With 40 different short and documentary films being featured at the 8th Annual Made in Michigan Film Festival that will screen over the three-day expanse of the festival from February 3-5th, each of the selected entries possess a high quality of vision & perspective that serve as a testament to the artistry of drawing an audience into the world of a narrative delivered over a short expanse of time.
Much like the challenges presented by the artistry of short story writing, one’s focus needs to be immediate and exacting, with little latitude for meandering into sub-texts or getting lost in a forest of meandering details.
A full schedule of the short film blocks presented at the festival are noted in the center-spread of this supplement and are also available online at www.madeinmichiganfilmfestival.org; and basically will screen each day of the festival, with a majority of the shorts being shown Saturday, February 4th starting at 11 am and continuing on Sunday, February 5th beginning at 1 pm.
Recently, I caught up with the creative teams behind two of the standout shorts being presented at this 8th annual festival. Much like the work they submitted, what each of these directors and writers had to say was both informative and engaging.
Menacing Matrimony •
Saturday, Feb. 4th • 7:15 PM Film Block
Narrative Short/Student – Motion Pictures Institute (15 minutes)
Director/Producer Writer: Molade Balogun Writer: Sandi Brinn
For director/writer Molade Balogun and co-writer & actress Sandi Brinn, their cinematic creation entitled Menacing Matrimony serves as a dark comedic look inside a marriage that deftly articulates the lengths an unhappily married man will go to gain his disapproving wife’s attention.
Molade & Brinn developed the idea for the narrative of the film while collaborating on a previous project, deciding to structure a script around the idea of exploring the architecture of a quirky marriage. “We quickly discovered our mutual penchant for dark comedy & drama,” reflects Molade, “and the basic premise for our narrative came from combining bits of real-life experience with elements of films we admire, such as Harold & Maude and War of the Roses.”
With one of their creative objects focused upon combining experimental and narrative filmmaking styles, there is a simmering current of cordial hostility embedded within the dialogue of Menacing Matrimony that is reminiscent of such playwrights as Edward Albee (aka ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’). However, in terms of influences, Brinn says that “Much of the dialogue is an outgrowth of our own personalities as writers, however Warren Adler who wrote The War of the Roses was a pivotal inspiration.”
When asked what they feel distinguishes this work and makes it a unique experience for audiences, Molade points to how “the dark quirkiness of the thematic elements create a sinister comedic edge that is strangely relatable.”
Creatively the biggest challenged posed with converting Menacing Matrimony from script to screen involved the lengthy opening shot. “It was all done in one take and was quite an intense undertaking,” states Molade. “Factoring in two hangings and a stabbing also made for a pretty ambitious shoot. But all of this is instructive, as currently we are taking the short-film route exclusively in order to find our groove together as filmmakers before attempting a feature length project.”
Since its international debut in October of last year, Menacing Matrimony has received three critical acclaims and been invited to four film festivals. “The audience reaction to our eccentric couple has been very satisfying.”
Locked, Conrad & Shitada •
Saturday, Feb. 4th • 11:00 AM Film Block
Director/Producer/Writer: Nicholas Gascho
Producer/Writer: Brittany Dunn
Locked, Conrad, and Shitada are three short films created by videographer/director Nicholas Gascho designed to compel audiences to think deeper about contemporary cultural topics. Conrad was accepted as the Official Selection of the Saugatuck Shorts Film Competition, while Locked centers around a man who wakes up to find himself locked in a basement forced to hear his sister’s lea and wondering if he will ever be able to get out of the basement. His most recent work, Shitada, takes place the night before election day and traces the journey of a character named Stan, who goes out to mingle with his co-workers after the first week on his new job.
Regarding the genesis of his latest project, Gascho explains how it gestated from concept to reality. “Back in September there was so much talk about the election and I thought it was just ridiculous that so many people are stuck in the ‘lesser of two evils’ mindset. I think that this mentality will always lead to lowered standards. The food industry is a great example of how this has already played out. GMOs and pesticides in our food have been hot topics in the past several years. With so many illnesses being associated to our food standards, I could see a common direction between attitudes toward food and politics,” he explains.
“I didn’t want to make a propaganda piece trying to sway anybody’s opinion about the election, but I wanted to explore the absurdity of choosing the ‘lesser of two evils’. The objective was to create something quickly that I could do on a weekend to enter into some film festivals and to release before the election. My girlfriend and I tossed around several drafts over the duration of couple weeks, and it was conceived and produced in about a month on a shoestring budget.”
Gascho hopes that his work presents a unique experience for audiences. “My hope with these short films is for them to allow the audience to re-analyze our views on cultural issues and whether we are heading in a direction that serves us.”
Creatively, Vince cites his biggest challenge translating what he wanted to portray with his work from script to screen as getting the audience to lock into his cinematic metaphors without explaining it to them.
“I didn’t want to be too obvious and also not too subtle,” he reflects. “The script was really rushed because we had a deadline for certain festivals that were coming up that we wanted to enter, so it was hard to settle on the writing. Short films and features have their own pros and cons. Having more time to explore an idea and develop your characters is always a plus, but these days you are lucky if people will invest more than 5 minutes of their time for a video.”
Gascho says thus far the team has received considerable positive reaction towards their work. “Most people get it, but some do not. We get a lot of comments on the acting, which is great because nearly the entire cast had never acted before.”
“Overall, making these films has been a great learning experience,” he concludes. “There are a lot of things I would have done differently, but I’m glad with how everything came out with such a short turn around. The cast and crew were all friends and family and it was really cool to see people out of their usual element and working together.”