March 3, 2024

Don’t Miss This

The ultimate TCFF to-do list
By Ross Boissoneau | July 21, 2018

So you know you want to “do” the Traverse City Film Festival, but you’re a first-timer (gasp!) and/or you just aren’t sure what — among the many films and events happening simultaneously — you absolutely must experience.

Take it from the experts: There are certain aspects of this paean to celluloid that you don’t want to miss. Maybe it’s settling down to watch a movie with a thousand of your closest friends while the waves lap against the shore. Or you’ve got the travel bug, and you want to check out some of the best of the TCFF elsewhere — like at the Garden Theatre in Frankfort or the Vogue in Manistee. Maybe you want to be one with the crowd on opening night, reveling in the fact that this party is such a big deal, they clear the streets of cars.

Whether you’re a newbie or a longtime fan looking to dig deeper into the festival’s multitude of offerings, here’s your checklist for making the most of your time at the 2018 TCFF:

See a Shorts Program 
“You can see a movie any day, but shorts are special. They’re so essential to a film festival,” said Meg Wieichman, the festival’s creative director. “A lot of them won’t recoup their investment, but it’s where a lot of people got started.”

Ivy Hutchison, programming coordinator, concurred. “For me, shorts are what a film festival is for. They’re by up-and-comers [directors] in an industry that’s really hard. They get exposure.

“You get so much in one sitting,” she added. “Programming tends to have variety: narrative, documentary, animated. I can’t stress how important they are.”

Attend the Opening Night party
Take one lighted up theatre marquee, bring in featured filmmakers and celebrities, block off the streets, and add up to 1,500 people, and you’ve got opening night. Susan Fisher, managing director of the festival, calls it “peak Traverse City Film Festival.” Traffic is rerouted around Front Street away from the State Theatre, allowing pedestrians to take over the block. “They close the street, and it creates a really cool atmosphere,” said Fisher. “This is the celebration for the filmmakers.”

She said it is one of the scenes that makes this festival unique. “This doesn’t happen in a lot of other places. Our environment allows us to be really different. We have local food, wine, beer, distilled spirits. It’s a great place to meet people. It’s the atmosphere of Traverse City. How lucky we are to be here.”

See a movie at the Open Space
The way Weichman describes it, seeing a film on the giant screens at the Open Space is almost a mystical experience. “Where else can you sit in silence, not telling people to be quiet. There are teens on date night, little ones — I cry the first time I go there every year,” she said.

What will you see on the big screen? Almost anything and everything.“We try to program new stuff, classics, cult films,” said Weichman. “Now at 14 years old, we have teens who have been there for their whole life. We have interns who say they’ve going there since they were five.”

“The lineup this year is pretty darn spectacular,” she added. “So grab a blanket, stop by our photo booth before the show, grab some food, and settle in for some of Hollywood’s greatest.”

Travel Around the Bay
Actually many bays — Grand Traverse Bay, Little Traverse Bay, and Betsie Bay all come into play as the TCFF includes pre-festival films at theatres around the region. Visit Suttons Bay, Harbor Springs, Elk Rapids, Frankfort and Manistee and their unique theaters.

This is the fourth year for the Traverse City Film Festival’s outreach program, which both takes fans to towns they might not otherwise visit and gives residents of those areas a way to be included without having to travel to Traverse City. “You go out, have dinner, see a film. We talk to the crowds,” said Weichman. “It’s a really cool [option] for a lot of hardcore festival people and gets people to other towns.”

Take in a Panel Discussion
These panels are anything but ordinary. But what else would you expect from moderators like film fest head Michael Moore, comedian Doug Benson, and Dick Cavett — wait a minute, DICK CAVETT? That’s right. The iconic talk show host and conversationalist will chat with Moore and filmmaker Robert S. Bader Friday in what they promise will be an enlightening and civilized discourse. Funnyman Benson will host the Comedy Panel at (the altogether reasonable hour of) 3pm on Saturday, with filmmakers and guests cracking wise about films, their careers, the occasionally amusing business of making comedy, and whatever hilarious tangents happen to run through their heads.

On Sunday at 9:30am, the annual doc panel will discuss the trials, tribulations, rewards, and consequences of creating nonfiction film, shining light on important and often controversial subjects, and bringing truth to the people. No fake news here. And you can even participate in a pre-festival bonus panel on Tuesday at 1pm when the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council Meeting takes place at West Bay Beach. Hear the latest news about the film industry here in the mitten state.

Rub Elbows
The official afterglow parties are the place to see and be seen by your friends and the festival officials, and maybe even a famous director or writer. “We have an official designated sport for that evening. We let the filmmakers know — you don’t know who you’ll run into and hang out with,” said Fisher.

This year’s special party locales include Traverse City’s Rare Bird, The Little Fleet, Workshop Brewing, and Mammoth Distilling, and the Parlor.

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