A full day of movies is happening for FREE at the Wealthy Theatre on Sat., Sept. 15th, 12 PM - 11:30pm!

Our Board Of Directors have been working hard on rescheduling since bad weather in April and the resignation of the previous festival director, Jen Shaneberger. We wish her well in her new endeavors and are excited about the NEW direction the festival will be heading in the future.


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Interview with Mary Angélica Molina, the director, writer and producer of VALENTINA

Mary Angélica Molina

Mary Angélica Molina

The Grand Rapids Film Festival is invested in seeking out the opinions of filmmakers from all over the world.  We value the creative process of crafting cinema and decided to reach out to directors and writers whose films have been chosen as prime candidates for the April screenings.  One resourceful filmmaker we sought out to interview was Mary Angélica Molina, the director, writer and producer of VALENTINA.  Molina is a Colombian born woman who immigrated to New York with her family at a later age.  Growing up in the Caribbean region of Colombia she has never lost touch with her South American roots. 


The films that originally hooked her onto the prospect of filmmaking are the ones she describes as all encompassing with a sense of self, ones that put you under a spell or a trance.  At the age of 14 or 15, she knew she wanted to create that whimsy for others.  In high school Molina got bitten by the film bug and started creating short films with her mother’s video camera.  From there she attended Bard college of New York as an undergraduate and enrolled in a film program that emphasized a non-traditional take on film theory and the avant-garde.  Later on Molina enrolled at the University of Southern California in a screenwriting program that balanced well with her liberal arts education at Bard. Because of the juxtapositional shift from imaginative perspective to story, it gave way to the duality of narrative and high art that is present in her filmmaking.  Her goal is to hit that sweet spot with films that take viewers off the beaten path while keeping them totally invested.

The Earth is a Man  from 1942 by Chilean painter Roberto Matta

The Earth is a Man from 1942 by Chilean painter Roberto Matta

Her major influences include a variety of tastes in art, film and literature.  Post-modernism and modern works after the 1940s and 1950s have greatly shaped her own work.  The shape and form of Kandinsky and the minimalism of Donald Judd also pique her interest and act as inspirational fuel. The Earth is a Man from 1942 by Chilean painter Roberto Matta is especially strikes a chord as a favorite painting that is beautiful, lush and tragic.  Other muses include John Waters, Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky, and Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman.  She said that the impression of surrealism, nostalgia and identity present in these pieces of art heighten reality in a non-didactic way.

Feminists have also played a role in the moviemaking process for her.  Taking philosophy heavy classes at Bard College, the introduction of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and Judith Butler’s Gender Troubles helped establish gender as a performative and social construct.  How this fits into cinema is that in film language there is reflexivity and semiotics that is apparent when one is a viewer.  The person looking at you is also the person preceding you, meaning that see yourself in many of the films that you view.  This notion wasn’t intentional when first viewing or crafting films but there was a “eureka” moment for Molina as she discovered this.  After reading numerous feminist theorists, Molina said “these ideas start to linger in your consciousness and manifest in yourself.”

Molina stated that although VALENTINA was in development for a while and was a challenge to realize, it finally came to fruition by means of a Kickstarter campaign.  She looked back at other projects of hers for further motivation and was struck by a desire to create a weird story on an insanely hot and humid day in New York.  She showed her draft to a friend of hers and it put a fire under her to create the film.  Additionally, her fans were responsive to her Kickstarter campaign and the project was soon underway.

What’s next for the innovative, sapient filmmaker is finishing up a sketch web series called Dichos and later on a feature film that’s a Caribbean twist on classic American noir inspired by Chandler and Hammett.  Dichos is currently in post-production and uses local Latina talent from New York to tell standalone stories relating to Latin American phrases that translates them for American viewers.  Her feature film entitled Tropico Nocturno is a throwback to classic film and literary noir that involves a woman on a crash course for revenge after her attempted murder.  The twist is not only in its Caribbean flavor but in gender subversion and a refusal to fit inside a box.  The film also will deal with the topic of forgiveness rather than straight forward violent narratives of many film noirs.

Finally, the GRFF also asked Mary Molina about the question of responsibility within the grasp of the filmmaker. Do people who craft movies hold a certain liability to the world?  Her answer was unique: she stated that she is a story-teller first that brings an agenda with her films secondly.  Being Latina, queer and an immigrant is vital to her individuality but the main goal is to entertain with her films.  People do have a certain conscientiousness when making art for others but hers is an blend of awareness and entertainment.  The two ideas don’t have to be independent of each other but when combined, they create a “yummy, juicy story.”  Be sure to check out her other works, La Rosa y el Gato (2006) and Oh Baby, I Love You! (2009).


