Monday, October 10, 2011

Blue Water Weekend

Port Huron, a big little town at the tip of Michigan's thumb, played host to the third annual Blue Water Film Festival from October 6-8, 2011. One couldn't have asked for a better weekend. The sun shone, the breeze blew, and the clouds stayed away.

Things kicked on on Thursday night with a laugh. Comedian Dave Coulier did some stand-up at the McMorran Place Sports & Entertainment Center, the main location of the festival activities. I've never been a big Full House fan so some of the mullet jokes went over my head but I still had a good time.

The audience at the McMorran Place on opening night

Afterward, I headed over to The Vintage Tavern with festival organizers Jeremy Stemen and Kelly Kennedy along with Detroit Windsor International Film Festival bigwig Suzanne Janik. There I finally met Chris Gore. Yes, after twenty-some years, Gore and I were finally in the same room at the same time. Remarkably, the earth stayed in its orbit and sunspots failed to obliterate the moon. As evidenced by the introduction Gore penned for Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection, we've managed to bury the hatchet over the years -- and not between our shoulder blades.

Festival Organizers Jeremy Stemen and Kelly Kennedy

At one point during the night Jeremy asked me if I'd like to be on the radio for an interview the next morning. "Sure!" I said, before he told me that he'd pick me up at 7AM. I quickly excused myself but still didn't find myself in bed until 2AM. Within moments of walking into the station I was sporting headphones and pontificating in front of the mic.

That became par for the course that day as I relied heavily on my ability to chat at the drop of a hat later on at the "Icons & Idols" panel discussion at The Alley Room that afternoon and later at The Vintage where I interviewed several of the filmmakers from and supporters of the Blue Water Film Festival. Fortunately, I had gotten warmed up earlier in the day with Sid Haig. In town for the big premiere of Douglas Schultz's Mimesis, Haig sat down with me for about an hour-long interview. Both the review of Mimesis and interview transcription are to come.

Mimesis cast members Gavin Grazer, Allen Maldonado, and Sid Haig at The Alley Room

That Friday evening was the big Mimesis screening. Some members of the cast showed up at McMorran in a limo to walk down the red carpet. My friend Gina--a huge Sid Haig fan--joined me and was stunned to get her picture taken with Haig before the show started. She even wore her Captain Spaulding t-shirt.

Mimesis speaks to Romero's Night of the Living Dead in some very clever ways. It's truly homage (as opposed to a rip off) and it was a blast seeing the film with such a large, enthusiastic audience. The Blue Water Film Festival went all out for the screening, too, with dozens of people dressed up as zombies who shambled around the theater lobby before and after the show.

Cute Zombie Couple at McMorran Place

Also, BWFF had a room next to the theater where, after the show, folks could meet the cast and get their Mimesis posters signed. This garnered a tremendous response with the last of the zombies being swept away after 1AM. Jeremy, Kelly and I headed back to The Alley Room for one last drink before turning in.

Saturday morning I went downstairs at the Thomas Edison Inn for a little breakfast where I was soon joined by Chris Gore and his girlfriend, Mary Forrest. Despite all of the fun things that I did at the BWFF, this was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. We geeked out for hours, talking about movies, books, television, the web, and more. Gore shared some of the projects he's been cooking up including FetishVIL, a web series that sounds right up my alley. It's currently in the financing stages over at I threw in a couple bucks as I'd love to see this come to fruition.

The majority of the films at the BWFF played on Saturday in three blocks at the McMorran Place. I had seen everything that played beforehand with the exception of one movie, Clean Break. I made sure to catch this one and, of course, found that it was right up my alley. The story of a struggling writer who also happens to be a skeleton, Ryan Lieske's Clean Break reminded me of the great, goofy stuff I used to enjoy every fall at Baltimore's MicroCineFest.

After the screenings it was time to give away some awards. I was glad that Kelly Kennedy went after me to present The Golden Mitten award to actor/director Timothy Busfield. She was wonderfully eloquent compared to my mush-mouthed stammering as I got up behind the lectern to present Chris Gore with the BWFF Golden Thumb award for his contributions to film. Here's the speech I tried to give before he came up to accept his award:

First off, I want to thank the Blue Water Film Festival for the honor of presenting this award. I've had a wonderful time this weekend and feel that I should be presenting the festival organizers and volunteers with an award for the great job they've done in putting together such a fine, fun festival.

But, I'm here to present an award to an esteemed peer -- a fellow film fan and movie nerd, Chris Gore.

It's funny but I think that I've known Chris for about twenty years but only finally met him this weekend. I was a fan of his invaluable movie magazine, Film Threat, since I was but a wee little geek, picking up copies at Thomas Video or Tower Records.

I'd pepper Film Threat with letter and, eventually, Chris and I began communicating via this new method: email. I can't say that Chris and I always saw eye to eye but we definitely were passionate about film in our own way.

Chris has given a lot to the movie community, sometimes to their chagrin. He's helped turn a lot of people on to films and filmmakers that flew under the radar in the pre-internet age. He provided feedback both directly through reviews and via parody. Chris's disarming and oft-alarming humor is legendary. He's also provided great insight to his fellow filmmakers and film fans with his many books including the Film Festival Survival Guide which, I hope, sits dog-eared on all of your shelves.

Films, books, television, the web -- Chris is vying for the title of King of All Media. Well, Chris, I can't give that to you, tonight, but I can give you the finger, er, oh, sorry, thumb. Thumb.

Yes, for all of Chris's achievements, it's my honor to award him with the first Golden Thumb award. Let's hear it for Chris!

Chris Gore accepting The Golden Thumb award

Me and Chris back stage at the McMorran Place

When the dust settled, here are all the filmmakers who received awards at this year's Blue Water Film Festival:

Best Actor
Mike Kopera from "My Friend Peter"

Best Actress
Lauren Mae Shafer from "Certain Essential Elements"

Best Screenplay
Mike Kopera from "My Friend Peter"

Best Cinematography
Benjamin Dell from "Senses & Nonsense"

Best Soundtrack
Daniel Galeski Jr. from "Protangeline"

Best Director
Jeremy Olstyn from "Strong From Detroit"

The Film Selection Committee Viewer's Choice
My Friend Peter

Silver Award
World of Art Submitted by Mike Allore

Gold Award
Bullies on Vacation Submitted by Mike Zago

The Platinum Award
The Dancer Submitted by Seth Stark

The next morning I met up with Jeremy, Chris, and Mary for a farewell breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised to find Sid Haig at our table as well. Again, we all sat and chatted for a few hours before rides to the airport started to arrive.

Port Huron is just a little over an hour away from my house and it was a beautiful drive down I-94 taking in all the colors of fall as I went.

Sid Haig, Chris Gore, Mary Forrest, Me


Anonymous said...

Did not think my wig was so big you would notice

Mike White said...

You're familiar with Lady Bunny? Your wig was bigger.

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