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U-M, Traverse City Film Fest form educational partnership

The Traverse City Film Festival has been a force in showing the international film industry the possibilities for filmmaking in the state of Michigan

Faculty members from the University of Michigan will serve as moderators, panelists and jurors in the first formal step toward a broader participation in the international Traverse City Film Festival. The sixth annual documentary and narrative film competition will be held in northern Michigan, July 27-August 1.

“Since its inception, the Traverse City Film Festival has been a force in showing the international film industry the possibilities for filmmaking in the state of Michigan,” said Lee Doyle, director of U-M’s film office, which aims to attract filmmakers to campus. “With the university’s formal participation, we can set our sights on providing a ‘gateway experience’ to our students, and foster the further development of the state’s fledgling film industry.”

The festival held in downtown Traverse City, blocks from the majestic Grand Traverse Bay, has gained a reputation for attracting the best independent world cinema. While providing a venue for the appreciation of new and classic films, the festival is a magnet to attract producers from around the world to Michigan, gaining wide recognition as friendly to filmmakers, and making major strides in diversifying its economy into nonmanufacturing sectors.

Since the enactment of the state’s tax incentive program, Michigan has drawn film production companies from around the country. In the last two years, eight feature films have been shot on the U-M campus and greater Ann Arbor. Attracting film companies to the region has translated into an economic boost for the local economy.

“Along with realizing our goal of becoming a major international film festival, we now can draw on the educational support of the University of Michigan to lend its expertise to our educational initiatives,” said film festival founder and Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. “We celebrate great filmmaking, but also want to offer opportunities for the general public to deepen its appreciation of film.”

This year, U-M faculty and film experts will provide extensive assistance in the judging of the more than 100 films. In addition, the university’s faculty in film criticism, literature and drama will spearhead panel discussions examining how to critically understand film, and assess latest trends in filmmaking.

In addition to serving as jurors and panelists, U-M faculty will teach seminars on screenwriting and acting for film at the festival’s on-location film school, which is open to the public. The brainchild of Moore, the film school aims to teach the fundamentals of film to people of all ages, and outside traditional educational settings.

In upcoming years, U-M will assist in an international student short film competition and faculty will be on hand to teach at a film camp for fledging young filmmakers.

For the last two years, U-M faculty and students have participated in the festival. Last year, U-M film students produced two short films that premiered at the festival. Screenwriter Jim Burnstein, who heads U-M’s screenwriting program, presented seminars on the craft during the festival. He will also be on hand this year to teach the popular course.

Participation of U-M faculty is made possible by a grant from the law firm of Miller Canfield, based in Michigan with offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Poland and China.

“Filmmaking is playing a lead role in the state’s diversified economy and the industry is important to students, businesses and communities here,” said Lisa Pick, an attorney with Miller Canfield who leads the firm’s film and entertainment business initiatives. She is also a graduate of U-M’s film studies program.

“The educational partnership between U-M and the festival is a way to prepare students and promote Michigan for the possible economic opportunities ahead.”