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Open Projector Showcase displays diverse local films

UICA hosted a 100 minute-long film festival with Q&A with the filmmakers.
Still from The Four Riders directed by Nick Hartman

Still from The Four Riders directed by Nick Hartman /Courtesy of UICA

Open Projector Series Info

 Future Open Projector Showcase Dates:

9/25 Wednesday - 8:00 p.m.

12/18 Wednesday - 8:00 p.m.

3/26 Wednesday - 8:00 p.m. 

6/25 Wednesday - 8:00 p.m. 

Still from Space for Rent directed by Jeremy Knickerbocker

Still from Space for Rent directed by Jeremy Knickerbocker /Courtesy of UICA

Still from Une Seconde Par Jour directed by Richard Negre

Still from Une Seconde Par Jour directed by Richard Negre /Courtesy of UICA

This July, the UICA with sponsorship from Kendall College hosted the annual Open Projector Showcase, the recap of films voted for during the Open Projector Night series. 

The evening consisted of a variety of films ranging from documentary to art film and from animation to home video. 

"We wanted to form a roster of diverse and entertaining films," says Brandon Belote, one of the leading organizers of the event and co-manager of the UICA Film Theatre. "The goal was to allow each film to compliment the rest of the selections so each film could be appreciated. We tried not to select multiple films with the same direction as they would compete with each other. In addition, variety makes for a more entertaining show for the viewer. We hope this helps form an audience of people who want to see short films and especially short films from West Michigan."

Some films screened were not even meant to be displayed on a large screen. For instance, "Wool and Rust" by John Hanson was filmed non-stop for six minutes using a non-digital camera. This made the film stand out from the others with its square display and glares. 

"The Open Projector Selection Panel has been cautious to label 'good' and 'bad' filmmaking," says Belote. "Open Projector Night is not a festival with a narrative to tell; we just want to supply a screen to West Michigan and make an event which celebrates what is accomplished. The film community will do the rest. A number of filmmakers have told me that without Open Projector Night, there has not been the motivation to work on film projects. This series gives people cause to create, which is a beautiful thing."

The films shown included "Paranormal Probe," directed by Anjalika Lobo, a unique coming-of-age story that includes ghosts and mosquitoes. According to Lobo the film was inspired by a death wish for some annoying mosquitoes and anxiety over a friendship that was lost. 

"The Rookie Sensations" were 30-second long comedic installments scattered throughout the showcase. Viewers learn important lessons from a baseball player, in "Knowledge is Knowing" for example. 

"The Slaughter" by Jason Kohl, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, depicts a son who trys to prove to his father that he is capable of running the family business.

"Steeb's Pit Deworming" by Sofia Ramirez Hernandez was a one-minute scene of a "worm" being removed from a man's armpit. 

"Rhode Island vs. The World: Episode Six - Knee Juice" by Michael Foxtrot Johnson showed the comedic misadventures of a group of young friends.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" by Jim Winslow was an edited home video bringing viewers into a family's Christmas tradition. 

"Untitled" by Casey Huizenga told the story of an artist's pursuit of understanding through art in two minutes. 

"Yoplait: Spring Is So Good" by Eric Machiela was the winning entry to the Yoplait Spring contest at and told the romantic tale of how Mr. Spoon meets Miss Strawberry Yogurt. 

"Une Seconde Par Jour" by Richard Negre was a year's worth of drawings compiled into a seven minute animation. 

"Monster, Me" by Milt Klingensmith follows the story of a young girl who wakes up to find herself transformed one morning. 

"The Four Riders Trailer" by Nicholas Hartman announced the arrival of four epic heros who will save the world from zombies. 

"Space for Rent" by Jeremy Knickerboker was a documentary about skateboarding in Grand Rapids. It explored skateboarding as an urban art form rather than a form of vandalism. 

"Wool and Rust" by John Hanson was a meditative art film of improvisational dancers dancing in a forest. 

"Retrospective" by Brandon Belote explored the artistic process. 

"Juggle & Cut" by Eric Machiela was a documentary about the undying spirit of a young man after a tragic accident that changed his life. 

The variety of films were a true display of the various forms film can take. 

"My own goal in Open Projector Night has been to explore the existential - 'Why make a film?' and 'Why the direction of the film?'" says Belote. "Twenty years ago, film was mainly pursued through 16 and 35 millimeter celluloid. This made the filmmaking process costly and fairly mysterious to audiences. Moreover, it made film somewhat precious (as in, one should only film something important and only important films should be made). Now, digital technology had made film tools available to more creatives and so the variety in film is increasing. Through Open Projector Night I want to see what people are making and what people want to experience. Furthermore, when the audience sees a cinematic short next to a music video followed by a home movie, it makes the viewer experience this contrast and hopefully they form questions about film and video. Through this act of questioning, the West Michigan film community can form its own standards and then they can challenge those standards."

All of the films were made by current or previous residents of Southwest Michigan or were filmed in the area. 

Richard Negre, director of Une Seconde Par Jour, is from France but has done work with creatives in Southwest Michigan. Jason Kohl, director of "The Slaughter," is originally from the Lansing area but currently lives in Germany. 

After the showcase, votes were made and counted and the winner won free access to the whole UICA theater to view any film of their choice with friends. Lobo of "Paranormal Probe" won the prize. 

"I did not want the event to be about the competition," says Belote. "But I felt a theater rental would be a sweet prize and encourage film lovers to get involved."

After the showcase, Christopher Gaines, the new ArtPrize director, shared his "Golden Rules of Film Festivals" as advice to help local filmmakers flourish. His golden rules encourage filmmakers to read the fine print and apply only to film festivals that are looking for the kind of film they made. He suggests not to separate themselves from people with similar goals but instead embrace them whether they really like their work or not. He also advises to read everything that applies to what they are doing while believing nothing that they read.

Finally, he suggests to network laterally, reaching out to creatives of diverse talent even if they are not famous or wealthy. You will need everyone's talents, he says. 

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