The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 3B
* The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 3B
From Page 2B
'U' students at Cannes
It was a surprisingly great year for University stu-
dents at Paris's world-famous Cannes Film Festival in
May. LSA senior Claire Sloma starred in "The Myth
of the American Sleepover," a coming-of-age dramedy
that was invited to the festival's International Critic's
Week. Sloma earned raves for her first-ever bigscreen
performance. And LSA senior David Devries was
given the opportunity to participate in the Real Ideas
Studio program, where he was the Director of Pho-
tography for the short documentary competition's
grand prize winner, "Lumieres." Hollywood - or at
least France - better be prepared for the impending
herd of Wolverines.
Give verse a chance
Betty White Becomes Famous ... Again
Last summer, Betty White was just that cute old
lady from "The Golden Girls." A Facebook campaign
to make her an SNL host and a few Snickers ads later,
and Betty White is the coolest grandma since yours
knit sweaters and baked cookies for you when you
were eight. Betty White's Mother's Day hosting gig
of SNL made her, at 88 years, the oldest person to
host and was the highest rated episode in two years.
It also led to an immediate Facebook push for her to
host the Oscars, which tragically failed. Her popular-
ity doesn't show signs of slowing as White announced
her own clothing line and posed for her own 2011 cal-
endar. She will guest star as an anthropology profes-
sor in the season premiere of "Community" to air on
Sept. 23 on NBC after having sizzled in the summer
series "Hot in Cleveland" on TV Land.
The "Lost" Finale
If there's one time not to alienate your fans, it's a
series finale. There will be no more chances to redeem
yourself. You can't go back. The island is done with
you. There is no other life in which you will see us,
brutha. The series finale of "Lost" could never have
wrapped up every mystery. Even the most diehard
fans who obsessed about every small unanswered
question must have realized that. But the final min-
utes of "Lost" sent shockwaves through the fan com-
munity, leaving many wondering and/or texting their
fan friends, "Um, what?" But even after its misfire of a
finale, "Lost" is still one of the most captivating tele-
vision programs of all time with an unprecedented
fan movement. If you missed any or all of the series,
it's not too late to catch up. The fans will still be talk-
ing about this one for years to come.
Gary Coleman Dies
Gary Coleman did a great job of clinging to the
edges of the spotlight years after his "Diff'rent
Strokes" run. He popped in and out of the tabloids
with bankruptcy, fan assault, divorces, domestic
violence, a turbulent medical history and a guber-
natorial race against Arnold Schwarzenneger in
California's 2003 recall election. Clearly, Coleman's
fame went beyond "whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"
Gary Coleman never stopped trying to turn things
around and find a respectable career with his adult
life. Whether he succeeded is a question to be pon-
dered for years. Coleman died on May 28 and hit
tabloid covers one last time as the celebrity death of
You love poetry. You may not know it yet, but you
do. I know how difficult poetry can be. It can ask
you to figure it out, give you all sorts of signals
and then say, "That is not what I meant at all. " Poetry
has made you think you didn't _
understand it. I'm telling you - you
do. And the confusion isn't poetry's
fault, or your fault. It's our fault.,
I mean those of us who haveu
taught poetry, from the university
level to high school and all the way
down. Mostckindergarteners love
poetry because the sounds of the DAVID
words delight them. They even learn LUCAS
the alphabet by learning to recite
a poem that almost anyone read-
ing this can still remember. But too many high school
graduates have given up on the poetry in their text-
books because we've taught them that those poems are
riddles to be solved instead of something to be enjoyed.
No wonder rock'n'roll and hip hop speak to teens in
ways adults fail to understand. No one's asking them to
figure out the hidden meaning of their iPod playlists.
This isn't to say there's not a great deal to be gained
by studying poetry closely, even by paying obsessive
attention to its nuances. I wouldn't be in a graduate
program in English if I didn't think that were true. But
the point is pleasure. We don't read poetry because we
like to solve puzzles; that's what Rubik's Cubes and
Sudoku and "Lost" are for. We read poetry because it
delights us, and helps us make sense of our lives - just
like movies and songs, the stories you read and those
you tell about each other.
