Thursday, September 20, 2012

Budding filmmakers urged to enter Saginaw 72 contest

by Janet I. Martineau

Budding filmmakers dreaming of premiering their work at a film festival ... the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival wants you!

For the second year, the festival is hosting a Saginaw 72 Hour Film Challenge filmmaking contest.

The 72 refers to the fact filmmakers (solo or in teams) compete to make the best 3-5 minute short in a three-day time frame.

“Each entry will be given a specific genre; a line of dialogue, and a required object to include just before the start time to insure all entires are made on the fly and to also provide them with a little prep work information,” explains co-ordinator Susan Scott, a member of the film festival board. 

“Then they have 72 hours to script, shoot, edit and submit their film on DVD. The entry fee is $25. The 72 hours span Oct. 12-14, with an Oct. 14 mailing postmark. And all the entries will play the festival, with the winners announced at that showing.”

The amount of first, second and third prize monies awarded, Scott says, depends on the number of entries because the prize money comes from the $25 entry fee. Serving as the judge is a screenwriting professor at Delta College.

The 72-hour contest is the brainchild of Jerry Seward, a Saginaw  filmmaker and former Riverside Saginaw board member. He began it as a way to showcase local talent and involve community members in the  festival and the local film scene. 

He said when he began it the entires are judged more on creativity than production values and that policy continues this year. However, the festival reserves the right not to screen a submission if it contains offensive, off-color or bigoted language and material.

A full list of the rules and regulations, and an entry form, is on the festival web site at 

There is no age limit for entrants, says Scott, nor is there a limit to the number of team members working on the entry. And the same for the film itself -- it can take the form of a self-filmed soliloquy to one of those Cecil B. DeMille cast-of-thousands jobs.

This year’s Riverside Saginaw Film Festival runs Thursday, Nov. 8, through Sunday, Nov. 11, with 26 independent, foreign, documentary and short films showing at the Court Theater, Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, First Congregational Church, the Saginaw Club and Hoyt Library.

The Saginaw 72 entries are shown at noon Sunday, Nov. 11,  at First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Short subject film from novel makes its debut in Saginaw

Austin Butterfield, left, and Jeff Vande Zande in a scene from "B.F.A."

Reels at Roethke
When: 6:30pm Thursday, Sept. 20
Where: 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw

What: Premiere of a 10-minute short film based on a scene in the book “American Poet,” written by Jeff Vande Zande and set in Saginaw (including the home of native poet Theodore Roethke).

How much: Freewill offering, but seating is limited so e-mail to reserve a space

story by Janet I. Martineau

From book to movie is a common theme in our culture.

And on the night of Thursday, Sept. 20, Saginaw will join in on that legacy with the premiere of a film titled “B.F.A.,” based on the novel “American Poet.”

OK, granted, it’s kinda a miniature book-to-movie project. 

Written by Midland resident Jeff Vande Zande, “American Poet” is a mere 152-pager. A quick read. And his screenplay adaptation from it runs only 10 minutes -- making it a short subject rather than a feature -- and covers only one SCENE in the book.

But still, film fans may find the evening fun since it also includes music by Brett Mitchell, who wrote the songs for the short. And Vande Zande and filmmaker Jim Gleason, both on the faculty at Delta College, will answer questions about the process (creative writing, adapting a book into a screenplay, filmmaking) as well as provide information about Delta’s digital film production program.

“My book is about a young poet who moves back to Saginaw and finds himself on a mission to save the Theodore Roethke House,” says Vande Zande, also a poet as well as novelist. “Of course, before he can save the house, he needs to find a job. 

“In one scene from the book, the main character tries to get a job at a bank ... with a bachelor of fine arts degree! It is a humorous look at how the business world can sometimes treat those who have a degree in the arts.

“I just really liked this scene and thought that it would make a funny short film. Jim and I did one other film together, called ‘Commitment’ and also humorous. It was adapted from a very short story of mine called ‘Cormac McCarthy Goes to the Local Parable Writers Club and Suggests Revisions to Their Endings.’”

In “B.F.A.,” Vande Zande himself plays the dubious banker with Austin Butterfield of Bay City, and a student at Saginaw Valley State University, cast as the young poet seeking a job. The majority of the film was shot at Delta College, along with two Midland locations.

Vande Zande says book to film adaptation is hard work.

The cover of "American Poet"
“You can only be so true to the written work. The written work can provide an idea or situation, but the movie has to be its own thing. I don't understand when people say, ‘Wow, the movie wasn't as good as the book.’ My thought is, ‘Of course it wasn't, it's a movie.’

“That's like saying, ‘Well, if you compare the book to the movie... well, the book was a better book.’ A movie has to be its own thing, and that's the challenge of adaptation. Some screenwriters feel to beholden to the original work, which just doesn't work.”

He and Gleason, who lives in Auburn, hope the film premiere will bring more attention to the Roethke House and also will get  more people excited about making independent film in this area. 

“We want to see Roethke fans that night, but we'd also love to see local filmmakers.”

“B.F.A.” will play Bay City’s Hell’s Half Mile Film Festival in October and has been entered in the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival short subject contest, taking place in November. Vande Zande, who teaches English and screenwriting at Delta,  and Gleason, who teaches electronic media broadcasting sat  Delta, also plan to submit it to more film festivals in 2013.

During the Sept. 20 “Reels at Roethke” premiere, Mitchell will perform starting at 6:30pm. At 7pm Vande Zande will read the scene from the book followed by the showing of the short and a Q&A session.

