Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Film

'Exported From Michigan' wins audience at Beverly Hills Film Festival

May 27, 2015
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'Exported From Michigan' premieres in Grand Rapids
Jon Vander Pol, left, director of the documentary “Exported From Michigan,” prepares for a shot with Gil Portalatin, chief engineer, electrified programs, Ford. Photo via

A documentary about Michigan’s economic comeback is a hit in Beverly Hills.

“Exported From Michigan,” directed by Grand Rapids native Jon Vander Pol and featuring many prominent Grand Rapids voices, won the 2015 Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Length Documentary at the International Beverly Hills Film Festival earlier this month.

The 90-minute film explores how entrepreneurial growth, urban farming, microbrewing, alternative energy and art renewal helped Michigan bounce back from the Great Recession.

“The real present was attending the festival,” Vander Pol said. “The camaraderie with the other filmmakers was amazing, as everyone there knows how much work goes into getting a film to that point.

“The award was nice, though, and it was extra special, because the audience chose it. It was an honor to accept it on behalf of all the artists and entrepreneurs in the film, as well as everyone who worked so hard to make it all come together.”

More awards for the film may still be in order. Vander Pol said he’s keeping his fingers crossed as he waits to hear back from the Waterfront, Traverse City, Made in Michigan and East Lansing film festivals.

Looking for distribution

Vander Pol’s next step is to get his film a distribution deal, so it can be seen by a wider audience, a step he hopes to make a reality some time this summer.

“I’m still looking to partner with a larger organization for nationwide distribution of some kind,” Vander Pol said. “It's not available yet for on-demand viewing on the web, but hopefully we'll sign a deal of some kind soon.

“I'd also like to partner with the MEDC or Michigan Department of Education and some preliminary talks have begun with them.

“It's been a labor of love so far, but a return on investment would be nice. I'm still working hard to make that happen. I've sent well over 13,000 personal emails in support of the documentary. . . . We're not quitting until it finds an audience.”

The road to Beverly Hills

Vander Pol launched the film’s journey with 17 investors and 108 Kickstarter backers and received a grant of $10,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to complete the film.

Vander Pol has volunteered 5,000 hours on the project and many of the other artists involved worked for free, he said.

The film had its world premiere at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids last June.

After that premiere, it screened at the State Library in Lansing last September and was accepted into the state archives.

Next project

"I'm pitching ESPN some ideas for '30 for 30' episodes, and I have several ideas for feature docs," Vander Pol said. "However, the next time around, it's going to have to pay more up front. That's just the reality.

"I'm very open to listening to ideas from people who are interested in financing independent film. Readers, dreamers and investors, please feel free to contact me with ideas.”

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