But what if poetry doesn't delight you? What if it just
seems too difficult? My bet is that when many people
think of poetry, they think of something like this:
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness
or, just as heavy,
He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
"Hold off! unhand me, greybeard loon!"
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
These are great poems, yes, but they're both about
200 years old. The former is the first line of John
Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1820), the latter an
early stanza of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of
the Ancient Mariner" (1798).
When was the last time you called your boyfriend
"thou"? Or said, "I'm so stressed, I've got a midterm
eftsoons and my prof quothed I needed to get an A on
it." The language of these poems is not the language
we speak (or even read) today, and so they seem diffi-
cult even before we begin to wonder about "meaning."
We can admire these poems and enjoy them, but they
fit our contemporary English about as naturally as we
fit in bonnets and cravats.
So what does poetry look like today? Let me use the
words of one of my own teachers, Charles Wright, a
poet who has said, "Poetry either maximizes the dif-
ferences between the written word and the spoken
word or it minimizes that difference." Let's look at the
second such example in a poem by Mark Halliday, a
50-something poet who teaches at Ohio University:
The family drove from Colorado to Pasadena
for Christmas, and Bev unwrapped two games
to give to the boys during the trip,
because she wanted the boys to be happy-
she brought out the games in a motel in Utah-
and thirty-two years later,
thirteen years after Bev's death,
Hal for some reason remembers the motel in Utah
(while making a wry point about motels, or Utah, or
and begins to speak of that evening-
and then at the phrase "to keep the boys happy"
he suddenly has to stop and look away.
The poem is almost deceptively simple. In fact, some
might think it's nothing more than chopped-up prose.
But prose is usually used either to convey informa-
tion or to develop plot and character. Look at the last
It's not all 'forsooth's
image, where "he suddenly has to stop and look away."
Prose would have told you Hal started to cry, or told
you more about this relationship. Instead, Halliday
shows you just enough to let you imagine it yourself -
that moment where someone feels his voice break, his
tears become unstoppable - and for me, that hits right
in the gut, where any good work of art should. That's
the stuff of genius. That's poetry.
Lucas can't solve his Rubik's Cube. E-mail
him instructions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Page lB
There's one person in particular
who functions as a representative
for both missions: Jim Burnstein,
SAC professor and coordinator
of the screenwriting department.
Burnstein joined the faculty in 1995.
Since then, he has not only built the
screenwriting program from the
ground up, but also helped give SAC
its departmental status.
The lifelong Michigan resident
was a local self-made screenwrit-
er ("Renaissance Man," "D3: The
Mighty Ducks") long before the
state's current film tax incentives
made that career pathlook moresen-
sible. He is also the vice chairman of
the Michigan Film Office Advisory
Council and played a crucial role in
orchestrating those incentives in
Thanks to the efforts of the Coun-
cil and Michigan Governor Jennifer
Granholm, who approved the pro-
gram with Burnstein standing by
her side, the state now offers more
tax rebates to filmmakers than any-
where else in the country. Produc-
tions that hire local crew members
are eligible for a state tax credit as
high as 42 percent. More than 100
films have been made in Michigan
since the incentives were passed,
and manyofthe moviesbroughthere
represent new in-state job opportu-
nities for University film students.
This gives Burnstein a new
opportunity to serve his students.
With the help of LSA Dean Ter-
rence McDonald, he has designed
a summer internship program to
give ten graduating students jobs on
Michigan-made films like "Youth
in Revolt" and the upcoming "Red
Dawn" remake. And as part of the
drive to showcase Michigan's locally
grown student filmmaking talent to
fellow Michiganders, for two years
now Burnstein and the SAC depart-
ment have brought short films from
their highest-level production class,
SAC 423, to show at the Traverse
City Film Festival (TCFF).
