“From This Day Forward” – Talking with Sharon Shattuck

Sharon_297“From This Day Forward,” a documentary by Petoskey native Sharon Shattuck, is an exploration of her father’s transition after coming out as transgender and her family’s journey toward acceptance. It is above all a love story, a touching and intimate portrayal of a family that stuck together and the Northern Michigan town they live in.

We were able to speak with Sharon about her filmmaking process, and what insight she gained into her father’s own story while making the film.

Catch the film Saturday, August 1 at 9:30 am at the State Theatre, or Sunday, August 2 at 6 pm at the Old Town Playhouse.

When did you know that this was a film you wanted to make? Which of your parents did you first approach about making the film, and did they have any reservations about it?

It’s been a long journey. I knew that I wanted to make this film back when I was in Journalism school. My undergrad was in Botany, I was at the University of Michigan and then I volunteered in Panama with the Smithsonian Institute, and then I did some work at the Field Museum in Chicago assisting a Tropical Botanist. At some point, I wanted to use my communication skills and my art skills more. I started making short projects about transgender people in New York City. And I was profiling different people, and was happy to be working in that area, and talking to people about their experience, and I was inching towards wanting to make this film.

But I assumed my parents wouldn’t let me make this movie. They’re very private; they’re not looking to be activists. They live in a small town in Northern Michigan and don’t want the exposure. So I didn’t even talk to them about it for years, and just worked on other people’s projects. Eventually, I asked my dad if I could make a short piece for The New York Times Op-Docs video. And Dad said “sure,” so I started interviewing Trisha, my dad, who it turned out was really comfortable talking about everything. And that’s when I thought it could be a longer topic, but I had to really run it by my parents and it took a few years of me interviewing my dad and not really making it clear that I wanted to make a feature film. Just sort of running it by them and asking “how do you feel about this and could I interview you?” At first my mom said “no.” For like a year, my mom just didn’t want to talk to me, she’s so shy and I don’t think she wanted to be on camera. I think after awhile, after seeing how comfortable Trisha was with it and how it was a good thing – we were talking about things we hadn’t talked about before, I think my mom came around. And when she finally sat down with me I was so nervous… But it was fine, I told my parents they could always tell me if there’s something you don’t want to talk about. They never did, they never said “stop talking” or “don’t ask that question” or “turn off the camera.” They were really open.

How much of your parents’ story, your father’s specifically, did you know going into this project?

I didn’t know that much. I think when I was younger I wasn’t ready or willing to put myself in Trisha’s shoes. I was struggling so much with getting by in high school and middle school, but I just didn’t have the maturity to understand where Trisha was coming from so I didn’t ask that many questions. I didn’t even realize – the whole painting thing being a diary, that was completely new to me and it makes so much sense now, but the idea that all of these personal events were tied up in the paintings, I had no idea. And I feel like so much of Trisha’s personality is in those paintings, and there was a huge part of her that I didn’t understand.

Do you think growing up in a household where your father’s art was such a crucial part of her expression, that this influenced you to follow your passion in filmmaking? 

Yeah! It’s funny, I’ve always been, I’ve always felt like I was more of my mom’s daughter in that I was always pursing science for a long time, and until grad school when I went towards the documentary side, that was the first time where I really was like “oh, I can be an artist too!” And now what I’m trying to do, I do a lot of communication of science, so this film is a little outside of my normal wheelhouse. But I love focusing on personalities and people, and so even if it’s science-based I’m trying to focus on interesting stories.

The film paints a very intimate portrait of your family. To what extent did you decide to focus on your family alone, compared to feeling any obligation to represent the transgender community as a whole?

That’s a good question because a lot of kids of LBGT families, the kids feel this pressure to show that everything is fine. And it is fine, you know, we’re just like any other family in so many ways. A lot of the time we don’t want to talk about anything that’s negative at all because there’s so much debate about whether LGBT people can even have kids that we want to be like “we’re great and everything’s completely perfect!” and it is a little difficult to bring up some issues that aren’t completely perfect. I really struggled with that movie, there were earlier cuts where I didn’t touch on anything that was sad or dark, and in the end I worked really hard with my editor Frederick Shanahan and producer Martha Shane and we came to an agreement that it’s better to include that stuff, it makes you understand what life is like inside a real family, in a more real way than the glossy superficial portrait. But it’s difficult because you don’t want to give anybody any ammunition against LGBT families. I don’t think that anybody who sees the whole movie would ever feel like they could use that as ammunition, but it’s always a concern. Read more

No Filter Necessary: Instagram Roundup 7/28-7/29

Check out some of the best Instagram photos from the first two days of TCFF 11 — keep sharing your own by using the #tcff hashtag or by tagging tcfilmfest!

