For as long as I’ve been watching and reviewing independent and low budget movies, I have never been to a film festival…not once! So, when our esteemed editor, Duane L. Martin, invited me to attend the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival with him, I, of course, suspected some sort of trap. Knowing Duane as I did, I was sure that this wasn’t a film festival but some sort of NAMBLA convention and that I would show up and be completely embarrassed and alone and he’d be back at home laughing. So, in order to head him off, I contacted the festival organizer, Wayne Clingman, to make sure that I wasn’t walking into some sort of elaborate practical joke and, it turns out, I’m not. The It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival is being thrown for the first time at the end of this month, from October 20 thru the 22nd in Racine, Wisconsin. So, I thought, as long as I have Wayne on the line, why not ask him a few questions about the fest and find out why we should all be heading to Racine for a weekend of fun and independent film.
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BM – Hey, Wayne, thanks for taking the time.
WC – No, thank you, I really, truly appreciate it.
BM – I thought I’d touch base and see what was going on for the festival as long as Duane and I will be attending.
WC – I think we should give you guys top billing and to hell with everything else! (laughs)
BM – I thought that you wanted people to attend your festival?!
WC – (laughing) We’ll make you and Duane the headliners and then we’ll charge everyone a fee to leave!
BM – Now, that could turn you into a very rich festival!! But, really, what gave you the idea to put together a film festival in Racine, Wisconsin?
WC – Well, basically, we’re part of Film Wisconsin, which is a group of filmmakers, like myself, who gathered together to do something about the fact that the State Of Wisconsin got rid of our film office. We went to a number of film festivals and I kept hearing a lot of complaints about people being tired of going to "artsy" film festivals with mostly movies that aren’t in English and with a political point that they’re beating their audience over the head with. People want to go to film festivals to watch films that are entertaining, nuff said! So, It Came From Lake Michigan is my attempt to reverse the more "artsy" film festivals and restore a more fun atmosphere and with an opportunity for us all to better ourselves with classes and workshops about how to do different things.
BM – How hard was it to put all this together?
WC – Much harder than I ever thought it would be!
BM – What was the hardest part of getting this all together?
WC – The hardest part was actually educating my community about what this could mean for us. To the City of Racine, It Came From Lake Michigan means two thousand people from outside our community coming to the city spending on average about two hundred dollars a day on hotels and food and other things. And I have to admit, with a city who is always complaining about nothing going on to draw people into our city, I got about as much support as Bill Clinton from a Republican Congress! (laughs)
BM – (laughing) So it felt like they were actively working against you, is what you’re saying?!
WC – Well, in a sense, which is amazing because I’m going out of my way to make sure that the films that are shown aren’t in the line of, with no offense meant, they aren’t all going to be a Saw or a Hostel, they’re not all going to be bloody splatter fests because there’s much more to a good horror film, as we all know, than how much blood can we put on the screen. My favorite horror scenarios are much more along the lines of ‘what’s behind the door’ or ‘what’s under the bed’, the ‘what’s going on that we don’t know’ or ‘what’s going on that we have to guess at’ or ‘what’s happening here?’ movies. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good bloody film.
BM – So, what can we expect to see at It Came From Lake Michigan?
WC – You can look forward to some really good stuff! Couple of examples, let’s talk locally, we’ve got a local guy named Hank Carlson, who did special effects for Buffy The Vampire Slayer The Movie, he’s put in a movie named House Call, which is hilarious and he’s got a movie called Bait and I don’t want to give away too much about Bait but it’ll make you think twice when you order any restaurant’s special! Hank will also be teaching a makeup class at the festival.
BM – Okay, I’m getting there sometime Thursday, tell me what time will things get going and how busy will I be?
WC – Well, you can sleep in on Friday, you should get there around noon, which gives you time to get up and get a good lunch in downtown Racine and you’ll need a good lunch, because we’re going to keep everyone busy from noon on! So, Friday, you’re going to see a bunch of great films, you’ll have a chance to meet some nice people from the business, like Lloyd Kaufman, he’ll be there, Fred Olen Ray will be there, some up and coming Scream Queens will be in attendance and there are classes going on all day that are all included in your ticket price! And, all the money we raise is going to help some great causes in the Racine County area. And on Friday night, we’re having a gala event to put together our political decision makers in the same room with film makers and actors who can speak to them about what film can do for a community, Lloyd Kaufman will be at the gala, Fred Olen Ray will be at the gala and they can explain that fifty percent of every dollar spent on a movie in a community stays in the community, and I know we’re not talking about a Terminator or a Titanic but our political leadership here needs to understand that even a low budget movie, say a half million dollar budget, that means a quarter of a million dollars for our community and with Racine having about 25 percent unemployment that kind of financial influx means jobs, and my hope is to put these people together and help out local officials to understand this and to encourage film makers to use our area for film making. And, using Wilmington, North Carolina as an example, increase in tourism in Wilmington has occurred because people will go there on the off chance of seeing a movie being made or catching a glimpse of a move star.
BM – And then add to all that, the fact that if people like the movie, they will come to see where their favorite movie was made.
