ICFLM: A Look Back With Wayne Clingman – By Brian Morton

 If you’ve paid attention in the past couple of months, you know that own intrepid editor, Duane Martin, and myself made a trip to Racine, Wisconsin at the end of October to attend the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival, a first time festival put together by Racine’s own, Wayne Clingman. While we were there, enjoying ourselves, seeing movies, meeting indie celebs and generally having fun, Wayne and his wife (who’s his number one assistant) were running around like to wild people, keeping pampered celebrities happy, keeping movies rolling and making sure than any small problem got solved, a monumental job for ten people, let alone two! I thought, after giving Wayne some time to catch his breath and recuperate, that it would be nice to see how the festival looked to him in retrospect, what he might do next year (if there is a second year) and what he thought about the festival in general.

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BM – Wayne, thanks for taking the time, I appreciate it. And thanks again for your, and Racine’s, hospitality for the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival, I didn’t have a chance to tell you before, but I had a great time and hope to be there next year. In your opinion, how did this first festival go?

WC – That’s a really interesting question. There’s two ways I can answer that. As a short term, economic venture, did I make any money, personally, on the festival? The answer to that question is no, in fact, I lost my ass on the deal. However, as a long term venture aimed at getting things done for my community, the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival was an outstanding success! We now have three, maybe four films and one TV pilot that are going to be shot here in Racine and Racine County because of the festival! The estimated budget for all those productions is about five hundred thousand dollars

BM – Wow! That’s a pretty good outcome from the first ever festival and it’s a significant influx of money into your community!

WC – That’s hugely significant. And filming is scheduled to begin this month! {November}

BM – So, based on the success of this festival, in terms of film makers coming into Racine, will there be a second festival next year?

WC – Yes, sir, it should be around the same time of the year {October 22nd-ish}, and it should be a smoother experience for everyone. Your readers can keep tabs on us by going to the web site, It Came From Lake Michigan.com.

BM – Excellent! I plan to attend and next year, since I’m more familiar with the area, I’m sure my wife will be attending with me. Overall, what was the best part of the festival for you?

WC – Getting to see film makers interact with each other, either with their friends or making new friends within the community. I felt like I really brought filmmakers together, the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival is really aimed at filmmakers, not filmgoers, although they’re certainly more than welcome to attend. I enjoyed the thought of getting filmmakers who might never meet together and letting them see Racine and what could be done in and around our great community.

BM – Alright, this one is a little tougher. In your opinion, what was the worst part of the film festival?

WC – I think the worst part for me, was seeing problems come up that I should have anticipated and been prepared for in the first place. For example, the program books got messed up. Now, since I’m the director of the festival, I accept full responsibility for all the problems that happened, that is after all my job as the director, but I allowed a volunteer to be in charge of the programs and they got a bit messed up. There should have been a procedure in place to allow for and solve that problem before they got into the hands of festivalgoers. Now, that being said, this year was really a learning experience and next year we’ll be more prepared for problems that come up!

BM – And this being the first year for the festival, you have to expect some problems to arise!

WC – Right, but at the same time, there’s no excuse. These things do happen, but now procedures have been put in place to make sure that that, and other problems that arose, don’t happen again! Another example is the hall the festival vendors were set up in, we did a walk through the week before the festival and we were told that we had a PA system in the hall but I had no idea that it wasn’t working! Next year, we’ll have it set up, so that if the PA system isn’t working in the hall, we can have another one brought in and put in place in a matter of minutes!

BM – It sounds to me like the problems that occurred were really things that either got out of your control or that you couldn’t have foreseen, really, this being the first festival.

WC – Well, I think that some of the things that did happen might happen, but I didn’t think they would go wrong, if that makes any sense.

BM – Absolutely. You mean that things might go wrong, but if you’re prepared for most eventualities, it might happen but it’ll be corrected so quickly that no one even notices.

WC – Right. And I don’t want it to sound like I’m blaming anyone for the problem, as the director of the festival, I take full responsibility for all the problems that did occur and will make sure that they don’t happen next year.

