deposit at the end of the night and she says, ‘I don’t know what we do with this. We can’t leave it here.’ So I literally take the garbage bag full of money home with me that night. I’m the banker. I’m going in, in the morning. I’ll make the deposit. She has a deposit slip in there filled out for $11,500 or something like that. So I come in and I bring it to my tellers and I say, ‘Here you go, count this up.’ This is the first or second night of the festival. So they count it up, and instead of like eleven-five in there, there’s like $16,500. This is not good. I took this home. It could have just as easily been off the other way. If we were short $5,000, how bad would that look? I go to Susan Brown and I’m like, ‘Look, this is a tragedy waiting to happen. We’ve got to get our hands around this.’

BROWN

Michael had all these ideas and I thought, ‘It will never happen. We’re not going to be able to get the people.’ One of them, for example, was on the Friday, he said, ‘You know, I think we should have a midnight movie.’ And I said, ‘We don’t have any staff for it. We don’t have any ushers. We don’t have any concession people. We don’t have anybody to work at it.’ He said, ‘It’ll happen. Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘OK.’ I went around to various venues and asked people would they stay late so we could run a midnight show and clean up. Deb Lake was only a volunteer that year but she stayed up with us all night long, calling and emailing volunteers to get them to come back, you know, work more shifts than they had originally signed up for. And within 12 hours we had a midnight show set up. It was sold out. It was done.

VAN SLYKE

It really was a Herculean feat. I mean, you had people running around with cash running to buy candy. I mean, every store in town was out of candy because we made no pre-order. We went and bought everything they had at Tom’s and Meijer and everywhere you can go to buy candy.

HOWE

There’s one photo. I think it was the first year. Two or three girls, nine years to 13 years old, front row, at the Open Space watching a movie. Pitch black around them, or bluish black. They’re eating popcorn and you can just tell, that silver screen on their face, it’s unmistakable what they’re doing, particularly when you’ve got a popcorn box. It’s a little grainy, a little soft in the eyes, but still, I mean, it’s just kind of that first year. People love to be in crowds and they love to watch films and they love to eat popcorn and they love to be bundled up in a sleeping bag, so that’s an image that pops out for me.

ROLL CREDITS

LAKE

We hadn’t really talked about what to do after. We were just like, ‘Let’s get through the festival.’ So I started answering emails and people would come in and they would drop stuff off, like, ‘Here’s all this stuff from my venue,’ and they’d drop it on the floor. And we were borrowing this office from a very generous donor.

So I’m trying to get a hold of Jason and I’m like, ‘I wonder what we’re going to do with all this stuff?’ I’m there all by myself. And finally I get a call from Jason, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, you know, I’ve left town. We’ve got to be out of that office. I told them today at noon but we could probably push it to tomorrow at noon. So, yeah, just make sure you wrap everything up, and, you know, thanks.’ And I was like, ‘OK, where am I supposed to put all of this stuff?’ Nobody had thought about that. They’d given us this space until the end of the festival. So I called my husband and I said, ‘You’re not going to be very thrilled about this, but I’ve got an office full of stuff and we’re going to have to go rent a storage unit and get it moved, so bring your truck.’ We moved all the stuff. But it was like that that first year.

PART II NEXT WEEK:

• The takeover of the State Theatre.

• Madonna arrives in TC.

• What the Film Fest means now.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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