Sad songs, happy guests and Disney celebs

Published 12:54 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

Fans rock out to Funktion at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck. Photo by Andrew Gerard

Blue Star Highway

The Waterfront Film Festival began on the night of Friday, June 11 in Saugatuck, Mich. with music; funk, specifically.

Funktion, an energetic band from Kalamazoo, Mich., got the lawn-chair riding audience foot-tapping and head-nodding (and a few guests dancing). After grooving out to Funktion, the crowd was taken to a different, less funky emotional level with Secondhand Serenade, a popular (nationally!) acoustic/emo/rock band. I am not certain that many in the audience of mostly 20s to 60s individuals realized that they were watching a band made famous on MySpace, and very popular with certain segments of the teen/young adult market.

After Secondhand Serenade finished, we (the Blue Star Highway crew) followed the river of pre-teen and teen girls to the front, where lead singer John Vesely was signing autographs. We snapped some photos and listened to Vesely talk to fans when suddenly: Disney Channel star! Standing a few feet away, being hugged by  girls even younger than those talking to the band, was Disney Channel actress Danielle Campbell, most recently known as the star of “Starstruck,” a Disney Channel original movie. We asked Campbell what she was doing at the film festival.

“My uncle owns Del Sol, so we’re up here a lot,” she said. “We come up a lot in the summer. It’s a lot of fun. They asked if I’d be willing to appear at the film festival.” Campbell was at the festival to announce some indie films and, as she said, “for the kids.”

The Waterfront Film Festival is growing – each year the three-day festival pulls in a more talented, eclectic group of films and directors, and more fans. Kori Eldean Rentz, one of the founders of the festival, said, “Every year we have had more guests. We topped 16,000 in 2009.”

The festival was founded 12 years ago, and has grown in guests, and also in the talent of filmmakers.

“Every year our caliber of films gets better,” said Rentz, “and lately we’ve had more and more films being made in Michigan because of tax incentives.” This year Michigan films featured at the festival included “Annabelle and Bear,” “Cherry,” ‘TUG” and “Deforce.”
“It’s exciting that we get to show these films here in Michigan,” Rentz said. For guests, the Waterfront Film festival is about films, but also about the beauty of a waterside location and the fantastic city of Saugatuck. At the opening of the festival, hours before the Academy Award Nominated short films (Friday night’s showing) began, visitors happily sipped beer and wine and chatted in little groups, while yachts bobbed in the harbor and an emo band sang sad songs to adolescents.