Roethke was born in Saginaw in 1908 and died in 1963, at age 55. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954, for “The Waking,” as well as countless other prizes during his career. Today his poems, many of them rooted in the family greenhouse business,  are in nearly every high school and college poetry textbook as well as in countless poetry anthologies.

The Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation owns and maintains his boyhood home at 1805 Gratiot, where the “Reels to Roethke” event takes place on Sept. 20 and where Roethke wrote many of his poem during visits back home. Saginaw Valley State University also oversees a $10,000 Roethke Poetry Prize which is awarded every three years to an American poet.

Admission to “Reels at Roethke” is by freewill offering. But since seating is limited, e-mail to reserve a space. Refreshments will be for sale as well as Vande Zande’s book ($18, of which $3 goes to the Friends of Theodore Roethke) and Roethke-themed items.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SVSU lecture series takes a look at roles and responsibilities

by Janet I. Martineau

“Roles and Responsibilities: Ethical Responses to Revolutionary Change” .. .what could be a more timely topic for lecture series in this election year.

And thus it is the title for eight fall programs at Saginaw Valley State University exploring some of society's most vital decisions, ranging from global affairs and genetic engineering to economic revitalization. 

All free, they are:

John Limbert
--  Thursday, Sept. 27,  at 7 p.m.:  John W. Limbert on  "America and Iran: Endless Enemies?" In the  Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts

For years, relations between the two countries have been tense, with both sides locked in trading threats and insults. Limbert will discuss how to escape this downward spiral and avoid a disastrous confrontation because, like it or not he says, we have many reasons to rely on each other. 

A former deputy assistant secretary of state for near Eastern (Iranian) affairs, Limbert completed his doctorate at Harvard University and spent 34 years in foreign affairs. He also was a hostage at the American Embassy in  Iran in 1979-1980, and has written three books on Iran. 

--  Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m.: Catherine Tumber on  "The Life and Death of America's Smaller Industrial Cities." In the  Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts

In the late 20th century, small industrial cities like Flint fell on hard times. Yet according to journalist Tumber, an age of global warming may improve these cities' fortunes. Now, she argues, they are poised to thrive and, in a talk based on years of research, she will explain her rationale. 

Her book on the subject, “Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America's Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World,”  was named among the best 15 books of the year by the American Society of Landscape Architects. With a doctorate from the University of Rochester, the MIT researcher has published work in the Washington Post, Wilson Quarterly, Bookforum and In These Times. 

Arthur Caplan
-- Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m.:  Arthur Caplan on  "Bioethics: Just Because We Can, Should We?" In the Rhea Miller Recital Hall

Should you eat genetically modified foods? Should we experiment with genetics at all? Asking these questions is a renowned bioethicist and the director of the Center of Bioethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. 

The author of 29 books, Caplan won the Patricia Price Browne Prize in Biomedical Ethics for 2011 and was named by Discover magazine as one of the 10 most influential people in science. 

In this discussion, Caplan will take a look at some of life's deepest mysteries and examine the implications of putting our hands where they might not belong. 

Gayle Lemmon
--  Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m.:  Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on "The Dressmaker of Khair Khana." In the  Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts

In places like Afghanistan, women are unsung heroes of business. A journalist and New York Times bestselling author, Lemmon will speak about the critical role that female entrepreneurs play in war-torn regions and emerging markets. She draws from hundreds of hours of on-the-ground reporting, and examines what we in the West can learn from the example of businesswomen pushing against a glass ceiling in places it can be all too visible. 

A former ABC News correspondent and Fulbright scholar, Lemmon has published articles in the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Daily Beast and Christian Science Monitor. 

--  Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m.:   Robert Edsel on "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History." In the  Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts

Author Edsel will tell the story of the Monuments Men, a group of art lovers who chased down great works stolen by Nazis during World War II and saved them from ultimate destruction. 

Edsel established a foundation in the group's honor, which in 2007 became one of 10 recipients of the National Humanities Medal. 

--  Monday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m.:  Kwame Anthony Appiah on  "The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen." In the Rhea Miller Recital Hall

What does it take to transform moral understanding into moral behavior? That's the question Princeton University professor Appiah addresses as he explores the mysteries of moral revolution and the power of two forces: honor and shame. 

As president of the PEN American Center, an internationally acclaimed literary and human rights association, Appiah was awarded a National Humanities Medal by the White House in 2012. Having earned a doctorate in philosophy at Cambridge, he has been called one of foreign policy's top 100 global thinkers and has taught at Harvard and Yale, among other universities. 

Carma Hinton
--  Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.:  Carma Hinton on "History in Images: The Making of 'Gate of Heavenly Peace.'" In the Rhea Miller Recital Hall

Hinton will recount one of her most challenging projects: a film about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. With clips and outtakes from the finished product, Hinton will discuss the difficulties of choosing which material to keep and which to discard, along with the ethics and craft of nonfiction film. 

Born in Beijing, Hinton completed a doctorate in art history at Harvard University and has directed 15 documentary films. Her work has been shown at festivals and on television programs worldwide, winning two Peabody Awards, the American Historical Association's O'Connor Film Award, and both the International Critics Prize and the Best Social and Political Documentary award at the Banff Television Festival. 

-- Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m.: Jules Gehrke on "The Dilemmas of a New Era: Collectivism and Individualism in the Victorian City." In Founders Hall

Gehrke, an associate professor of history at SVSU, will  explore one moment in 20th-century British history and examine its lessons for the political and economic situation faced today by the United States. 

Gehrke specializes in late 19th and early 20th century British reformist political movements and teaches classes in both world and modern European history.