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2015 TCFF Dailies

Take a look at how all the Traverse City Film Festival pre-show content gets made for all the films, have a look at Movies on a Boat from the Captain’s perspective. Plus, find out how many tons of equipment it takes to set up the Open Space as a movie theatre and our bonus interview of Michigan Filmmaker of the Year Roger Corman.

Grab a drink and talk with TCFF filmmakers like Naneek’s Neal Steeno, and talk about film at Movies on Tap, stay cool at the festival as the mercury rises, enjoy interactive games from MSU & Pure Michigan at The Woz, and hear what two-time Oscar Winner and recipient of the TCFF 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award director Barbara Kopple has to say about her film “Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation” and the Traverse City Film Festival.

Our second daily takes a ride on the TCFF shuttle with our Information Ambassadors, shares a table with King Georges director Erika Frankel (click for her After the Credits interview) and talks with “Do I Sound Gay” director David Thorpe about the festival’s LGBTQ programming and Friday morning’s free Equality Now! panel.

The first daily of 2015 takes a peak behind the curtain with the dedicated crew of technicians, volunteers & sponsors who help make TCFF so incredible! Stay tuned all week for more including short videos on our Facebook.

24 Hours to Go, 24 Things You Should Know

It’s that time of year again –less than 24 hours until the Opening Night Movie officially kicks off the 2015 Traverse City Film Festival!

To celebrate, here are 24 facts, activities, and more about the 11th annual TCFF:

  1. Take a look at the future of storytelling with The Woz, right here at the InsideOut Gallery. Walk in anytime between 12 noon and 9 pm, Wednesday through Saturday, to experience games and interactive media projects beyond the typical screen–for free!14627881380_432f208345_z
  2. Have some fun with fellow film lovers after the shows? Take a look at our great lineup of parties here!
  3. Our wonderful group of volunteers is what makes the e ntire festival possible. There are always shifts available, so help us out and have some fun and get great perks in the process.
  4. Of course, movies are not just for adults. The under-12 crowd loves our Kids Fest, with great movies for just $1, free popcorn, and plenty of great activities at our lawn party following the screenings at Lars Hockstad Wednesday – Saturday.
  5. Also family friendly, we sought out the best new movies for the generation currently coming of age with our selection of PG #Tween.
  6. Heard the hype about the growing Northern Michigan food scene? Experience it firsthand with The Sidebar: Food on Film, enjoying small bites while listening in on candid discussion with stars of the food scene.
  7. To celebrate the landmark Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ rights, we are showcasing films exploring LGBTQ Equality.
  8. It’s back! Informal discussions follow select screenings of the films in our Cinema Salon After the movies, come to The Patio on the bay in Clinch Park to talk with other film-going enthusiasts.14627989977_0a15d4eece_z
  9. The Buzz @ InsideOut Gallery is home to FREE films all day, ever day. Grab your free tickets and enjoy a great movie or special event – this one’s on us!
  10. Set sail on the Nauti-Cat, the largest sailing catamaran on the Great Lakes to see Movies on a Boat, screening under the stars on the Grand Traverse Bay.
  11. Keep the fun going after the screenings with Movies on Tap. Join TCFF staff, filmmakers, and volunteers at these afterparties, starting at 7 pm nightly.
  12. Grab a blanket and join us for another excellent lineup of movies at the Open Space, watching some of Hollywood’s most beloved films on a 65-foot screen on the Grand Traverse Bay. And the best part – it’s free!
  13. We have a number of great guests in town, like Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of the beloved Charlie Chaplin; Kathryn Altman, wife of the legendary filmmaker Robert Altman; and B-movie legend Roger Corman, who will be accepting this year’s Michigan Filmmaker Award.
  14. Our guest list keeps growing, with over 120 film professionals in attendance. Just recently, we’ve added Megan Delaney, producer of “The Wolfpack,”as well as subjects Govinda, Narayana, and Mukunda Angulo to talk about one of this year’s most popular docs.
  15. Our pre-show content is the best and biggest around, with over 80 live musical acts performing before screenings, on a bayfront music stage, and at parties. Take a look here.
  16. Don’t forget – nothing is ever sold out at the TCFF! If a show is listed as “standby only,” a standby ticket line will form one hour before the screening, and a few available seats will open up to those who wait!
  17. “Just Great Movies” is the phrase you’ve heard from us from day 1 as a festival over a decade ago, and it’s what we’ve strived for every time. So take a chance on a film – you won’t be disappointed.
  18. 14628074407_3713130358_zWe are thrilled to welcome back one of our favorite TCFF fixtures, movie-aficionado and comedian Doug Benson. Don’t miss a live taping of his wildly popular Doug Loves Movies Podcast (Wednesday 9 pm, Old Town Playhouse), or join us for “The Benson Movie Interruption” of “Speed” (Saturday 12 midnight, State Theatre) and “Top Gun” (Thursday 9 pm, Old Town Playhouse) – it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Trust us.
  19. The TCFF Film School returns to Northwestern Michigan College’s Scholars Hall this year, for another round of classes where our filmmaking experts show aspiring students how it’s done. We recommend “Indie Darling Bob Byington’s Guide to Filmmaking,” where you’ll hear from one of our favorite award-winning writer/directors. And all classes are only $5.
  20. Get your morning started listening to our free daily Film Panels, 9:30 am at the City Opera House. We’ll have a great lineup of filmmakers and industry professionals from across the globe talking cinema with each other and the audience. Even better, it’s free and open to the public. Don’t miss Saturday’s Comedy Panel, the one that you’ll be talking about all year-round.14633993729_d731e13e0f_z
  21. If it seems like you can’t watch enough movies because there are only so many hours in the day, our shorts programs are perfect for you. The documentary shorts program “Character Study” is a staff favorite, featuring “Body Team 12” producer Bryn Mooser in person, and “Amanda F***ing Plamer” director Ondi Timoner via Skype.
  22. We love Michigan. You love Michigan. What better way to show our affection for the Great Lakes State than showcasing films that are close to home? Made by filmmakers around the state or about subjects in familiar territory, check out great cinema with “From This Day Forward,” “T-Rex,” “20 Years of Madness,” and “A Courtship.”
  23. Keep in touch! Get festival updates by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our app, and our blog.
  24. We want to be clear – our festival could not exist without our amazing team of sponsors, patrons, and volunteers. Whether it’s watching movies or helping to usher a film, every year, your dedication to our shared passion is what keeps the Traverse City Film Festival going. We cannot say thank you enough. Let’s make TCFF 11 the best year yet!

IMG_0186Katy Gwizdala is a Michigan native who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her arguing with friends, colleagues, and her cat about all things pop culture. Follow on Twitter @katygwizdala.

Transforming Traverse City into Movie Paradise

As you know, a lot of amazing and awe-inspiring things go into making the festival the magical event it is today. Nothing is quite as impressive as the sudden transformation of some of our venues into state-of-the art movie theaters. Check out these amazing timelapses by our assistant operations director Mark Hubert!

Staff Selects

They’ve been working all year to bring you the very best films out there, and now, with the festival only days away, the TCFF staff share what they’re personally most excited for you to check out at this year’s fest.

 10960347_10152868654236144_8199241417887054142_o Haemoo
I love action/adventure that keeps me on the edge of my seat, so this beautifully made, sometimes funny, and always intense movie about people on a boat who get into a lot of trouble is one of my favorites of the fest. It’s an exhilarating viewing experience — not for the faint of heart. (It’s “hey-moo.”) – Deb Lake, Executive Director
10959950_2745556119013_2471385909969672168_o Breaking a Monster
Even if you’re someone who could care less about heavy metal music (aka someone like me), there’s no way you can watch this fascinating documentary and not be amazed and enthralled by Unlocking the Truth — the unbelievably badass tween metal sensations poised to make an indelible mark on the music industry. Plus, I just really enjoy seeing talented people being awesome and awesome is what you’ll get when Unlocking the Truth hits the stage live from the State Theatre. – Meg Weichman, Creative Director
10644686_10106272200915904_4236283964801947692_o A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
Nothing speaks to my soul more than inspirational personal stories. That’s why I’m so thrilled to have such an amazingly wonderful and powerful woman at this year’s festival! Lizzie Velasquez shared her story with the world and wowed us all with her Tedx talk last year, covering her rare congenital disease, how she’s overcome bullying, and her life today as a motivational speaker (and in my eyes, a role model to all ages). If you haven’t watched it, take 13 minutes of your day and you’ll be convinced you want to see the entire film. – Susan Fisher, Business Director
unnamed Shorts: WTF
To me, watching a shorts program is like a condensed version of the overall festival experience – instead of watching 10 films over the course of a week, you can watch just as many creative and thought-provoking shorts in just 90 minutes. And this program truly has some of the best films of the year in it, including two top award winners from Sundance; the latest from indie animation legend Don Hertzfeld; and of course “Kung Fury,” a totally off-the-wall send up of 80s action movies. Do yourself a favor check ’em out! –  Ian Hollander, Film Department Director