BM – I have to say, it’s refreshing to have someone accept responsibility, instead of trying to lay blame!

WC – What was wonderful about the festival, was that there were so many people around who stepped up to the plate and helped out when they noticed that there were problems. Again, in the case of the program books, there was a problem with directions of how people were to get from place to place, and these great people came up with an idea to take care of that issue, and I thought that was so cool.

 BM – Honestly, as a festivalgoer, I didn’t really notice these problems. I noticed the issue with directions of how to get to certain sites where movies were being shown, but I’m an adult and I took the initiative to find one of your people and ask, and they were more than helpful getting me directions to where I needed to go.

WC- Right, we are all adults and we can interact with each other and take care of ourselves, but next year, we’ll have a more simplistic program book and have that problem solved before it becomes an issue! But, next year, we’re going to have our festival workers in t shirts, one shirt will say Zombie Hunter and another that will say Recon on it. Recon people will be able to direct you to where any movies you want to see are being shown, or if you’d like to have a nice lunch or dinner, they’ll be able to direct you to local establishments where there might be a drink special or a dinner special going on, they’ll be direction helpers. Zombie Hunters will be in charge of more of the lifting and carrying type of stuff and they’ll be available to pitch in and help wherever they’re needed! The festival workers will have these shirts in, say black and white, but festival goers will be able to buy there shirts, just in a different color scheme. So, we already have this in place to make it easier for the average festivalgoer to find someone who can help them out.

BM – That’s a great idea! It’ll make it easier for everyone to find someone who can help them out, if they need it.

WC – It’s a wonderful idea, and let me just say that, the number of people who sent me emails after the festival volunteering their time or their services for next year’s festival is just amazing to me. We have people like Frank Delle, who’s a very busy man, who’s telling me that he’d like to work with us to make sure we can do more with promotion with the various cable outlets that he works with! And that’s just great, he doesn’t have to do that and I really appreciate it, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

BM – So, the problems sound like they were pretty small and things that you wouldn’t have foreseen, having not ever done this before.

WC – Well, there were other issues, that I’d rather not get into.

BM – Like what?

WC – Well, we did have some issues with some of the filmmakers acting in an unprofessional manner, I won’t mention any names, but there were things done and said that, in hindsight, I should have stepped in and asked people to leave. I’d hate to do something like that, but, as you said, we are all adults and we should be acting in a professional manner and not acting in some of the ways that I saw people acting this year. You can be assured that that won’t happen again next year! And there were other things that happened too, rumors that circulated, about me specifically, and they were posted on the web in some places, and I decided that, people who know me, know that none of these things are true, and we all know that you can’t win an internet fight, so I’ve chosen to just ignore these things and anyone who has an problem with me or with the festival should just contact me directly and we can talk about it until they’re satisfied.

BM – Well, we are all supposed to be adults and, in that kind of environment, we should all be acting, at least, semi-professionally, I agree.

WC – And, fortunately, most of the people at the festival were professional and nice people, it just saddens me that anyone has to act that way. I’d just ask anyone with an issue, just come to me and we can allay any fears and put any issues to rest.

BM – Absolutely, right to the source. How many films were submitted to the festival?

WC – We had 63 films submitted…about. I say about, because we had couple of films that were submitted that we never screened past the credits because they were pornographic. I don’t understand why they were submitted, it was clearly stated in the festival rules that pornographic films wouldn’t be accepted.

BM – How many movies were screened then?

WC – We screened a total of 52 movies. The only movie that was submitted that we wanted to screen but didn’t was Nailed, and that was because we got a screener copy, but we never got a good quality copy to show at the festival. We did have an issue with people taking movies out of the DVD players, and that problem will be solved next year, we’ll have someone staying in the screening rooms at all times and the movies will all be kept under lock and key when they’re not being played. Again, it’s sad that we had this problem, but we had a learning curve and we decided to trust people and we learned that there are some people that we just can’t trust.

BM – What’s the one big thing that will change from this year to next?

