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.

No comments:

Post a Comment