Check out all the cool ways our education partner Michigan State University is involving students, faculty, alumni, and the community in the Traverse City Film Festival. From special student screenings to the programming at The Woz, MSU helps bring a variety of innovative work and new experiences (and even a special appearance by Sparty!) to the TCFF.
We’re pleased to announce the winners of our Friends of the Film Festival drawing!
Because they renewed our joined as Friends of the Film Festival before or on Sunday, July 31 the lucky people below were entered to win some fabulous prizes…and they won!
And get this, you can still become a winner yourself at the 2017 festival by becoming a Friend today. While you may not get a cool pass to the fest, all friends win by getting to buy their tickets a week before the public, can attend our exclusive Friends Screening Parties, and support the festival in a big way! Act now, because prices for Friends memberships double on September 1!
GRAND PRIZE – Festival Pass
Traverse City, MI
SECOND PRIZE – Festival Day Pass
THIRD PRIZE – Festival Popcorn Pass
Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood) visited the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival and sat down with our Founder, President, and Programmer Michael Moore. Read the interview and about her experience at this year’s festival below (originally published on August 4, 2016).
Michael Moore’s 12-Year Project: How His Film Festival Changed a City
We sit down with the filmmaker, who has turned a sleepy resort town into a cultural oasis for sophisticated cinema.
By Anne Thompson
Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival is a welcome reminder of the power of film. Since 2005, he has slowly turned a conservative small town in Northwest Michigan — a four-hour drive away from any major city — into a community of ardent film enthusiasts. Not only that, but they are no longer quite as narrow-minded. Now there are decent restaurants on the main drag. Tourists flock in for the six-day summer festival (which this year ran July 26-31), which sells 130,000 tickets and generates more than $5 million dollars in commerce every year.
Over time, Moore has won over the residents of Traverse City, building their involvement in running his year-round arthouse the State Theatre, plus the mainstream Bijou (built in an old WPA building) and the annual festival, all of which are staffed by volunteers led by resident Deb Lake. They feed Traverse City audiences a steady diet of films foreign and domestic, gay and straight, feature and doc, long and short.
This year, Moore used TCFF XII to celebrate women filmmakers. Thirty-six women directed the U.S. narrative and documentary competition films. (Award-winners here.) And more women filmmakers turned up in other sections, from foreign to shorts to six films shown on the 65-foot screen at the nightly outdoor cinema the Open Space on Grand Traverse Bay, where you could also watch breezy night screenings on a slow-circling catamaran.
Flint, Michigan native Moore lives where his movies take him; he maintains apartments in New York and Traverse City, where the family of his ex-wife and one-time producer Kathleen Glynn summered for years. Moore, Glynn, and her daughter, now 36, continued the tradition.
On opening night Moore called me up to the State stage to introduce Maya Forbes’ “Infinitely Polar Bear,” which he insisted on showcasing over the protests of his staff, who reminded him that the Mark Ruffalo dysfunctional family drama was already two years old and available on Netflix. But it’s his festival and local celebrity Moore can do what he wants.
Moore and I talked in the basement green room of the State Theatre as a film was in progress. Our conversation is on the next page.
Anne Thompson: How have you changed Traverse City?
Michael Moore: When I first got here it was a Republican town in a Republican county that voted for Bush. And when the Republicans in town heard I wanted to start a film festival here, they went ballistic and tried to get the City Commission to stop it. When they couldn’t, they organized an anti-Michael Moore film festival with about a dozen docs about me like “Michael Moore Hates America.” They rented a hotel here and had it run concurrently with my film fest. I said, “I don’t need this, why am I here?”
How did you start the festival?
I had a lunch meeting with friends next door to the State Theatre in 2005 and unveiled the idea of doing a festival. I walked out of the lunch and looked at the boarded up theater: “We should do the festival here, who’s got a key?” Someone let me in, and right away I noticed there was no mold; it had been closed a decade or so.
So I found out the Rotary Club owned it here in town and planned a $9 million renovation: “You don’t need to spend that, give this to me. I’ll renovate it, I don’t want money, I’ll pay for it and get others to write checks. ” I called Deluxe in LA who paid for projectors, I consulted George Lucas, where I was doing a sound mix at Skywalker in Marin.
But it took a year and half for the Rotary to let me do it. They were convinced I’d be flying Fidel Castro in here. It took a while, I went to a lot of meetings here, sang songs and pledged allegiance. They got used to me, then they gave it to me to renovate. I set it up as a nonprofit that the community would own. We gutted the building, it had no balcony, no projection booth, no screen, the ratty old seats were thrown out. I went around and begged, borrowed, and stole and did it for $800,000 in six weeks. We opened in 2007.
We have sold a million and half tickets to a million and a half people. It’s 100 years old. It’s an arthouse theater because Carmike Theatres had the deed restriction on it that no film can be shown here, only live theatre. So [WME chief] Ari [Emmanuel] and I met with the people at Carmike, and modified it so that we can show anything opening on less than 200 screens. If “Lincoln” opens in NY and LA, I can show it. “X-Men?” No. That’s the Bijou. Read more
All of the amazing photos you see across the festival and online are taken by are taken by our incredibly talented, undeniably brilliant team of photographers. And get this…they’re all VOLUNTEERS! To tip our hat at this awesome group of people (and make things a little more interesting), this year we held our first ever TCFF Photography Contest!