We’ll be showing VALENTINA on Saturday, September 15th at the Wealthy Theater as one of our 2018 Festival Films. Click here for more information on showtimes.

Interview with Marcos Colón: the director, writer and producer of Beyond Fordlândia. 

Marcos Colon

Marcos Colon

The Grand Rapids Film Festival has lately been looking to filmmakers for their insight and candor into the world around them.  One filmmaker is Marcos Colón: the director, writer and producer of Beyond Fordlândia

Beyond Fordlândia is documentary that has won the prominent 2017 Golden Sun WWF award at the Barcelona International Film Festival.  It presents an environmental account ninety years after Henry Ford’s Amazon experience, where in 1927 the Ford Motor Company attempted to establish rubber plantations on the Tapajós River, a primary tributary of the Amazon.  The film covers the clearing of 1 million hectares of forest for the cultivation of rubber trees and the transition to a successful soybean monoculture, which substituted enormous sections of forest for lucrative commodities for export.  It also discusses the damage imposed on the forest, the hydrography and Amazonian man, these being ever more threatened by the advance of agro-business in the region.

beyond fordlandia 1.jpg

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a Brazilian and an American father, Colón is a Ph. D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His 5 different trips to the Amazon while filming were made possible by UW-Madison’s Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program, the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), and the university’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He speaks multiple languages including Portuguese, Spanish, German and English. Some of his favorite films and inspirations are Nanook of the North from 1922 directed by Robert J. Flaherty, Into the Wild from 2007 directed by Sean Penn, Aguiree, the Wrath of God from 1972 and Fitzcarraldo, from 1982, both directed by Werner Herzog.

Colón considers Brazil his home country and has always been moved by the culture of his people.  What inspired him to make Beyond Fordlândia was to challenge the narrative of Henry Ford and Ford’s attempt to tame nature and capitalism. 

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He has said he wants to “raise awareness about processes of exploitation that are overlooked, misremembered, rebranded, and lied about, or just covered by trees and forgotten by history.” 

Spending 16 months of production on the film stimulated a passion to create awareness of the Amazon’s destruction.  At the time only a local driver was his companion but his determination continued because of the ongoing injustice he saw of the irreversible damage to the rainforest.  Among these issues are diseases and water contamination introduced by Ford that continue to grow more aggressive each year. 

The message then becomes that even though Beyond Fordlândia addresses local concerns, it makes viewers concerned for the future of the world.  Colón states that the current situation of the Amazon has been painful and with this film he can bring a vision to those in Brazil who want change.

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“I had the opportunity to visit the Brazilian part of the Amazon, and get a close look at a region known only through literary work,'" he explained. "When I read about the arrival of Ford in O Turista Aprendiz (The Apprentice Tourist), by Mário de Andrade, my focus moved to that region. After visiting Fordlândia and Belterra, cities founded through Ford's ventures, I decided that I needed to tell those stories.” 

Colón’s mission with his film is to dually dispel nostalgia about Ford’s Amazon experimentation while bringing a realistic vision to the world that leaves the audience totally impacted after they become witnesses.

The GRFF asked him one last important question that characterizes our goal in providing transformative cinema to the public: Do you think filmmakers have a certain responsibility to the world?  His answer was an emphatic yes, that absolutely everyone has responsibilities and in particular, filmmakers have the capacity to bring reason and voice.  He said, “A documentary is not a capsule of truth, but one where the filmmaker creates their reality.  The image on the screen is beyond the screen.”  A documentary has an essence, one that brings a consciousness to its audience and tries to change the world for the better.  Filmmakers have the capability to make invisible subjects visible while trying to make the world a better place for everyone.

His next film project is a sequel to Beyond Fordlândia, which will continue to address issues of environmental rights.  Another noteworthy work is his article entitled: “Five Reasons Why Henry Ford’s Failure in Brazil Still Matters Today”.

We’ll be showing Beyond Fordlândia on Saturday, September 15th at the Wealthy Theater as one of our 2018 Festival Films. Click here for more information on showtimes.

2018 36 Hour Challenge Winners

Congratulations to all 25 teams that were able to complete the 36-Hour Challenge. GRFF is so proud and grateful for each of the over 150 participants. 

