Editorial: Festival testament to film's impact on MichiganPublished 2:10pm Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Film buffs mixed and mingled with members of industry and average movie goers over the weekend for the 12th annual Waterfront Film Festival.
Founded by Hopwood DePree, a native of the area, the festival has become a highly anticipated event for residents of Saugatuck, where the festival is held.
A unique event, Waterfront not only utilizes local facilities, such as the high school, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts and the Saugatuck Yacht Club to screen films to the many visitors who purchase tickets and day passes year after year but brings fans and viewers together with producers, actors and directors for the chance to see films they may not get a chance to see on the big screen at any other time.
Last week, just one day before the official start of the Waterfront Film Festival, Janet Lockwood, head of the Michigan Film Office, announced her retirement. It was a noteworthy exit.
Michigan has come under heavy criticism for its incentives to filmmakers who make their movies here. Some feel those incentives are too much and that focusing on finding ways to offer up funds, scarce as they may be, to Hollywood at a time when every cent counts is not a smart use of the state’s resources.
On the streets of Saugatuck, however, no evidence of such concern is noticeable. Instead businesses, most of which operate seasonally and make the majority of their revenue during the summer months, are alive with shoppers looking to discover something different, something unique.
Everything from the local eateries to area wineries, including Round Barn and Fenn Valley, who operate tasting rooms throughout the season, are benefiting from the influx of tourists who come in to see the show and spend the weekend in one of southwest Michigan’s lakefront towns.
The festival is entirely non-profit and volunteer run. Those volunteers come from all over the state to participate in concessions and announcing films to audiences who regularly sell out shows.
For movie buffs – it’s a good time. But for the city, the Waterfront Film Festival is a unique way to bring some much needed business to small, independent business owners.
According to the Michigan Film Office, the state has served as the backdrop to several notable films since 1946 including “Beverly Hills Cop” in 1984, “Only the Lonely” in 1991, “Hoffa” in 1992 and more recently, the Academy Award-nominated “Up in the Air” in 2009 and “Whip It” and “Youth in Revolt” in 2008.
Recently, horror master Wes Craven announced he would film the fourth installment of the “Scream” franchise in Ann Arbor.
Despite varied opinions on Michigan’s incentives to filmmakers and the impact of film on the state’s economy – the Waterfront Film Festival is an example of doing it right by making film the leading man and the city, the businesses and the people the star.