The winners were chosen for their cumulative ability to produce quality images across the three categories: Verticals, Venues, and Details. Images were based on submissions posted submitted during the festival and posted on the TCFF Flickr Page. Photography managers were not eligible (so a special thanks to Michael Poehlman and Gary Howe).
- First Place: Elizabeth Tiffany, $100 Gift Certificate to the State and Bijou
- Second Place: Shayne Wyatt, $50 Gift Certificate to the State and Bijou
- Third Place: Alexa Hughes, $25 Gift Certificate to the State and Bijou
Representative images from our winning photographer are below. And you can check out all these images and so, so much more on our Flickr!
The 2016 Traverse City Film Festival is now one for the history books. We did something no mainstream festival has ever done in this country — have 100% of the films in the Official US Section of the festival (fiction and documentary) be from directors who happen to be women.
This was not my original intent. I just wanted to try and even things out a bit, because only 4% of all the movies Hollywood makes are directed by women. This statistic blew my mind, so I made a commitment to myself to aggressively search for films women were making, films women were trying to make, and films women had made that were ignored.
Once I widened the pool of possible films to consider to include as many films by women as men, I was confronted with a shocking discovery: women were making dozens and dozens of films under the radar, in spite of the system, often with little or no money — and those films were nothing short of outstanding! One after the other, over the past 12 months, I watched them and then I would sit there stunned, marveling at the beauty and intensity of these stories I knew I would never see at the multiplex.
By the end of my months of screening and selecting these films for you, I was a mixed bag of emotions: exhilarated by the genius works of art I was witnessing, sad that all of us have been cheated for so many years by being exposed only to the stories of white men, exhausted from viewing all or parts of over 500 films, and angry at the whole damn system that won’t let me see a masterpiece by a woman from Cambodia (“The Last Reel”) or by a black woman from Boston (“Infinitely Polar Bear”). But I’m lucky that I have the platform — this festival — to share these incredible films with someone. Like you. Thank you.
I want every American to have the chance we all had this past week in Traverse City. Don’t you? Shouldn’t every town in America have a State Theatre? Shouldn’t every secretary and teacher and plumber have a chance to experience the wonderment and enchantment of the cinema as we do here, to see the batch of movies we all saw here this week? Why keep this as one of the country’s best kept secrets? Who wants to share our joy with others?
I do! And so that’s my mission, my takeaway from TCFF 2016. Bring TCFF to the world past Acme and Cedar and Fife Lake. And do it from right here in our little neck of the woods!
Soon I will be asking you to join with me and our board of directors in helping bring these great movies to our fellow Americans. In a time of such craziness amidst a national temperament of precious little civility, wouldn’t this be a nice thing for the nicest town I’ve ever lived in to do? If you agree, let me know. If you want to be part of this mission, I’d love a helping hand or two.
I have a few more things to ask you and tell you about, so I’ll do that in upcoming emails this month.
For now, hats off to everyone who made this such a great festival. I was moved by the many acts of kindness I witnessed. Most notably to me personally were the two separate business owners who walked out onto the sidewalk of the State Theatre after watching “Where To Invade Next” and decided to give their employees more weeks of paid vacation and extended paid maternity leave. When I heard this, I cried.
All my best,
First Time Ever for a Mainstream Film Festival: All Films in the US Official Selections Directed by Women
Orson Welles’ Daughter Speaks at 100th Birthday of Festival-Run Theater Restored by Michael Moore
Grand Prize Goes to “The Last Reel” from Cambodia
In a bold move never before attempted by a mainstream, nationally-recognized film festival, Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival left an indelible impression as more than three dozen American women directors (and many more from other countries) took center stage to show some of the “absolute best films of the year” — films that were made in spite of a Hollywood system where only 4% of released films are directed by the majority gender.
As part of this historic initiative, all of the films in this year’s official US Fiction and Documentary sections were directed or co-directed by women. Many of these directors came to Traverse City to accompany their films and participated in panels and film school classes designed to help women break the celluloid and digital ceiling.
Additionally, all of the films that screened in the festival’s Open Space outdoor cinema were directed and/or written by women.
And, to kick off the festival, Moore did something festivals never do: Have as his opening night film a movie that was released over a year ago in 2015 — Maya Forbes’ “Infinitely Polar Bear.” “This was, in my humble opinion, the best film of the year,” said Moore. “It received little notice, no awards from the Hollywood community, and, although she had one of the best indie distributors in the business, essentially no one saw it. This absolutely floored me. If a woman is lucky enough to get a film made, gets a great distributor, and yet is just a tree falling in the forest, something is seriously wrong with our culture and it must be fixed.”
Moore’s comments on Opening Night were met with vigorous applause from the audience of filmgoers in Traverse City.