Here's a recap of the winning teams:

Best of Show: "Never Too Late" by #StayRaw, Compass College of Cinematic Arts Alumni

Best Professional Film: "Total Apocalypse of the Heart" by Started Out Friends, Cornerstone University Alumni

Best University Film: "T.T.I.B" by Golden Shooters From Calvin College

Best High School Film: "The PAIN-TING" by KV Productions from Kelloggsville High School

Best Editing: "Closeted Hemispheres" by Taco Bell Sponsored Team from Grand Valley TV

Best Sound Bob Ross: "Extreme Addiction" by Flixters with Hats from Grand Valley State University)

  • Best Acting: Mimi Mutesa from "T.T.I.B." of the Golden Shooters from Calvin College
  • Best Directing: "Steve" by Steven Spielberg from Kendall College of Art and Design
  • Best Script: "Harmony" by Biggr
  • Best Cinematography: "The Allegory of the Cave" by DareDevil Studios from Northview High School



Aggressive Bombardment

Our last post in this series investigating how film impacts behavior looked at the top 20 television programs of 2017, finding that most of them shared the common bond of violence. For this, our third post, the Grand Rapids Film Festival (GRFF) team wonders how violence in media is shaping our societies. Is it possible to view an increasing amount of violence, while remaining calm and peaceful?

Freeform’s  Pretty Little Liars was the third most watch TV show of 2017 and is a great example of indirect violence in the form of relational agression

Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars was the third most watch TV show of 2017 and is a great example of indirect violence in the form of relational agression

In 2002, Anderson and Bushman concepted the General Aggression Model (GAM), which suggests that exposure to media aggression may influence attitudes and behavior, in both the short and the long terms.[i] Most individuals who view a violent and bloody gunfight do not commit murder. However, according to the GAM, these individuals are still “primed” to act aggressively, as they are now thinking about aggression, are physiologically aroused, and may be in a hostile and angry mood.[ii]

In 2000, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and five other prominent medical groups issued this statement concerning the connection between media and violent and aggressive behavior in children.

Television, movies, music, and interactive games are powerful learning tools, and highly influential media. The average American child spends as much as 28 hours [in 2000] a week watching television, and typically at least an hour a day playing video games or surfing the Internet. Several more hours each week are spent watching movies and videos and listening to music. These media can, and often are, used to instruct, encourage, and even inspire. But when these entertainment media showcase violence - and particularly in a context which glamorizes or trivializes it - the lessons learned can be destructive. [iii]

At this point, it’s clear that film/media teaches. Every time you consume a program, film, song, game or clip, your mind opens to it, the content bounces around, and some of the ideas stick. GRFF is primarily concerned with how these ideas impact behavior. In 1986, University of Michigan professor L. Rowell Huesmann developed the Information Processing Theory. This theory explains how these ideas, or “scripts” as he labeled them, are learned by observing and then stored in memory to be used as a guide for future behavior.[iv]


Sarah M. Coyne looks more deeply at the impact viewing direct and indirect aggression in media. Indirect aggression includes: intrigue, rumors, and manipulating others. She references the film Cruel Intentions, where the lead characters manipulate their friend’s relationship to destroy trust, as an example in her 2004 article “Cruel intentions on television and in real life.”[v]

Coyne’s research discovered that television portrayals of indirect aggression can have an immediate effect on subsequent indirect aggression. Meaning, if you view direct or indirect aggression, these actions become “scripts” that you draw from in your own experiences. The more aggression you view, the more often you’ll draw on these examples to solve your own life dilemmas.

Relational aggression is a type of indirect violence Coyne researched. Relational aggression is the type of enmity that does not show physical scars but is the force behind school bullying and social mockery. [vi] The expected result is damaging relationships or the communal status. This causes a great deal of lasting, usually unseen harm like: depression, anxiety, loneliness, social withdrawal, low-self-esteem and even suicide.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

High levels of relationship aggression are found in numerous television shows and films, even in children’s programming. In these programs, relational aggression is often portrayed as humorous, justified, customary, rewarded and sociologically abundant by attractive girls. Also know as the “mean girls” phenomenon, this type of violence is typically aimed towards elementary to high school level females but also affects males on a smaller scale. When children are viewing comical, laugh-track abundant programs where the joke is on the weirdo or the awkward character, be aware that these “scripts” are being added to their adolescent brains.

It simply wasn’t possible to find evidence that stated violence in media has no effect on the viewer. None of the research recommended directly or indirectly aggressive programs to be watched by children, adolescents or adults. It was quite clear to every researcher that media teaches; it offers behavioral options to viewers. When the options presented are aggressive, the viewer learns them. Even if viewers can control their impulses to solve problems with direct violence, the aggressive scripts influence their moods and their communication.

So, viewer, if you are struggling with anger, anxiety, a lack of calm, manipulative behavior, negative thoughts, or aggressive behavior… you may want to examine the media content you’re consuming.

