by Rob Drew
|"Annabelle and Bear"|
In 2008, Amy S. Weber was talking with a friend about the creative limitations of her commercial video production work. Weber spoke about her dream of making a real film someday. “Make your film,” the friend said.
Later that same day, Weber was driving with her two-year-old daughter when a burly biker pulled up alongside them. “I wonder what his story is,” Weber said. She started thinking aloud about the idea of such a character being forced into the role of father to a little girl.
Soon she had the whole story worked out in her head. She called her writing partner, Tracy Sims, and told her the story. Before long they had a screenplay, and eventually a film.
Weber’s resulting “Annabelle and Bear” is one of three Michigan-made films playing at this year’s Riverside Saginaw Film Festival, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 2-6, at the Temple Theatre in downtown Saginaw.
“Annabelle” is scheduled for two screenings, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 11 a.m. on Sunday, with Weber attending the Saturday screening and talking about her film and moviemaking in the state.
“Annabelle” tells the story of an introverted biker known as Bear whose former girlfriend shows up at his doorstep with their daughter, Annabelle, whom he’s never seen. The girlfriend is strung out on drugs and insists that Bear take the little girl. He does, hoping to foist her off on his mother. But before long, Annabelle and Bear begin to bond.
Olivia Walby, who plays Annabelle, was only 2 when the film was shot. “She steals the entire movie, she breaks your heart,” says Weber, who was amazed by Walby’s maturity. “She was improvising. There’s an entire scene where she and Bear have this little tender moment talking about Bear’s dad. It was not scripted.”
Weber used all Michigan talent, including many non-professionals. Weber’s company, Radish Films, opened its doors for Michiganders to be part of the filmmaking experience.
“Most of them were volunteers, electricians, people who had worked on the line and were laid off,” says Weber. “Even though we had a lot of people who had never worked on a film before, these were incredibly talented people who made a film that was equal in production quality to any motion picture.”
Weber also made an effort to highlight Michigan-made products. Velvet Peanut Butter, Faygo Pop, Better Made potato chips, and Made in Detroit sportswear all receive name checks or free product placement.
Weber is hoping “Annabelle” will receive wider distribution. “We just need one person who has a lot of power to fall in love with it and see its potential.”
In the meantime, it has won awards at the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival, East Lansing Film Festival and Midwest Film Festival.
|"Myth of American Sleepover"|
Two other Michigan-made films on the Riverside Saginaw schedule are “Myth of the American Sleepover” and “Where Soldiers Come From.”
“Myth,” directed by David Robert Mitchell, tells the story of four Michigan suburb teens celebrating the last night of summer before the new school year starts.
The film was an official selection at Cannes and a special jury award winner at the South by Southwest Festival. It is scheduled to screen at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and again at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
|"Where Soldiers Come From"|
“Where Soldiers Come From” is a documentary about three friends who joined the National Guard after graduating from their Upper Peninsula high school in Hancock -- enticed by a $20,000 signing bonus and college tuition support.
Sent to Afghanistan, and assigned to sweep for roadside bombs, they become increasingly disillusioned. Director Heather Courtney follows the young men’s story there and back.
“Where Soldiers Come From,” too, was a winner at South by Southwest as well as the Traverse City Film Festival. It will play at 8 p.m. Wednesday and at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.
In addition to the three Michigan films, this year’s Riverside Saginaw Film Festival is showing 25 independent, foreign and documentary films on four screens at the Temple Theater, 203. N. Washington. Single tickets are $6 and festival passes $40.
For a list of the films, show times and other information, log on to www.riversidesaginawfilmfestival.org.