Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Film Fest Success Takes a...
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Film Fest Success Takes a Village

Four volunteers share their stories

Jodee Taylor - July 28th, 2014  


music coordinator

Mike Sullivan feels like a football coach. “Are the plays we’re going to run this year going to work?” he wonders.

Sullivan organizes the musical acts at the Traverse City Film Festival; this year there will be around 100.

He’s been in charge – helped by a cadre of interns – since the festival’s third year.

He also plays a few festival gigs with one of his bands, the Wild Sullys, and performs one night with Song of the Lakes on board the tall ship Manitou.

One thing he doesn’t do much of is watch movies.

“I usually fall asleep,” he laughed. He and the interns line up willing musicians – of which there are plenty, Sullivan said – then try to pair them with appropriate movies.

“It’s like a wine and food pairing,” he said. There also are outdoor gigs, including Clinch Park, which this year will feature music from noon-10pm each day. Sullivan hopes to have daily themes, like a cappella or jazz. He’s also planning nightly jam sessions at the Workshop Brewing Co.

“Song of the Lakes has played the Montreux Jazz Festival three times and there are jazz clubs that went until 6am,” he said.

“It was so much fun. That’s the vibe that’s in my head.”

Sullivan especially enjoys the connections made at the festival, whether it’s last year’s intern coming back this year with his Asylum Quartet, or mandolinist Don Julin meeting his idol, David Grisman. Julin is now part of Grisman’s symposium.

There’s also been some discoveries. Sullivan heard Luke Winslow-King busking on the street one year and asked him to fill in when another group’s car broke down.

“He opened at the State Theatre and people rushed the stage. He sold all his CDs,” he said. “Then he killed at the Open Space and Lars (Hockstad Auditorium). Now he tours nationally. We’ve gotten him back every year since.”

The Accidentals, Billy Strings and the Bergamot also played at the film festival before going on to bigger gigs.

The musicians themselves are all volunteers, although this year there are sponsorships to help defray costs. A compilation features music from throughout the years, which helps increase exposure, hopefully leading to sales of music.

“It’s a feeling like there are five days you’re not going to sleep and just soak up the awesomeness.”


City Opera House venue manager

Sid Van Slyke likes to say he was at the very first Traverse City Film Festival meeting 10 years ago.

He was in Good Harbor Coffee where Michael Moore and Doug Stanton, cofounders of the festival, also were. They asked him if Fifth Third Bank, Van Slyke’s employer at the time, would be a sponsor if a film festival even came to fruition.

Eventually Fifth Third “begrudgingly” donated some money, which cost the bank some clients that didn’t like Moore, Van Slyke said.

That first year, he became the de facto banker for the festival, which involved carrying garbage bags full of cash home with him each night.

Happily, by the third or fourth day of the festival, he was needed elsewhere. He’s spent the last nine years as venue manager at the City Opera House – and hasn’t seen a single movie.

“I’ve seen pieces of hundreds of movies,” he laughed.

Van Slyke is now vice president of commercial lending at Northwestern Bank, a major sponsor of the film festival and the host and staff of the post-festival volunteer party.

The beginning years had “much more of a guerrilla mentality,” Van Slyke said. He brought a folding lawn chair and a blanket to the Opera House and slept in the unfinished balcony between introducing movies.

A typical day began at 7am – the Opera House hosts the morning panels – and ended at 2 or 3am, after a midnight screening.

Van Slyke now has a co-manager, Bryce Kennedy, and a contract with the Opera House ensures the film festival is out by midnight every night.

“It’s a well-oiled machine,” he said. But it’s still a busy week. The film festival begins getting the Opera House ready the Sunday before the festival, meaning 72 hours to put in new, donated chairs, build a projection booth and build a screen.

When the festival begins, Van Slyke oversees everything that goes on at the Opera House, from concessions to ticket sales to microphones to making sure things start and end on time.