But even more relevant, filmmaker—if you want to influence the world for good, if you want to contribute to peaceful societies that live in harmony—start by creating narratives that emulate this reality. Teach us how to do it. Give us the scripts we need to overcome the violence and aggression that’s been bombarding us.

We’ll be wrapping up this series in our forth and final post next month. Stay tuned.  


[i] Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27–51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135231

[ii] Coyne, Sarah M. "Effects of Viewing Relational Aggression on Television on Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 284-95. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018. (pg. 286)

[iii] Joint statement on the impact of entertainment violence on children: Congressional Public Healthy Summit. (2000, July 26). Retrieved January 30, 2018 from http://public.psych.iastate.edu/caa/VGVpolicyDocs/00AAP%20-%20Joint%20Statement.pdf


[iv] Huesman, L.R. (1986). Psychological processes promoting the relation between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior by the viewer. Journal of Social Issues, 42, 125-139

[v] Coyne, Sarah M., John Archer, and Mike Eslea. "Cruel intentions on television and in real life: Can viewing indirect aggression increase viewers’ subsequent indirect aggression?" J. Experimental Child Psychology 88, 2004, pp. 234-53. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.


[vi] Coyne, Sarah M. "Effects of Viewing Relational Aggression on Television on Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 284-95. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.


Meet the 2018 Challenge Teams

This year, 26 teams consisting of high school students, college students, and professionals  come together to take on the exciting challenge of making a short in 36 hours. Learn more about the contestants below. 

Here's who's film made the cut:

High School
1. VinVlogs, LukEvan Productions, Godfrey Lee High School
2. Allegory of the Cave, DareDevil Studios, Northview High School
3. the PAIN-TING, KV Productions, Kelloggsville High School

4. Confined, Popcorn Puppies, Grand Valley State University
5. Steve, Steven Spielberg, Kendall College of Art and Design
6. Paint That, Reel Knights, Calvin College
7. Bob Ross, Flixters with Hats, Grand Valley State University
8. Apperception, Ferris Gold, Ferris State University
9. Watcher, Gremlins, Compass College of Cinematic Arts
10. Smoke, Misfit Media, Cornerstone University
11. Closeted Hemispheres, The Taco Bell Sponsored Team, Grand Valley State Television
12. T.T.I.B, Golden Shooters, Calvin College

13. V., Power Station Productions
14. ISO, DeafEye Productions
15. That Which Burns from Embers, G-Raggidy in the House
16. Writing on the Wall, Midtown Misfits
17. Never too Late, #StayRaw
18. Total Apocalypse of the Heart, Started Out Friends
19. Harmony, Biggr
20. Collision, Bangers and Mash
Not screening: Waiting for a train; Sorry I have been busy; Indifference; Guilt; Ecstasis.

 Tanner Hamilton.

 Tanner Hamilton.

1 Team DareDevil Studios: Tanner Hamilton
I’ve grown up around creative people. My dad’s a photojournalist, my mom is a writer, and my older brother is a screenwriter in LA. I’ve always liked making things and showing them to people, and that eventually evolved into short films. I chose to be a filmmaker because I like telling stories through the lens of a camera, and I love the impact a good film can make. My favorite part of filmmaking is working with my friends, and this was a really fun experience for us.

Frank Wiltse

Frank Wiltse

2 Team Biggr: Frank Wiltse
We are a group of industry professionals that want to give our kids an opportunity to be on set for a real production, to see what goes into making a film. We range from a SAG/AFTRA/AEA member of 30 years, to a newly minted Production Assistant, to teens in High School. All are excited for the challenge. The oldest team member is excited to try and stay awake past his bedtime.

Caleb Joyce

Caleb Joyce

3 Team Misfit Media: Caleb Joyce
My name is Caleb R. Joyce, and I’m a senior studying film production at Cornerstone University. I believe our culture is shaped by the movies that come out of Hollywood and videos on YouTube, and the content that is displayed via these mediums has the power to change people. I want to change our culture for the better, and I believe filmmaking is the way to do that. 

Ben Stevens

Ben Stevens

 4 Team Popcorn Puppies: Ben Stevens
My name is Ben Stevens. I am a student at Grand Valley State University, majoring in Film and Video. My interest in film spans many areas of production but I am mainly focused on writing and producing. I grew up on the east side in the small town of Davisburg. I moved to the area my sophomore year of college when I transferred to GVSU. I am pursuing filmmaking because of my love for story, and cinema's unique ability to reflect and convey emotion.  I participated in this challenge last year.  I love doing this challenge because it forces crew members to work together as a team and build off each other’s ideas. The time constraint allows us to push ourselves creatively farther than we think we're capable of. And yet, there are still opportunists to have fun. While I want to make the best film possible, the steaks are still relatively low. We are able to stay true to our vision for the film. I am excited to see what my team and others produce, but most of all I'm excited to for the process.

