Film Edges Region Closer To Center Stage

August 15, 2003
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Hollywood East?

Doubtful. But the cinematic efforts of a small group of people — including some who are homegrown — bode well for West Michigan.

How so?

In a word: Exposure.

A story on page 1 today details the efforts of Mendicant Films and its production of a short film called “The Agent.” The 18-minute drama, once completed, is on track to be shown at film festivals both in Michigan and around the country.

It’s been almost 25 years since Grand Rapids played such a lead role in the making of a movie. (Remember “Hardcore”?)

Whether “The Agent” is an Academy Award winner or the object of years of derision doesn’t really matter to the region as a whole. What does matter is that its production in this area is a promising sign of the rise of a creative class of people in West Michigan who see it as not only a good place to live, but also to work.

Third generation DeVos family member Rick said during an editorial board meeting that the living/work combination is the key to attracting and retaining such people. His premise is that 20-somethings need more than just a nice place to live. They need creative stimulation that eventually will change the face of Grand Rapids more to their liking.

Ventures such as the Compass Arts Academy, located beneath Bistro Bella Vita, are furthering that effort with assistance to the crew making “The Agent.”

“Film is like a language and we are starting to speak more of a visual language,” said Compass Arts’ Cort Langeland. “This is a great group of guys that had an idea and went with it. They applied what they learned and we are glad we were a part of that.”

Now, it seems, others are taking notice.

Stories on the front page of the travel sections in the Denver Post and Boston Globe tout Grand Rapids as a “cultural hub.” They point to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park as a “can’t miss” attraction, and go on to extol the virtues of the local museums, restaurants and even the sport fishing industry.

This move toward creativity is another reason the Downtown Development Authority’s actions last week were so important.

The DDA’s decisions regarding a pair of downtown projects that might not normally receive consideration were both right and visionary.

The residential project in the Peoples Building, which received a $50,000 grant, should further development of downtown housing units. The transfer of a property option for the Area 3 parking lot near Van Andel Arena to Rockford Development Co. should open up the city’s proposed entertainment district to more development options.

Both projects should enhance downtown as a place to live and work.

While an 18-minute film won’t make or break West Michigan, it certainly can be seen as a sign of the new times. And if city leaders and the up-and-comers continue their crusade for a creative class of people, maybe West Michigan will be more deserving of a center spot on the national stage.

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