When the credits rolled at the Friday premiere of Kill the Irishman, it was clear what the was all about: honoring Michigan residents who work in the state’s film industry.
Audience members at the cheered, clapped and stayed during the entire credits, if only to applaud the names of seamstresses, gaffers and set designers. However, according to the Uptown Film Festival’s co-executive director Jeffrey Spilman, this is exactly what the festival is all about.
“This is about celebrating the Michigan film industry and everyone who works in it,” Spilman said Friday evening at the VIP charity event that kicked off the two-day festival. This weekend, five feature films will premiere while a dozen more independent films will be shown at the , culminating in the Michigan Film Awards Show at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Before the premiere of Kill the Irishman, Spilman announced that next year’s film festival will be March 8-10 with plans to premiere 10 feature films.
A portion of the proceeds from the VIP event was donated to the Detroit Institute of Art and Gleaners Community Food Bank. Brooke Ziomek, account executive for Identity Marketing and PR, said the premiere wasn’t sold out beforehand and the festival wasn’t able to sell as many VIP passes as they hoped. However, the theater was full by the time the evening’s last guest of honor, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, arrived to take his honorary seat in the front of the theater.
Throughout the evening, festival guests — from film buffs to actors with stories to tell of Clint Eastwood — were excited to celebrate the Michigan film industry. Here's what movie-goers had to say:
- Richard Jewell, a Detroit-based actor with a role in Kill the Irishman, said because the movie was filmed locally, his college-aged daughter was able to work as a wardrobe intern on the set. He said having a healthy film industry is crucial to revitalizing the state’s economy. “And it’s all because we had a legislature who could build an industry,” he said.
- Laura Bayoff-Elkins, event director for Uptown Entertainment, which owns the Palladium 12 and Birmingham 8, agreed with Jewell. Much of this, Bayoff-Elkins said, can be attributed to the 2008 film tax incentives, which which offers filmmakers a 42 percent tax credit for filming in Michigan. “I’ve seen how it brings people to work,” she said. “I’m hoping that this (event) will show people how the film industry has blossomed.”
- Greg Trzaskoma, a Warren-based actor with roles in Kill the Irishman, Demoted and Gran Torino, said since the film incentives went into effect in 2008, his opportunities have doubled. “The past three years, I’ve shared scenes with (Clint) Eastwood, (Robert) DeNiro and (Edward) Norton. I’ve had Kim Cattrall on my lap.”
- Rachel Murray, from Ferndale, came to see Bilal’s Stand at the Birmingham 8. “It was excellent,” she said. “I’ve seen articles (about it)…and I thought it had to be interesting and this might be my only chance to see it in theaters. It was different from any movie I’ve ever seen. Plus, we got to talk with the filmmaker and that was amazing.”
- Ashour Lilu, from Warren, came to see Defying Deletion, a film on Iraq’s indigenous population by . “Something needs to be done about this group of Muslim Christians that are going extinct," Lilu said. "I want people to know what’s going on with this so this is my way of supporting the cause.”
- Caitlin Drzewiecki, assistant director for Bilal’s Stand, said she hopes the Uptown Film Festival alerts Metro Detroit to what independent filmmakers have to offer. “The important thing I think is that it’s coming to a suburb of Detroit," she said. "Maybe through this people will be interested in coming to Detroit and other film festivals.”
- Before the curtain rose on Kill the Irishman, Spilman thanked those in the audience for their hard work. “Everyone in this room has helped to build and grow the Michigan film industry,” he said.
It's the first year for the festival and the second for its founding partner, the Detroit Independent Film Festival. Together, the Oakland County Film and Digital Media office, Uptown Entertainment and 's Spilman have brought a series of independent films to the city, culminating in the Michigan Film Awards Show Saturday night.
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