MJ Harrell

MJ Harrell

5 Team Deafeye Productions: MJ Harrell
My name is MJ Harrell, and I am a filmmaker with a unique vision. Growing up in Gates North Carolina, I’ve always enjoyed photography and had a true appreciation for nature. Growing up, my vision has been limited in my right eye, and as a child, this has allowed me to pay attention to details a lot more than those with perfect vision. I started out as a solo hip hop artist, and eventually became a lead vocalist of a prominent band in the Hampton roads area. We did a lot of hip-hop and rock music, and we even had performances when we brought the two genres together. I’ve been on MTV, BET, and I’ve done numerous shows as a music artist. Deep down, I didn’t share the same passion for music as I did for filmmaking watching my vision come to life as a movie or short film. Upon my arrival to Michigan, I worked numerous jobs that were simply in place to make a living to support myself and my family, but now I’ve taken the step to where I’m focusing on watching my dream come to life and I have been grinding ever since. If you’re looking for a unique performance, a driven director who has a great passion for the art of film then I am your guy! 

Team Steven Spielberg

Team Steven Spielberg

6 Team Steven Spielberg
Kendall College of Art and Design brings to you a unique blend of Digital Media artists including: Ashley Kalin, Kelsey Kamrowski, Owen Loughrin, Matthew McDaniel, Sean McManaman, Caleb Sumney, and Tys Yoder. Skill sets range from sound design, video, motion graphics, and 3D animation. Collectively, we decided to enter ourselves into the 36 Hour Challenge because we would like to demonstrate our passion for storytelling and challenge ourselves to become better artists. 

7 Team Power Station Productions
We like making movies because we like movies. (No pictures from team Power Station Productions)

Connor Durow

Connor Durow

Xian Castillo.

Xian Castillo.

 8 Team Golden Shooters: Connor Durow
My Name is Connor Durow. Growing up, I loved writing skits and stories to go film with my friends. In my free time, I love to watercolor paint, sketch, and animate my own cartoons. I never saw myself as a filmmaker until recently. It was only during my Freshman year at Calvin College when I finally realized that this hobby could turn into a career. Now I am a double major in Film Production and Business Marketing. My Goal as a filmmaker is to one day write and direct my own feature films. This is my first time doing this challenge and I plan to learn lots and have fun in doing it!   

Luke McGee

Luke McGee

9 Team Something Studios: Xian Castillo
I am Xian T. Castillo, captain of the Something Studios team and ever since I was little, I was fascinated by anything behind-the-scenes on any movie I could get my hands on. Movies were everything for me, but I never really considered filmmaking as a career path until about 3 years ago, when I was sitting in class, talking to my now co-creator of Something Studios, William Baker. We were discussing a video game we both enjoy playing, and one of us said: "What if there was a movie based on this?". Thus forth, Will and I have been completely obsessed with filmmaking. At this point, we couldn't imagine anything else we would want to do with our lives but tell these stories, in the only way we know how. We are very very excited to participate in this challenge and gain new experiences from it.

 10 Team LukEvan Productions: Luke McGee
I am Luke McGee, a 16 year old junior in high school.  I have been raised in a family of artists; people who have cultivated my love for creativity and imagination. As I grew up, I found that film was one of my favorite ways to express myself in a personal and widely reaching manner. I enjoy writing, filming, editing, and being a part of such a wonderful team of kind and brave people. LukEvan Productions is excited to begin their next challenge!

Katie Fox-Webb

Katie Fox-Webb

11 Started Out Friends: Katie Fox-Webb
An Ohio native, I made my home in Grand Rapids, Michigan after receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production and Intercultural Studies from Cornerstone University.  I am a freelance producer, photographer, and coordinator of chaos. I decided to go into the film industry because I believe in the power of storytelling and how it can unify, educate, and make change. Working primarily in corporate video production, our team is excited to flex our creative muscles and tackle this 36-hour challenge! 

Ben McCarthy

Ben McCarthy

12 G-Raggidy in the House: Ben McCarthy
I'm just someone following my dreams. I am a proud father of three boys and a husband going on 11 years. They are the reason that I continue to dream. Stories have always been my passion, and growing up movies were my escape. I want to help others escape. Film making is something that I would love to make a career out of. My team is amazing and we are excited to see what we can come up with. I want to thank GRTV for their support. Remember, every moment is a chance for an adventure.