A Message from Michael Moore: T-Minus 5 Days Until the TCFF!

Friends,
It’s less than a week until the opening night of the 11th Annual Traverse City Film Festival, so you’re probably in one of three positions right now:

1. You couldn’t get tickets to a particular movie you wanted to see. “Learning to Drive?” So what, I learned to drive when I was 16. “Dark Places?” Well, go see any movie here and you’ll be sitting in one! Finding out that one of your selections is “Standby Only” is one of life’s great chances to see something unexpected, daring, and surprising!

2. You still can’t decide what to see from a list of films featuring everything from some of the greatest classics in the history of cinema to some of the most audacious, captivating, hilarious, and transcendent movies to come along in recent years.

3. You’re desperately trying to figure out how many meals you can skip, responsibilities you can abandon, and how long your dog can go without a walk in order to squeeze in a few more movies.

Fortunately for you, your friendly neighborhood programmer (yes, I’ve seen them all) is here to help! Read on to find out more about some of my favorites — tips and suggestions for finalizing your feast of film this coming July 28 – August 2.

Brilliant. Ingenious. Astonishing. Enchanting. Both directors of this inspiring and inventively-told true story of grassroots activism will present the film in person – one of them is coming all the way from Jordan!
TCFF Michigan Filmmaker of the Year Roger Corman presents his favorite film from his 400+ title resume. Vincent Price was never more deliciously sinister than in this bravura gothic fantasy adapted from the Edgar Allan Poe classic!
With Caitlyn Jenner making headlines around the country, this film could not be more timely. Director and Petoskey native Sharon Shattuck, along with her parents, will join us in TC for this powerful and profound film about one how one family coped with the most intimate of transformations.

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Easter Eggs Revealed

We had a lot of awesome submissions for our Easter Egg Poster Contest. We tallied up the results and our big winner is Hayley Dexter, receiving two tickets to the Opening Night party on July 28th! Thank you to everyone who participated, if you are curious what the correct answers are, we have added a circled poster to this post and a key below. Hope to see everyone at the festival!

TCFF11-Poster_FINAL

KEY:
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Through the Lens of Matthew Modine

TCFF2011-Ghowe-42Matthew Modine (TCFF 2006, 2011) is a Golden Globe Award-winning actor, as well as a writer, producer, and director, who over the course of decades, has with some of cinema’s biggest talent.

Having films in the Traverse City Film Festival for the third time, Matthew is an actor and producer on the film “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” as well as “Merry Xmas,” directed by his son, Boman Modine. Look out for Boman’s interview to be posted on our blog tomorrow!

And after immediately selling out during Friends ticketing, we’ve added another screening of “The Brainwashing of My Dad” by popular demand on Saturday, August 1 at 12 noon.

You’ve worked on movies as grand a scale as “The Dark Night Rises” and “Full Metal Jacket”, but also on television, in theater, independent, and short films – what is your method for determining which projects you choose to become involved with?

I try to find interesting projects, things that give you opportunities to learn about things you’re curious about. Generally those types of subjects that you’re curious about will be in the hands of interesting filmmakers, directors, because they’re also using the medium to investigate and tell stories about things that we don’t know about or things that we’re trying to understand.

You’re notable as a director, writer, producer, but you’re best recognized as an actor. How do you compare working in film in front of the camera, compared to behind the scenes?