"Rather than all my students mov-
ing to L.A., the idea is they stay home
and get to work on films here, make
contacts, get training and eventually
generate the budgets that become,
you know, Michigan-made movies,"
Ironically, the only recent Mich-
igan-made movie to feature the
University prominently was writ-
ten and directed by a University
graduate who didn't come out of
Burnstein's SAC program. "Answer
This!" - which was filmed on and
around campus last fall and is hav-
ing its Ann Arbor premiere at the
Michigan Theater on Oct. 8 - fol-
lows a Wolverine graduate student
through the world of competitive bar
trivia.Writer-director Chris Farah is
a Michigan alum, but his 1998 under-
graduate degree was in English, and
his Master's in 2002 was in Near-
When Farah was a student in the
mid-'90s, the SAC program wasn't
what it is today.
"The program that you're talking
about has really, really developed
and come into its own under Jim
Burnstein's leadership over the last,
I would say, ten years or so," Farah
"There was still a feeling for
many people that making mov-
ies was something that happened
in Los Angeles ... If somebody had
been interested in pursuing that, you
would have gone to UCLA or USC."
The mindset's a bit different now.
Michael Burke and Erin Whitte-
more, two recent graduates from
the SAC program who each penned
one of the SAC 423 films shown at
Traverse City, are both planning to
stay in Michigan for the foresee-
able future to pursue screenwriting
"It's a bit up in the air for me right
now," said Whittemore, an LSA
graduate who wrote "Margaret and
Izzey," which is about a girl reunit-
ing with her imaginary friend. "But
for the moment, though, I'm staying
"We're slightly bigger fish in a
smaller pond here," said Burke, who
holds a dual degree from LSA and
the Ross School of Business. Burke
wrote "Camp Chapel," a comedy
about a troublemaker sent to church
camp. He viewed Traverse City as a
chance to market his script to pro-
spective buyers. "I will bartend for
years before I give up the hope ... I
have some semblance of a chance to
actually make it, and why not do my
best to do it?"
Rounding the festival circuit
At noon on July 29 in Traverse
City's Opera House, approximately
two dozen SAC students shuffle
into the converted screening room,
each wearing dressy attire and yel-
low lanyards around their necks
announcing their identities as
"FILMMAKER." They are a mix of
writers, directors, producers, edi-
tors, actors, composers and every
other job title under the sun. They
file into the reserved seating in the
theater's back two rows and settle in
to watch an auditorium full of people
watch their movies.
Outside the screening room is
a table with various booklets and
swag promoting Ann Arbor and the
University as a place to host big stu-
dio film productions. The front of
the booklet reads, "Ann Arbor: The
Smart Location." Clearly, the stu-
dents aren't the only ones hoping
to walk away from the festival with
some deals in their pocket.
There's a good crowd here, espe-
cially considering these student
short films are competing in this
time slot with Hollywood-caliber
productions like "Solitary Man"
and "Waiting for 'Superman,' " both
screening simultaneously in venues a
few blocks away. But not only is the
audience sizeable, it's also ecstatic.
Film industry precedent states
that crowds at festivals are always
going to be more appreciative than
normal, but it's still hard to deny the
rapturous reception given to "Camp
Chapel" and "Margaret and Izzey."
When the lights go up, the applause
is wild - for the films and for the
parade of students and professors
who take up the entire expanse of
the stage afterward.
Admittedly, the crowd contains
many University faculty, alumni and
associates, who may be inclined to
applaud for their school as much as
for the films themselves. Still, to even
have their films present at one of the
largest festivals in the Midwest is a
big deal, and the experience provides
a taste of the future success every
student on stage is striving for.
"We always kind of said this was
the gateway into the real world of
filmmaking," Burnstein says to the
crowd. He points to the student
producers of each film, LSA senior
James Alsobrooks and recent LSA
graduate Mercedes Holguin. "If you
want to know who's gonna be run-
ning Hollywood, even if Hollywood's
in Michigan, take a good look."
A reception is held for the stu-
dents after the screening at sushi
bistro Red Ginger. It's sponsored by
the Miller Canfield Law Firm, which
specializes in entertainment law and
also paid lodging and other expenses
for the SAC 423 contingent's stay.
Here the University students and
professors intermingle with a cross-
section of professional filmmakers
who are also showing works at the
Burke proudly shows off the per-
sonalized business cards he brought
along; each one is attached to a flash
drive containing the entirety of his
"Camp Chapel" script. He's hoping
that someone willbite.