Erion Adams

Erion Adams

13 Team Trust Films: Erion Adams
Currently I am a junior in high school but I've had the love for filmmaking, well.. mostly cinematography, since my freshman year. Between my freshman and junior year, I like to say I've been pretty productive. I signed up for an after school video class at WMCAT which opened many doors for me. I've been able to work with companies like Gorilla and Carbon Stories, I helped make a documentary that has been seen by a few hundred people in Grand Rapids, I've helped friends on personal short films, and I even got to begin 2018 with the release of the first music video I've worked on with close friends that share the same interests. I've never participated in one of these challenges before, but I'm excited to see what my team and I can do in 36 hours.

Virginia Hargrove and Angela DeGarmo

Virginia Hargrove and Angela DeGarmo

14 Team Midtown Misfits
Angela DeGarmo
, the producer from Owosso, and Virginia Hargrove, the director from Perry, pulled together a very diverse group of filmmakers for this challenge. The Midtown Misfits consists of team members based throughout the Greater Lansing Area. We support a group that ranges from twenty year old college students to forty year old independent filmmakers. Each of us have unique skill sets that will benefit the overall project and as a team we are ecstatic to take on this project to see what we can accomplish together. 

#stayraw  Val, Kriss, and Kyle

#stayraw  Val, Kriss, and Kyle

 15 Team #stayraw
We are a group of filmmakers from Grand Rapids, MI who are passionate about telling unique stories. We didn't choose filmmaking, filmmaking chose us!

Team Austin's Powers

Team Austin's Powers

16 Team Austin's Powers: Olivia St. Arnold
We are students from Compass College of Cinematic Arts + one inspiring high school student (not pictured). Somehow, someway, we made decisions that led us all to the same place at the same time, not knowing filmmaking would be our calling. We love to show stories, not just tell them. We love to act, direct, write and everything above and below the line. We want to make an impact on the world. We want to make films.

Benyamin Aki

Benyamin Aki

17 Team The Crimson Knights: Benyamin Aki
My name is Benyamin Aki. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and as far back as I can remember I have always been fascinated with filmmaking, the first film that I can remember peaking my interest was “Star Wars”. It wasn’t until high school where I became more serious on being a filmmaker. Over the years I have continued to evolve my craft in hopes to give the audience the same feeling that I had felt when watching “Star Wars” for the first time.

Other 36-Hour Challenge teams include:

POS Productions, 9 Seth Trowbridge, Amanda Learman, James Sturtridge, Austin Stuk, Emma Hankey, Elizabeth Herrud, Dale Jackson, Spencer Russell

Flixters with Hats, 3 Jacob Farah, Coleson Anderson, Sydney Martin

KV Productions, 5 Tiler DeWitt, Josh Zeigler, Majesta Baker,

Bangers and Mash, 3 Jackson Swan, Harley Dean, Devon Mathews

Reel Knights, 4 Ha Jin Kim, Samuel Bushi, Moises Kabandana, Joe Bae

Ferris Gold, 18 Nick Kuiper, Jonathon Eaton, Jessica Fidler

The Taco Bell Sponsored Team, 9 Graham Hall, Brandon Allen, Kyle Maccoimei,

YUS Entertainment, 3 Trevor Heasley, Michael Sanker, Matthew Sanker

Gremlins, 7 Lamon Shyne, Max Burchart, Lucas Kapla,


Challenge expands networks

By Yenna Hu, GRFF Intern and GVSU Film student

 I remember one of my first experiences working on a “real” film set, talking with others in the crew, wondering how they got to be involved with the project. Most of the crew had already worked with the director in the past, some others (including myself) were film majors that learned about the project through an email forwarded by our professor . The rest knew about the project because they were friends with or knew someone who’s friends with director or producer. This type of hodgepodge crew is pretty common for a local film production. After all, everyone has to start somewhere, and the people who are going to be there for you when you first start are almost always your friends. The same goes for big time directors as well. Like Steven Spielberg said: “When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around.”


     Making films with friends is definitely fun and enjoyable. Even so, eventually, you'll realize that your best friend since elementary school is not good at holding up a boom mic for an excessive period of time and they know nothing about sound; your chemistry lab partner can’t operate a camera; your sister can’t act; and your finished film, though fun making it, is not as presentable as you wish it to be.

But you love film, and you want to be good at making them, so what do you do? You go to film school. You learn about all the technicality and artistic features of film art. And the best thing is, you meet fellow film students that are just as enthusiastic as you are, and you make friends with them. Now you’re still making films with friends, except for this time, they all know what they’re doing, and even if they’re not good at what they do, you know that they care enough to actually learn and do better next time.

