I grew up about an hour-and-a-half from here (you can tell I’m an Angeleno now because I measure distances by how long it takes to get there).
Michigan. Where stepping outside in the Summer is like walking into a sauna. Where the mullet is still the height of men’s tonsorial fashion. Where every radio station is classic rock. When I turned 18 I couldn’t get out of here fast enough.
If there had been a Waterfront Film Festival back then I might have stayed.
Now in its 7th year, the Waterfront Festival is one of the most unique and fun events I’ve ever attended.
Saugatuck, MI is an artist community on the shore of Lake Michigan. It reminds me a lot of Ojai (which probably means nothing to you if you don’t live in California or weren’t a fan of The Bionic Woman). Lots of galleries, antiques, ice cream and fudge shops, and the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Oh… and did I mention the booze?
This is the bar in the Festival hospitality lounge. Not only is it open twenty-four hours a day but it’s also self-serve. Every night there is an after-party that goes until four or five in the morning. It’s impossible to sleep and I suspect that most of the staff survive the Festival by staying drunk for the entire four days. Regular readers know that I consider this a compliment.
Because Waterfront takes place in this tiny family-friendly community the film programming is unlike any other festival. There are very few “festival films.” You know, dark, edgy stories about heroin-addicted, cross-dressing, bible-quoting assassins. But if you think this is festival of Disney and "faith-based" films you’d be wrong. Although there are plenty of “safe” films here, the programmers have also scheduled a lot of smart, experimental films. One of my favorites is The Traveler. Swedish filmmaker William Olsson took an actor to a Berlin hostel and told the real people they met they were making a documentary, while actually weaving a them into a narrative story about the restlessness and the dreams of youth.
I participated in a panel on indie filmmaking with several of the directors and SAGIndie also hosted the Waterfront Lodge where most of the festival receptions took place.
I’ve got one more day of heavy drinking and then I’m back in Los Angeles long enough to do my laundry then I’m off to Hawaii for the Maui Film Festival.
I know. You feel my pain.