Lake Michigan Filmfest Stakes Out Separate Space

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Thursday, January 9, 2020, 8:04 am
Sarah Spohn

The short film “Ever After,” which will be shown this weekend at the Lake Michigan Film Competition, was shot at Nancy Moore Park in Haslett. This particular scene features actor Mason Heidger. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Kapp).

UPDATE: Saturday's program has been postponed to Saturday, January 18, due to the weather on January 11.

Karl Millisor has been working with the East Lansing Film Festival for 10 years. Over the past decade he has seen changes within the festival, and its many components, including the Lake Michigan Film Competition (LMFC).

This year, for the first time, the LMFC will be its own event, taking place at an entirely different time than the East Lansing Film Festival, which took place this past November. The film competition takes place Thursday through Saturday at the Hannah Community Center.

“It’s grown a lot, and has gotten a lot more popular,” Millisor, LMFC Director, said. “We felt that it being part of the ELFF, and it showing at the same time, that a lot of people didn’t know about it, and it was getting overshadowed. We just wanted to separate the two, so that it would have its own spotlight.”

Breaking off the LMFC and hosting it at Hannah also addressed concerns that funding provided by the City of East Lansing to the East Lansing Film Festival was ending up over the City’s border in Meridian Township, as that is the location for most of the films shown by the ELFF.

Filmmakers from around the region submitted their entries through A panel of up to 10 judges viewed the films, wrote their notes, and met to discuss their top selections. According to Millisor, the judges narrowed the 90 submissions to 38 films, in the running for prizes.

One of those films selected is Jeff Kapp’s short, “Ever After.” Kapp, an Okemos resident, grew up a musician, a film buff, and later, stepped into the role of film director.

“It wasn’t until I met producer and co-owner of Vigilant Entertainment, Shane Schanski, that I really got drawn in,” Kapp said. “Shane did a lot of acting from high school on, and was active in the film community in Chicago, Florida, and New York. It was his stories of acting and being on set that really drew me in, and got me fixated on filmmaking.”

A story about love, loss and acceptance

The short is a perfect example of life imitating art, with Kapp’s close connection to the script’s themes. “I couldn’t sleep that night,” he said. “I had so many things racing through my head. I had just received news about a friend and his wife and how their marriage was ending, which hit home for me. I ended up walking into my kids’ bedrooms, and just laid on their floor. Then I started to remember all the emotions I felt when I was going to be a dad for the first time – happy, scared, I questioned if I was worth receiving this gift of life. After a little while, I pulled out my phone, and opened my screenwriting app and just started writing. What came out was a story about love, loss, and acceptance.”

The short, clocking in at just over 13 minutes, was shot at Nancy Moore Park in Haslett. Producer Schanski secured an after-hours permit with Meridian Township, to be able to film the scenes in the park. Kapp described the filming as cold, but great.

“I had a great cast – Mason Heidger, and Callie Bussell. Some of my favorite actors/actresses I’ve worked with. They both nailed down their parts, and took a single scene short film, and turned it into a true emotional roller coaster for the audience. Then my crew, as always, were amazing. I had our producers Shane Schanski and Patrick Harney on set for it. They helped out a lot on set with whatever was needed. Then we had Christian Baker, Eric Ozanich, Keith Daniel and Oscar Barba-Vargas. They all did such an amazing job that we got all filming done within a few hours.”

The Lake Michigan Film Competition will be the last festival that “Ever After,” will be a part of. It’s garnered recognition and attention in the festival circuit, including being named semifinalist at the Los Angeles Cinefest; Official Selection at the Wolf Tree Film Festival; nominated for best acting duo at the Indie Short Fest; nominated for best screenplay, best actor, and best actress at the Detroit Filmmakers Awards; and winner of Best Drama at the Festigious International Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Given the close proximity to home, this competition is one Kapp is excited for. “There’s always been a few festivals that I’ve wanted to be a part of,” he said. “It means that much more that it’s a local festival, too. When Shane and I look at what festivals we’d like to enter our projects into, we always start local and work our way out. So East Lansing/Lake Michigan have been on the radar for a while, and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

“Ever After” is one of the short films competing for prizes, which will be shown on Saturday. A feature film will be shown Thursday night, followed by shorts, and full-length films on Friday and Saturday.

Who can enter the contest?

To be eligible for the competition, films had to have been written, shot, or edited in one of the four states bordering Lake Michigan: Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin. Millisor is excited to see the competition stand on its own, with the ever-growing talent he’s witnessed from submissions increasing over the years.

While in previous years the event has been held at Studio C in Okemos, MSU’s Wells Hall, and the Hannah Community Center, this year organizers have rebranded and consolidated to one space. “This year is kind of a re-branding year, and trial and error – so we’ll see what works for this competition,” Millisor said.

Tickets for the opening feature film, “Foster Boy,” Thursday night are $8. All other films are $5 each. The box office will be at the main entrance of Hannah Community Center, and accepts cash and credit card. For the complete listing of movie show times, visit the Great Lakes Film Competition website.

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