     After you come to know most of the film students in your school, things may start to get a little bit predictable. If you’ve learned anything about creativity, it's that new ideas make the most exciting and unique projects. How do you get new ideas? Meeting new people is always a good way to go. What’s better for you as a filmmaker? Meet other filmmakers that share your compassion and enthusiasm about film art!

Grand Rapids Film Festival's 36-Hour Challenge is a great opportunity for you to meet and network with other talented local filmmakers. This year, after the screening of challenge films, there will be a chance for all the participants to get to know each other during a reception in the Wave Room. After some time for networking, the award winners will be announced. It's the Festival's hope that participants will share thoughts on each other’s work and expand your networks. 

With teams from Grand Valley State University, Compass College of Cinematic Arts, Calvin University, and Cornerstone University... along with several high school and professional teams, the opportunity is here. Learn more about the Challenge in the promo video below. 

Purchase tickets for friends and family to attend the screening here. 

Prepared for the Challenge


We've been getting a lot of questions from filmmakers about what they are allowed to work on before the clock starts ticking for the 36-Hour Challenge. So, here are a few helpful tips our team put together to get all the contestants off to a good start. 

It's extremely important that teams wait until the launch on January 26 to write their scripts. Do not work on any dialogue ahead of time. NONE. GRFF wants each team to thoughtfully design a script around our elements and instructions. 

Still, there are a few things you can work on before the launch. 

  1. Gather crew. Teams need to be made up of three or more people. Whether it's the director, or DP, lighting or sound, you'll need to pull together a group that works well together and assign roles. 
  2. Audition actors. Find a diverse group of talented actors, so that your script can go in many different directions. You never know what we're going to throw at you, but no matter what it is, you'll need versatile acting talent. Start looking for them now.  
  3. Location scout. It's late January in Michigan... burrr! You are going to need a couple of warm locations to work from. The city of Grand Rapids wanted us to pass on this application for a film permit. If you are going to film outside in downtown Grand Rapids, you should start working on this permit now. We don't recommend that you plan your entire script around an interesting location. In 2017, a team used a dry cleaner, which is a super interesting location. But, their script fell flat, and the judges wondered if they would've focused more on the dialogue had they had a less interesting location. 
  4. Concepts. Creative minds have no shortage of concepts rattling around in them. Get together with your team and share these concepts. Make a list; organize several directions that your short film could go. Then, when you receive the criteria at the launch, you'll be able to look at your list and pick the concept that works best with what we're requiring. 
  5. Gather props and costumes. Have your actors pull some items from their wardrobe that would work in different settings.  Don't forget the shoes and accessories. Think through each of your concepts and determine what props you may need. 
  6. Equipment. Clearly, you'll need a camera and various memory cards to capture your footage. Lighting and sound equipment are equally as important. Be thoughtful about all the items you'll need and make sure you have it all before the launch. WKTV and GRTV are good resources, but you should reserve your items early. 
  7. Music. Select a music that fits different moods and make sure you have the proper permissions to use it. Maybe contact your favorite local band to borrow one of their songs. Music is the perfect bridge in cinematic story. You know you'll need some, so gather several options now, so you don't waste time during the challenge. 
  8. Create a Film Freeway account. We ask you to up load your films to GRFF's 36-Hour Challenge Film Freeway account. In order to do this, you'll need to have your own account. Maybe practice uploading a 6 minute film, so you know how long the upload will take. 

If your team starts working on these items now, they'll be ready for a full sprint when the Challenge clock starts ticking. 


Addicted: 10 Hours and 39 Minutes a Day

amusing cover.jpg

The second post in our series on the power of television programs and films to shape beliefs, culture and behavior takes us to the mid-1980’s. Here, we’ll gain an understanding of how television, the medium itself, changed the world. Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death [1] may have been written in back in 1985, but his realizations couldn’t be more relevant to our lives today.

 Postman forecasts that the world imagined by Aldous Huxley in novel Brave New World [2] has been brought to life through the medium of television. For those who aren’t familiar with the book, we offer you the opening of Amusing Ourselves to Death, which begins with a comparison of Huxley’s predictions of a futuristic society versus those George Orwell discussed in his book 1984.

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.” [3]

When Amusing Ourselves to Death was written, television—meaning programming provided by networks and public broadcasting—had become the main medium for transmitting information into American homes. As we look at how technology has progressed, it’s clear that the internet has given viewers greater access to programming and greater control over what content they choose to consume. Choosing to watch the programs viewers enjoy the most, is exactly what Postman identified as television’s greatest flaw.

