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Reaching northward

For the second consecutive year, the University of Michigan has formed an educational partnership with the Traverse City Film Festival. A short film by U-M students, “Shark Tank,” (photo right) is one of two student films to debut at the festival.

The collaboration calls for U-M faculty from the school’s screen arts department to serve as jurors for short and feature films, and documentaries. In addition, the festival will once again offer a public venue for the premiere screening of two short films by U-M film students.

“We are extremely proud of our association with the University of Michigan,” said Michael Moore (photo left), Oscar-winning filmmaker and founder of the Traverse City Film Festival. “Our goal is to further the appreciation of great films. And to do that, we have been expanding both our film offerings and educational initiatives with the help of some of U-M’s finest film professors and experts.”

The six-day festival, which attracted 106,000 admissions last year, is held July 26-31.

Since the inaugural festival in 2005, the Traverse City Film Festival has nearly tripled the number of screenings, doubled attendance while offering compelling panel discussions and an onsite film school, where classes are presented on screenwriting, acting and the film industry.

“The relationship with the festival expands the University of Michigan’s presence in northern Michigan, and offers creative opportunities for our students and faculty,” said Lee Doyle (see video above), chief of staff in U-M’s Office of Communications.  “As a public education institution, we are proud to participate in furthering the public’s knowledge of all types of film.

“The festival provides an opportunity for U-M faculty to help foster a deeper public understanding of the powerful educational role of filmmakers to connect on a range of issues through their art,” she said.

U-M faculty will serve as jurors, reviewing 80 films and 40 shorts of filmmakers from more than 25 countries.  Several U-M faculty members will participate in the popular daily panel discussions along with writers, actors and directors. Jurors include Mary Lou Chlipala, Colin Gunckel, Phil Hallman and Terri Sarris.

In addition, U-M faculty members V. Prassad and Robert Rayher will teach at the onsite film school, which offers classes daily on a range of film-related subjects. Prassad will teach screenwriting, while Rayher will teach acting for the camera with Pamela Rack Guest.

Prassad is a screenwriter, director and story consultant. His produced work includes “Ocean of Pearls,” and “Before the Rains.” Prassad has also served as programmer for the Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles. Rayher has produced experimental films for more than two decades. He teaches motion picture production, video art and the history of avant-garde film.

Attorney Lisa Pick, director of the legal firm Miller Canfield’s Film + Entertainment practice, will teach a film school course on “Producing Your Independent Film: From Idea to Script to Market.”

For the last three years, U-M students in the screen arts department have premiered the first act of a full-length film on the Thursday of festival week. This year, the noon screening will be held at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City. The student films are:

“Work/Study,” (photo right) a 20-minute film about a financially struggling college student coming to grips with moonlighting as a thief. The script is written by Ben Ellmann, and directed by Joey Bergren.

“Shark Tank,” a 20-minute comedy about a college swimmer who returns home to find the family business is being sold. He and his brother must overcome their differences to save the business. The script is written by Kelci Parker and directed by Barbara Twist.

Funding for U-M’s participation in the Traverse City Film Festival is made possible by a grant from the law firm Miller Canfield.

For more information on the Traverse City Film Festival, please visit

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