WC – Absolutely correct! It’s a win-win scenario for the filmmaker and the community. And, there’s very little infrastructure cost to the city, the things that filmmaker’s need are already here. That’s one of the things that we’ve been trying to do with Film Wisconsin, to educate our decision makers that this is so easy to do. We were able to pass the a film incentive bill but we need to make some fixes in it, so this gala will help to put together the people who can make the fixes with the people who can tell them what needs to be fixed. Now, the gala is invitation only, but on Friday night for festival goers there will be a midnight screening of The Toxic Avenger and after the screening Lloyd Kaufman will be there to take questions and sign autographs.
BM – That all sounds great! But, say I haven’t heard about It Came From Lake Michigan ahead of time and I’m just passing by and I see it going on and I decide to attend, what can I expect to pay to get in?
WC – Well, we hope that you’ll get your tickets in advance at a reduced price of thirty-five dollars, they’ll cost forty at the door. You can get advance tickets by going to the It Came From Lake Michigan Web Site but the only extra cost you might have is if you decide to take the Lloyd Kaufman master class, called Make Your Own Damn Movie, that’s an extra ten dollars, other than that, everything at the festival is included in the one price. And, if you’re just passing by, so to speak, you could see five movies easily in just a few hours, all in the same building! Plus, you’ll be able to, in that same building, to have a drink or some snacks with the movie, and all the proceeds from the concessions is going to local charities too, so that’s nice for everyone.
BM – Well, this sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to do a lot of good for Racine, I hope a lot of people decide to come out for it.
WC – I’m hoping for people from Chicago and Milwaukee to come in for it, but I hope I’m wrong here, but I think this will be mostly people from out of town coming in to visit our city. But, I’m thinking about this still, if there’s not a lot of local people from Racine in attendance, I may waive the fee for locals sometime on Sunday, so that the people here can see what we have going on and maybe some of the people here who aren’t involved will come in, get excited about this and then get involved.
BM – That’s a great idea, get you town involved.
WC – Another thing that’s going on is, not only are we giving anyone in the Armed Services a discount on tickets, we’re asking…no, we’re begging people to bring something to send to the troops, razors, toothbrushes, that sort of thing. You can go to the website and get more information about that, but, no matter what you think of the war, we all have to admire these people who are serving overseas to protect us all and I think we should support that however we can.
BM – How many movies can we expect to see if we see every movie that you’re showing?
WC – We hope to show thirty plus films. (At the time of this writing, films were still coming into Wayne and he decided to extend the deadline for a couple of days to allow for mail delays…good for you, Wayne!)
BM – I think the panel discussion that I’m really looking forward to is the Women In Horror panel with Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon and Suzi Lorraine, who among other guests will be talking about the role of women in horror movies both in front of and behind the camera, that sounds like fun.
WC – You know what, speaking of women in horror, let me just give, thanks, praise and worship to three people. First, Debbie Rochon, who made a lot of this happen after we contacted her, she has gone out of her way to help us and we really appreciate Debbie’s help! Next, Lloyd Kaufman, I met Lloyd at Flashback Weekend and he gave me fifteen minutes of his time, uninterrupted to tell me how important he felt our festival was and how much he was looking forward to coming.
BM – And I’ve seen Lloyd before and he’s wildly entertaining, I think it’s worth the extra ten dollars just to see him, besides the entertainment factor, he’s been making independent movies longer than anyone in the country, that’s worth the price and I plan to attend.
WC – Absolutely. Someone else I’d like to give praise to is Sofia Mina Smirnova. She has been here and been a part of every fundraiser that we’ve had all on her own time! She’s done commercials for us on some of the local stations in the area and she’s never asked to be compensated in any way. She has really moved heaven and earth to get out there and talk about It Came From Lake Michigan and get the word out and I really appreciate it. And, last, but not least, I want to thank Elske McCain, she’s someone I met through MySpace and she’s been a big promoter of It Came From Lake Michigan in her area, and I can’t thank her enough for that.
BM – It sounds like you’re really getting some great support from some really talented people.
WC – We have, and when I’ve mentioned this to some people, I’ve heard that it’s only in their own best interest to be nice to us because it helps them and it does, but, you know, there are other film festivals out there but to have them support this one because it’s new and it’s very independent oriented, we’re not a big corporate sponsored festival, we’re not all about separating you from your money, we’re all about the movies, it’s really nice that these great people have recognized that and have decided to throw their support behind us, it really means a lot.
BM – Thanks, Wayne and I look forward to meeting you and attending this great festival.
WC – Thank you and we look forward to seeing everyone.
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It Came From Lake Michigan will be a lot of fun, I’m really looking forward to being there, and one thing Wayne would still love is to have a ‘sister city in film’, he’s approached a couple of cities and, as of this writing, no one has replied! I can’t say how stunned I am about this, so, if you know of a city or work for a city who would love to be part of this great festival as the sister city, then you should head over to the It Came From Lake Michigan Web Site, contact Wayne and take care of that for us! And, if you haven’t got them yet, you can go to that same site and get your tickets right now to be there, and who knows, you might get the chance to meet and hang out with our glorious editor, Duane and myself!