WC – Well, we found out that we had a problem with people sneaking into the festival this year, and it’s really troubling to me to think that people who say they support independent film would do something like that. If you support independent film, that support shouldn’t end at your pocket book. We know for a fact that we had people sneaking in and we know we lost at least 200 ticket sales, so next year we’ll be using a professional door service to monitor the box office and to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

BM – That is just sad, I know that I was offered some things for free, and I didn’t take them, I wanted to buy some of the movies I saw and I wanted to buy some of the movies that did screen at the festival that I just didn’t have time to see and I can honestly say that my wife wears a It Came From Lake Michigan T Shirt with pride and I came home with about six movies, I don’t understand anyone who wants to support the independent film community who won’t shell out some of their hard earned cash for a ticket or a movie or a t shirt, that’s the only way these things will stay around, if we don’t support them, they’ll go away!

WC – That’s the point of this thing, the film makers coming into Racine is great and I’m so proud about that, but the festival itself, there were people staying in the hotels, and eating in our restaurants and, while some of the local merchants weren’t too happy with the turn out, I think that next year will be bigger and better. Now that people like yourself, who’ve never been here, know that there’s great restaurants here and art galleries and so much to do here, they won’t come alone, they’ll bring their spouses and their families and, while they’re seeing movies or enjoying the festival, their wives might be going to the art gallery or doing some shopping, it’s not just the films being made here, it’s so much more.

BM – Have you got anything planned already for next year’s It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival?

WC – Well, I hope you’re sitting down, our first confirmed guest is Uwe Boll! He’s confirmed mostly, unless something comes up between now and then, he wants to come to next year’s festival all the way from Germany! And he’s done House Of The Dead and Alone In The Dark and so many other movies, I think it’s great to have him willing to fly in to be here next year. We’ll also have Leigh Slawner, who did Jolly Roger: Massacre At Cutter’s Cove and Hillside Cannibals. Keep in mind that it’s a year away, but these are people who have already expressed interest in being here next year, which I think it great!

 BM – When will the festival take place next year?

WC – I don’t have the exact date in front of me, but within the same time frame. We had a movement to schedule it earlier in the year, but the grant structure for some of the funding makes that impossible, so It Came From Lake Michigan will rise again toward the end of October in 2007!

BM – You know, I thought October was the perfect time of year, it’s close to Halloween and we’re all in the mood for horror movies anyway, so why not make it that time of the year! I’m personally looking forward to next year already and, bar any problems, I’m planning to attend next year too, and next year I’ll be bringing my lovely wife with me!

WC – Another thing that happened from the festival, is that Racine is now in the running for a 25 to 50 million-dollar sound stage, which would be a great thing to have here! And I think it’s all because of the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival bringing in film makers who see what a great place Racine is!

BM – Well, I have to say, that you deserve a lot of the credit for that. You should be proud.

WC – I am, I hope that, now that people see that we can bring people into town that we’ll get more local support next year, it’s been great so far, but I think that we can make this even better next year.

BM – Well, I think you’re on track and I think people who didn’t attend this year will hear about how much fun the rest of us had and they’ll be there next year!

WC – I hope so. And can I add one more thing?

BM – Sure.

WC – My number one supporter and the best assistance I got over the entire festival weekend was from my wife. And, I’m getting a little emotional here, but I can’t help it, if I ever needed evidence that there’s a God in Heaven, then it’s her! She was there through the entire festival helping out wherever she could and I can’t ever thank her enough for the support she provided!

BM – And that’s a great note to end on! Thanks for the time Wayne, an
I look forward to next year. Keep in touch and let us know of any new developments for next years It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival.

WC – Thank you, and anyone who wants to keep track of us can do so by going to It Came From Lake Michigan.com we’ll be keeping that as up to date as possible!

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So, there you have it, small problems aside, this years, It Came From Lake Michigan sounds like a success, no matter how you slice it. From the economic impact on Racine, Wisconsin to guys like me who just had fun meeting people like Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon and all the great people from the IFG in Wisconsin and just wanted to see some great movies, ICFLM was fun and successful. If you weren’t there this year, then keep you eyes on the website and get your tickets early, I have a feeling that next year they’ll be harder to get!