Pull Down The Screens

June 16, 2008
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Films are where it’s at these days. And the business interest generated by the industry continues to take hold in the area.

The West Michigan Film & Video Association will present the Grand Rapids premiere of “Mr. Art Critic,” a 90-minute feature film written, filmed and produced in Michigan. Shot in high definition on Michigan’s scenic Mackinac Island, the film was written and directed by independent filmmaker Rich Brauer of Brauer Productions in Traverse City.

“Mr. Art Critic” received Best Feature at the 2008 Muskegon Film Festival and Second Place in the Feature Category at the 2008 Lake Michigan Film Competition. It was also screened at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck. The film will be shown Thursday at Celebration Cinema North at Knapp’s Corner on the East Beltline.

The local showing follows last week’s announcement by the New York developer of Watermark Center condos in downtown Muskegon. That a multimillion-dollar film production studio also will be built there to take advantage of Michigan's film industry incentive payments.

Brooklyn, N.Y.’s ANM Group is partnering with Moderncine, a New York production company, to build Watermark Studios, which will have three sound stages. A press release said the new studios "will give filmmakers the ability to take advantage of the best film incentive program in the country, as well as offer the most complete production facility between Los Angeles and New York."

Watermark Studios will also offer financial consulting, bridge loans for film and television projects, casting, location scouting and distribution services.

Moderncine's next project, "Offspring," a movie based on a Jack Ketchum novel, will involve the new film studio.

Peter Secchia took aim last week at the film industry incentives passed with wide support recently in the Legislature. Secchia confided that he had "heard a rumor" that "pornographers" were about to invade Michigan to have the taxpayers cover 40 percent of the cost of their films. Perhaps he was joking. For the record, however, the legislation specifically states that any production that depicts "obscene matter or an obscene performance" does not qualify for the incentive.

**The Ambassador’s comments came at a media briefing last week regarding the upcoming Regional Policy Conference here in September. The conference is this area’s response to decades-old concerns that southeast Michigan gets too much of the state government's money and policy decisions reflect its culture, and that West Michigan’s socio-economic agenda needs to be pushed in front of lawmakers.

There also seems to be a belief among many here that we're different from them there.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, which is behind the conference, met with the news media last week to spell out logistical plans for the event. The four co-chairs, including Secchia, were there, and these prominent business executives made some comments touching on the beliefs about the differences between people in southeast Michigan versus people on this side of the state.

"We have a predisposition to solve our own problems in West Michigan. Government is not the first solution we look at," said co-chair Jim Dunlap of Huntington Bank.

Secchia arrived fashionably late, resplendent with his deep tan and wearing a maize shirt and navy jacket. The unfailing MSU booster said he had come prepared with "bullet points," but soon dropped those in favor of his usual shotgun-style approach.

"Fieger's innocent and Kwame's still in office. … Yeah, we're different from southeast Michigan," said Secchia.

**Grand Rapids moved to Chicago — or at least the West Michigan furniture industry did. The 2008 NeoCon World’s Trade Fair was held in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart June 9-11, turning Grand Rapids into a furniture ghost town.

But a lamp still shines light on this fair city as many local companies brought home awards. Herman Miller was the top dog, winning Gold and Best of Competition for making filing and storage exciting with its Teneo line. The company also won Manufacturer of the Year, and the company’s Nala chair took silver under Healthcare Seating.

Haworth was awarded gold in the Files and Storage category for NC-B Resonate. The company’s Very chair won silver in the Conference Seating category and gold in the Stacking Seating category.

Details, a part of Steelcase Inc., took it one step further — and then another and another — with Walkstation, a height adjustable desk fitted to a treadmill (not meant for running). Walkstation won both the Innovation award in the Technology Support category and silver for Height-Adjustable Worksurfaces. Steelcase also brought back other awards, including a three-peat for its health care company Nurture, winning gold with its Sonata line in the Healthcare Furniture category. Steelcase also won gold for c:scape in the Furniture Systems category, gold for media:scape (Conference Tables), and silver for cobi (Conference Seating).

Configura Inc. showcased its CET Designer Version 2.0 and won gold in Software Technologies. The user-friendly software can create an office layout and tally up the total cost for items included in the layout in an hour. The software has been personalized for use by Haworth, Herman Miller and Steelcase under different names.

HAG by izzy won gold for its Sideways chair in Conference Seating; and Nucraft won gold for Neos under Casegoods: Desks & Credenzas, and silver for Tavola (Conference Tables).

Kendall College of Art and Design students also attended the event. Kendall for more than a decade has offered a class constructed around NeoCon. The class maxes out at 100 students and includes 20 students from Pratt Institute of Design in New York City.

“(There are) have a number of speakers we bring to the class to represent a variety of points of view on design, usually related to NeoCon,” said Dr. Oliver Evans, president of Kendall College of Art and Design. “Our purpose of this class is to give students direct experience with how designers move from the concept of a product to the concept of a showroom to actually implementing it during the NeoCon show.”

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