Film festival staff and volunteers communicate via radios, texts and emails.

“I go offline to announce a film and, 15 minutes later, I’ll have 15 emails, a dozen texts and someone yelling at me to get on the radio,” he said.

After 10 years, though, it’s still a blast, Van Slyke says.

His favorite part is the panels, which have “interesting conversations that you don’t expect to hear in Traverse City.”



During the first Traverse City Film Festival, Bryn Lynch “just acted like I knew about the movies,” popped popcorn, swept the floors, whatever needed to be done.

She didn’t hesitate to volunteer because she was so excited to see movies Traverse City doesn’t normally see.

“That first year I went to a movie, then went to Amical for lunch,” she said. “Everyone was talking about movies. They’d all seen a different one. It was great.”

The second year, she managed the box office, selling tickets using Interlochen’s ticketing system out of its store (now Red Ginger restaurant.)

The year after that meant another new ticketing system – “that was the one that caught on fire” – and yet more kinks that had to be ironed out.

“I usually recruited students to help,” said Lynch, who teaches Spanish and French at Traverse City Central High School and Northwestern Michigan College. “Most people over 30 were stymied by the box office system, which had a few quirks.”

Teachers are a huge part of the festival’s volunteer base, Lynch said.

“If they’re not working a second job, they’re volunteering,” she said.

In 2012, when she found out a Cuban contingent was bringing movies to the festival, she offered her services as a translator. She has continued to drive, host, speak and shop with filmmakers from not only Cuba, but also Spain and France.

The visitors have a blast, she said, whether on the beach, going to Walmart, or going to movies.

“They’re laid back, yet giddy and excited to be in a random Northern Michigan town they’ve never heard of,” Lynch said.

Translating has gone smoothly, although some guests think they don’t need her services and Lynch cringes when she hears the missteps.

The panels can get tricky, if a movie maker or actor goes on and on without a break and Lynch not only has to translate but has to remember what the conversation was about.

She doesn’t get to see as many movies as she’d like – “this year I’m going to be smart and just not buy any tickets,” she said – but loves the film festival as much as she always has.

“It’s a feeling like there are five days you’re not going to sleep and just soak up the awesomeness,” she said.


warehouse manager

Bob Brown’s warehouse crew isn’t in it for the glamour.

“We have a good team of volunteers who don’t need to be rubbing elbows at the venues,” said the veteran volunteer.

For the past four or five years, he’s been overseeing the festival’s warehouse, on Wellington St., in a city-owned building that used to house the Boys and Girls Club.

Most of the building is taken up by a gym, complete with basketball hoops, but filled with festival gear ranging from popcorn machines to signs to snow blowers. The collateral is organized by venue and stacked on pallets.

“We feel very fortunate if we get through the week without flooding,” Brown said.

A few years ago, during a rainstorm, he was concerned about a ceiling leak only to walk through “a lake” on the floor, but with only a few things damaged.

By building berms and such, future flood concerns have been alleviated.

“Every year there’s a problem,” he said, “but we figure it out.”

Brown works two part-time jobs, even during the week of the festival.

“I’m lucky because I have a lot of flexibility in my jobs, but I end up going in at odd hours, at night,” he said.

Work starts at least a month before the festival, ratchets up the Friday before the festival, goes into a frenzy until the start of the festival, gets somewhat calmer during the festival, then goes bananas the day after the festival ends.

“Breakdown is all in one day so we work with a moving company,” he said. Materials from a couple venues can come in at the same time and it’s up to Brown and his volunteers to sort and store it so it can be found again.

The building is also used to store technical equipment from the sound crews, projectionists and radio crews.

Several rooms are taken up by “revision,” where someone looks through every single film before it screens.

“You don’t see a lot of glitches at this festival,” he said. The system works, as proven when a volunteer comes in for signs several weeks before the festival opens. Brown walks right to the pile with the signs the volunteer needs, then has her check them out via email.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Brown.

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