Yesterday a Michigan "actress" online callously dismissed Michigan films as "vanity projects," this as though the only thing that mattered were films produced by Hollywood production companies tethered to headquarters scattered throughout Los Angeles regardless of where they were shot.
She argued that she had been in the business for over thirty years (which according to Hollywood standards would make her based on the length of her career alone past her prime) But she presented this and other highlights of her personal resume (which I found questionable) as though this qualified her to make her remarks.
Her attitude aside, which I thought was wrong on so many levels as to be laughable if not pathetic, I could not help but think of the numbers of fine Michigan films that I have had the privilege of seeing. Many of these in my opinion are on par, and often surpassing the independent and often times the studio productions which emerge out of Hollywood. I know. I preview films I receive on a daily basis to decide which I think may be suitable for a film festival, TV show and online film festival. (These are sent to me from film makers/directors/producers from around the world. ) To satisfy each, I look for only the very best.
It might be said that I preview these films through my own personal biases. But I do so considering each and every film on these qualifiers: originality / creativity, direction, writing, cinematography, performances, pacing, structure, sound / music and overall production value. It can be said I am tough. Unforgiving. Demanding. And I am.
If a film fails within the opening minutes, either because of acting which falls flat, lighting or other elements which I find glaringly poor, I often will not finish the film. Instead I give it a short shrift and figuratively speaking as these are largely digital films I advance to the next reel (films do not come on reels anymore.)
Not only do I judge each individually based on their own merit, I judge them compared to each other, regardless of nation of origin.
That said, I received a link to a Michigan film recently. With a screenplay written by actor, director, producer and writer and Michigan native, Shane Hagedorn, Ashes of Eden was produced by New House Entertainment, Collective Development Inc., and Ahptic Film and Digital.
It stars a first-class cast of Michigan actors/actresses. Included are Steven Sutherland, Melissa Anschutz, Michael Joiner , DJ Perry, Carlucci Weyant, Mayra Leal, Tim Holmes and Shane Hagedorn. Each delivers a first rate performance that is worthy of note.
Hagedorn boasts "I can proudly state that this film will be the breakout movie for our Michigan lead talent. These rising stars of tomorrow, explode on the screen with their performances in Ashes of Eden.
Co-producer Perry says “For a production to overlook the immense local Michigan talent pool for supporting/principal casting due to geography is just not responsible.”
Compared to an urban “American Graffiti” or something in the vein of “The Outsiders”. “Ashes of Eden” is certain to be a movie people will point to years from today as the movie that launched the respective careers of its individual stars. An emotionally charged coming-of-age story. it is a modern day retelling of the Biblical prodigal son. The film follows the life of a freshly turned 18 year-old Red played by newcomer Steven Sutherland. In the film, he's the troubled son of a female police officer played by Melissa Anschutz.
"Ashes of Eden" showcases co-stars DJ Perry and Carlucci Weyant as wickedly complex rival drug dealers; Shane Hagedorn and Michael Joiner appear as competing suitors both trying to help Red come around. Bello Pizzimenti and Drew Wise play Red’s best friend and younger brother who both become entangled in Red’s consequences to his choices.
Red steals from a ruthless drug dealer to save his mother from financial ruin and forced foreclosure on her house. His descent into the brutal drug world to raise the cash, he is hunted by the dealer, the police, and his own addictions.
These characters are complex and believable, brought to life by the cast of Michigan performers.
The Shane Hagedorn (NHE) script was seven years in the making, with nine months of development and production, and over a year of post work. Shot almost entirely in Portland, Michigan, a community west of Lansing, this thriller drama is fast paced and keeps you sitting bolt upright in your seat as it takes you along for a harrying ride, past sights which many from the area will recognize.
Keeping with the movie's Michigan roots, most of the musical artists hail from the Great Lake State as well. Michigan musical artists such as Jerome (The Promise), Sam Corbin (Stay), and Cassidy Bisher (SuperNova) contributed to the film score.
This motion picture has all of the elements in it that makes a great story driven motion picture. To dismiss it as anything less than a tour de force because of where it was shot, or where its cast and crew originated is simply wrong. When Hollywood producers, chasing film incentives lose their directions home and this model fails, when the Michigan people who anxiously await the next comic book franchise-post apocalyptic thriller shot against the backdrop of a deteriorating Motor City, they will discover what this group has known all along. They are building a foundation which will support something really big, and the ground on which they are building cannot be taken from them by some temperamental politico. It is home.
There really is no place like home.