The 12th annual festival, founded, programmed, and run by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Moore, screened 120 feature films and 107 shorts, welcomed over 123,000 admissions across the festival’s 12 different venues, offered a slew of classes in its TCFF Film School, and held panels, parties and podcasts throughout a week that saw a record high of 175 filmmakers bring their films from around the world and across the country to Northern Michigan.
TCFF brought a record high 175 filmmakers and industry guests from around the world and across the country to Northern Michigan, to accompany their films and participate with audiences.
The festival also celebrated the Centennial of its crown jewel: the year-round movie palace, the historic State Theatre of Traverse City. 100 years of moviegoing on Front Street was celebrated with a special screening of “Citizen Kane,” with Orson Welles’ daughter Beatrice Welles in attendance.
A “Walk of Fame” was installed under the State’s sparkling marquee in honor of the Centennial, with handprints from Madonna, Judd Apatow, Kristen Bell, Susan Sarandon, Wim Wenders, and other film luminaries who have visited the festival over the years.
The festival also continued many of its popular the tradition like “Movies on a Boat” — a unique filmgoing excursion departing nightly on the largest commercially sailing catamaran on the Great Lakes.
Our all-free-all-the-time venue The Buzz, dedicated to bringing some of the best and most exciting films of the year to the public completely free of charge, moved into plush new digs at Traverse City’s Central Grade School, just steps away from Lars Hockstad Auditorum. The new venue was a huge hit with everyone who attended the free films there.
And “The Woz,” our interactive media and gaming gallery showcasing media experiences and storytelling that go beyond traditional screens, moved into the brand new Hotel Indigo in Traverse City’s warehouse district. Thanks to our partnership with Michigan State University, in addition to the new location, the lineup this year featured more new technology and games than ever before.
For the first time, the festival became a certified local food event–20 percent of all food at the festival came from our local community.
Moviegoers also enjoyed delightfully enhanced access to our bike friendly city with bike valet parking running throughout the festival in Clinch Park, next to the Bijou by the Bay. Centrally located and TART Trail-adjacent, the bike valet offered a safe, secure way to bike and stroll to all nearby venues.
We also continued to highlight recent festival programming additions including #Tween, movies for the generation currently coming of age, and The Sidebar: Food on Film, which brings moviegoers the best in culinary cinema and featured candid conversations between the stars of the Northern Michigan food scene, sample bites inspired by the films, and a very special appearance by the legendary Chef Jeremiah Tower appearing with his film “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent.”
The festival’s Centerpiece Screening brought the world’s most famous self-help master, Tony Robbins, to Traverse City with Joe Berlinger’s film “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru”. The screenings came compete with unforgettable raucous mini seminars following the screening. The festival closed with “Concerto: A Beethoven Journey” featuring a special appearance by master pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.
The Founders Grand Prize for Best Film went to “The Last Reel” by Kulikar Sotho, who traveled from Cambodia to present her film. The festival’s awards ceremony was live streamed, and you can find the complete list of award winners here.
The festival would not be possible without the 2,000 volunteers who donate countless hours to the community to ensure the success of TCFF.
The festival welcomed 37 new sponsors this year, and saw a 6% increase in sponsor dollar support — over 350 film and event sponsors and 200 inkind donors. This year also featured a notable increase in “Friends of the Film Festival” memberships. Friend memberships are available at half price through September 1, 2016.
The festival may be over, but it will live on in our hearts and in this video forever! Our incredible videography team led by the great Morgan Burke-Beyers edited this fantastic closing montage that makes clear just what a great time was had by all beautiful Downtown Traverse City. Check it out!
Music by the official band of TCFF All Nighters: Talking Heads “And She Was.”
12 years are in the books for the Traverse City Film Festival!
Thank you to all those that submitted bumpers this year! The Traverse City Film Festival and 12-year sponsor FIM Group proudly announce the winners of the 2016 Bumper Contest.
FIM GROUP BUMPER CONTEST
Film Festival Finder
Brenda Smith and Tami Evans
Worth the Wait
A Movie House
Find out what the film festival means with this sassy bumper produced by Lars Kelto with the help of some of this year’s class of incredible female filmmakers!
Big things happened at the TCFF this year, one of them being the World Premiere of “Sister Cities” at Lars Hockstad Auditorium. The show was sold out, the line worked its way around the building, and anticipation and excitement hung in the air.
Director Sean Hanish and leading lady Amy Smart walked the red carpet and stopped for a quick photo-op and toast before entering the auditorium, settling into their seats, watching the finished project, and seeing all of their hard work come to life on the big screen.
Walking the red carpet wasn’t the only thing Amy participated in last night, she also left her mark on TCFF by adding a new set of hands to our Walk of Fame. Joining the likes of Michael Moore, Madonna, and Judd Apatow, Amy’s handprints will be part of the TCFF family and will soon be a permanent fixture outside of the State Theatre. Congrats to Amy and the cast and crew of “Sister Cities” for one heck of a premiere!