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Exhibitions and Events

Northern premiere

By Scott Freedman

From script to silver screen doesn’t usually happen this quickly.

In the days leading up to this year’s Traverse City Film Festival, University of Michigan student-filmmakers are putting the finishing touches on two of their films to premiere at the week-long international film-lover gathering held along the shores of picturesque Grand Traverse Bay. The ninth annual festival will be held July 30-August 4.

Since January, the students have steered two films from concept to finished script, then to filming, and finally, editing. The two films – “Fender Bender” and “Open House” — are the first acts of respective three-act stories.

This is the fifth consecutive year U-M has participated in the festival, including preparing student film for premieres and U-M faculty serving as jurors and workshop lecturers.

The films have been produced in a university-wide course in collaboration created by Jim Burnstein and Robert Rayher, senior lecturers in U-M’s Department of Screen Arts and Cultures. Popularly referred to as “423,” the course features top screenwriters and production students from Screen Arts and Cultures, actors from the departments of Theatre and Musical Theatre, production designers, costume designers and sound specialists from the School of Art and Design, composers from the School of Music, and producers from the Ross School of Business.

“The festival is an opportunity to showcase what U-M students can do,” said Rayher. For the past five years, he said the audiences have been extremely receptive. “It’s an opportunity for students to hear from the world at large the quality of the work they’re doing.”

“Fender Bender” by Yaqi Ge  is a coming of age tale that follows self-absorbed, college-bound Jack Reedy, who finds himself stuck spending the summer fixing his dying grandfather’s cherished car with only his disabled uncle and a local waitress for company. Along the way, he gradually learns that broken relationships are much harder to fix than broken automobiles.

Meanwhile, “Open House” by Dustin Alpern (SEE TRAILER ABOVE) is a murder mystery set in a dark world of deceit, treachery, and danger: a high school party. When the most popular jock in school is found dead at the party, a shy student must find the killer to save the girl of his dreams before the night is out.

Founded in 2005 by Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, the festival mission is to screen films that “entertain and enlighten,” while striving to preserve “one of America’s few indigenous art forms- the cinema.”

In nine years, the festival has grown in popularity and influence among established and fledgling filmmakers, especially documentary filmmakers. Last year, the festival received about 100,000 submissions from filmmakers from around the world. Films are shown in downtown movie theatres and the downtown opera house, while workshops are held at Northwestern College.

The U-M short films will premiere at noon Thursday, August 1 at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City.

For more information regarding the film festival, visit:


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