“Television is not well-suited to offering people what they need. It is user-friendly. It is too easy to turn off. It’s at its most alluring when it speaks the language of dynamic visual imagery. It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands.” [4]

postman meme.PNG

 Because the consumer can choose not to watch, those who design programming are forced to package information as entertainment, striving to make it as appealing as possible. The problem here is that entertaining content generally lacks depth and thoughtfulness. As Postman explains, what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, non-substantive, non-historical, and non-factual.

 As you read that paragraph, you may feel a bit defensive and try to think of counter-examples of deeply thoughtful and somewhat historical films like, for example, Schindler's List. Still, as you consider the programming consumed on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that those examples are exceptions to the sea of fantasy entertainment. Consider this list created by The Insider of the 20 most popular television shows of 2017:

 1. HBO’s Game of Thrones
2. AMC's The Walking Dead
3. Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars
4. FOX’s Prison Break
5. History’s Vikings
6. CBS’s The Big Bang Theory
7. CW’s The Flash
8. Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why
9. CW’s The Vampire Diaries
10. PBS’s Sherlock
11. HBO’s Westworld
12. USA’s Suits
13. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy
14. CW’s Arrow
15. CW’s Supernatural
16. ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
17. FOX’s Gotham
18. FOX’s Lucifer
19. CW’s The 100
20. Amazon’s The Grand Tour [5]

It’s not that the  Grand Rapid Film Festival (GRFF) team is trying to pick on your ‘show’, make you feel guilty for enjoying it, or even aims to inspire a change in consumption. It’s just that we can’t help but agree with Postman, entertainment is king.

 If we were only consuming this non-substantive media a few hours a week, the impact on society wouldn’t be alarming. But, according to the New York Times, in 2016, the average amount of time Americans spend consuming media—watching TV, surfing the web, using a phone app, listening to the radio—is up to 10 hours and 39 minutes a day. [6]

 As Postman put it, in America, we are never denied the opportunity to amuse ourselves. Those who run television do everything possible to encourage us to watch continuously. Postman argues that we live in a world where the mass majority will not turn off the television. Because of this, we have no way of protecting ourselves from information disseminated by corporate America.

 As the GRFF team read through Postman’s work, we analyzed our own viewing habits. Whether we’re streaming a television series, film, or news clip at home on our  wall-mounted flatscreen television, on our laptop, or even our smartphone, we had to admit it’s difficult to turn it off and take a break. Even simple tasks, like cooking dinner, seem easier if we’re being entertained while doing it.

 The fact that media consumption is addictive is not a new revelation. The New York Times published an article about it back in 1990. [7] They state that for the most frequent viewers, watching television has many of the marks of a dependency like alcoholism or other addictions. When that article was written, the addicts referred to in the study watched on average 56 to 71 hours of television a week. What seemed excessive in 1990, has now become the norm for an average American. Clearly, we are addicted to media consumption.

When was the last time you witnessed someone get their eyes gouged out in real life?

When was the last time you witnessed someone get their eyes gouged out in real life?

 Furthermore, we are addicted to non-substantive fantasies that transport us to places like Gotham, Braavos from Game of Thrones or Starling City from Arrow.  Places with vampires, dragons, zombies, superheroes, and vikings. They are violent, well beyond reality, with a fight scene and generally death in every episode. So, this is our Brave New World. The sea of irrelevance that Huxley feared would drown out truth is one swimming with vampires, dragons, and zombies. Oh my.


As Oscar Wilde put it in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." [8]


It’s this statement that brings us back to the filmmakers’ responsibility.

As you craft your stories, your fantasy worlds ripe for the consumption of the average media addict, consider the end—the impact if you will—that the myths you are making will have on the viewer and society as a whole. Your art will be imitated.
Is it just another irrelevant, non-substantive contribution to distract the viewer from the truth or the greater work of their lives? Or is it the exception?

Stay tuned.


[1] Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin
[2] Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Brothers, 1932. Print.
[3] Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin Pg. 121
[4] Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin Pg.
[5] Nededog, Jethro. (2017) 20 Most Popular TV Shows of 2017 So Far. Insider. http://www.thisisinsider.com/most-watched-tv-shows-world-parrot-analytics-2017-7
[6] Koblin, John. (2016) How Much Do We Love TV? Let Us Count the Ways. New York Times. 
[7] Goleman, Daniel. (1990) How Viewers Grow Addicted to Television. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/16/science/how-viewers-grow-addicted-to-television.html?pagewanted=all
[8] "The Decay of Lying - The Victorian Web." 21 Apr. 2008, http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/decay.html. Accessed 30 Oct. 2017.