Festival founder Michael Moore
shows up at one point for a quick
speech. The former UM-Flint drop-
out and current Spartan fan tries to
playfully insult the University, but
he's drowned out when the entire
room breaks into a rousing chorus of
Nevertheless, the students are all
eager to talk to the Oscar winner,
and promptly swarm him after he's
finished his speech.
"I tell them that they should defi-
nitely go to the University of Michi-
gan and then drop out," Moore said
before the festival when askedby the
Daily what advice he gives to stu-
dents looking to pursue a career in
filmmaking. "That's the great thing
about U of M is that it works both
ways. Stay and get your degree, or go
for a while and drop out. Any time
spent at the University of Michigan
will be time well spent."
Moore is a bit more serious dur-
ing the Michigan Film Office Advi-
sory Council meeting the next day.
He explains that he's funding the
"State Theater Project," an effort to
renovate rundown movie theaters
throughout the state. His sincere
desire to revitalize the state through
film-based initiatives have made
Moore, along with Burnstein, one
of the most influential men in the
Michigan film community.
Prior to Moore's announcements,
Burnstein takes the floor to present
the council with the Michigan Cre-
ative Film Alliance. The program, he
explains, is a joint effortbetween the
state's top three research schools -
Michigan, MSU and WSU - to pro-
duce an ultra-low-budget short film,
with actors from the Screen Actor's
Guild. The 21-person crew - com-
prising seven students from each
university - was selected by a joint
committee of professors from all
The film? "Appleville," a heist
comedy written by Whittemore.
Chundu had been chosen to direct,
meaning that the Michigan Cre-
ative Film Alliance would be
making a movie both written and
directedby University of Michigan
students and filmed at the North
Campus Research Complex.
WhenBurnstein finishes, Emery
King, head of the council, asks the
SAC students sitting in the back of
-Free Ice Cream
-10 am Yoga
the room to stand up so the room can
acknowledge them. "Good luck to
you with your careers, and thanks so
much for beingihere," he says.
The room claps.
The third act
"So remember when Isaid an ideal
situation comingoutofTraverse City
was getting a job?" Burke wrote in an
e-mail in mid-August, as "Applev-
ille" was shooting. "Well it worked!"
Though not involving screenwrit-
ing as he had hoped, Burke's new
job still rounded out a nicely cyclical
story: He had joined the PR team for
Farah's "Answer This!" Fittingly, one
of Burke's central tasks was to orga-
nize a short film competition encour-
aging people, including students, to
submit their own "love letters to Ann
Meanwhile, Whittemore, Chundu
and the rest of the "Appleville" crew
had to learn fast in order to complete
a film bigger in every way than any-
thing they had attempted before.
Camera tracks were made out of
actual metal instead of the plastic
pipe and sandbags typically used for
SAC 423 productions. Police officers
had to be on hand when prop guns
were used above a certain eye levelin
case passers-by mistook which kind
of shooting they were seeing.
"All this stuff I learned in just the
last two months," Whittemore said
of the in-depth production process.
Despite the increased crew presence,
everyone on set still had to perform
multiple jobs out of necessity.
Thankfully, the storm on the 11th
didn't set the production back too
much, and the crew was able to reas-
semble later in the day to squeeze
out another couple hours of film-
ing. They even finished on schedule,
which bodes well for the floating
prospect of the Michigan Creative
Film Alliance becoming an annual
But first, "Appleville" needs to
make something of itself. Chundu
and Krane, along with various edi-
tors, sound designers and super-
visors, are currently buried deep
in post-production. They have to
turn in the finished product by Dec.
10 for its planned premiere at the
Detroit Film Theater this winter,
and Chundu hopes to take it to more
film festivals in the coming year. For
the current students involved in the
project, they now have to balance
their Creative Film Alliance work
with a full credit load at school.
If their endeavors are success-
ful, there will certainly be yet more
reason to believe in the power of
the University's SAC department.
Combined with the state's already-
existing tax incentive, the program
can create and support Michigan's
homegrown filmmaking population.
But what happens from there is
anyone's guess. This is the movie
business, after all.
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