You know, there’s a long history of directors who are also actors, whether we go back to Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, or to today with Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen. You learn that you’re coming up whatever your curiosity is – like with Woody Allen it was comedy and acting, there’s a certain kind of thing you want to accomplish, a vision that you have as an artist – that maybe somebody else doesn’t see things the way that you do. And so the only way to fulfill that goal is to be the person who places the camera.

If we think of the camera as your eye, your lens, and your brain is the celluloid, or today the chip, the way that you see things, the way that you imagine a scene to take place is where your lens is – so you see things differently based on the experiences you’ve had in your life. If ten directors were given a screenplay, they’d have ten different points of view. They would place the camera in different places, they would move the camera in different times, and they would edit the film in different ways. That’s the art of filmmaking and directing. What’s interesting is when somebody has a different ways of the seeing things based on the experiences they’ve had in their lives. I think it’s why it’s very interesting the filmmakers we’re being exposed to in America now – from South America, from Scandinavia, from Eastern Europe – their films are compelling because they’re different points of view that we’re not accustomed to, so it makes their films very interesting. Probably what’s happened in America is that we have a lot of people basing their view of the world on experiences that they’ve had not from living life but from watching film or television. What happens when you get a mirror and face it to a mirror is that you get a reflection of a reflection of a reflection. We shouldn’t base our point of view on watching television shows or other people’s films, but we should tell stories that come from experiences that we’ve had in our own personal lives so that we can tell an audience what it feels like to be slapped across the face, to be insulted, to have your heart broken – that you’re telling it from an organic experience rather than a regurgitation of other films. And I think that you can find that in a lot of American cinema.

You’ve worked with so many directors with such distinct methods and styles – Robert Altman, Kubrick, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan – the list goes on. How has this impacted you as an actor and a filmmaker?

Well, the one thing they share and have in common as filmmakers is the unique point of view, a perspective, a need to tell a story, not just a desire to be a filmmaker. The stories that they tell, it’s very important just for an actor but for a director to have the need to tell the story – whether or not there’s an audience for that story, you of course hope that there’s a shared interest in the things that you’re interested in. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. But there has to be that need, that drive to tell the story. I feel that very strongly from someone like Oliver Stone that the stories that he wants to tell are really burning inside of belly, that he wants to expose something and investigate something and share that with an audience and I find that very attractive. Read more

Lots of Tix Left, Screenings Added — and I’ve Got Another Surprise For YOU

 Friends, 

I’ll make it brief.

30% of screenings at this year’s festival are sold out! Woo hoo!  

That means 70% of all screenings still have tickets available. Lots of ’em. Right now! 

My personal event, “Mike’s Surprise,” is pretty much sold out for its Sunday show at Lars, so I’m adding a SECOND “Mike’s Surprise” on Saturday at noon at the State Theatre. You won’t regret it if you attend either show. How do I know this? I control the surprise! Bwahahahahaa!

We’ve also added new screenings to some of our most popular shows — and tickets for all of the new screenings are on sale right now for Friends! They are:

Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, July 18, all tickets go on sale to the public beginning at 11 am in person at the box office, and then at 6 pm online at tcff.org 

I’m also honored to announce some of the exciting guests who will be with us live in Traverse City during the festival!

breaking_a_monster_1_thumbWe’ve got the tween metal band sensations (seriously, check them out), Unlocking the Truth, appearing in person with their film “Breaking a Monster;” the director and stars of the show behind the Michigan-made “20 Years of Madness;” the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff, coming to present “Very Semi-Serious;” Petoskey-native Sharon Shattuck and her parents from the timely film “From This Day Forward;” Marlon Brando’s son Miko with “Listen to Marlon;” Flint-native Olympic gold medalist boxer Claressa Shields and “T-Rex;” and anti-bullying activist and all around inspiration Lizzie Velasquez in “A Brave Heart” (check out her powerful TED talk here and you’ll know immediately why you need to bring everyone you know to this screening!). 

This is all on top of Hollywood Royalty like Roger Corman, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert Altman‘s wife Kathryn Altman, and his collaborator Michael Murphy, that we have already announced. Seeing these great works with these people in attendance is an experience no film lover should miss! 

And this is just an abbreviated list. Most of this year’s screenings will have filmmakers in attendance, and I can’t wait for the filmmakers to see your reaction to their work. Check out the trailers for the films online and our helpful hints at finding the best movies for you. Fill your movie card, and I’ll see you downtown in 11 days!

Yours,
Michael Moore