For a group of 22 students from the University of Michigan, Wayne State and Michigan State University, Wednesday night might as well have been the Oscars for all the excitement present at the celebration of the premiere of their film “Appleville.”
These students spent the past summer working, creating, directing, producing and editing as part of the Michigan Creative Film Alliance, a program created by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm to keep, attract and foster creative talent in the state of Michigan.
“The project was a cooperative thing among universities in Michigan to sort of reflect the influx of films and get students ready to work … not just help, but to do their own stuff,” said LSA senior and “Appleville” director Bhanu Chundu in an interview.
“Appleville,” a dark comedy about a robbery on a bus full of senior citizens, premiered Wednesday evening at the Detroit Film Theater. Dressed to impress, the student filmmakers stopped to pose for pictures along the red carpet — this was their night.
But it hasn’t always been so easy. In his opening speech, University faculty member and Vice Chairman of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council Jim Burnstein said members of the Creative Film Alliance had spent half an hour just deciding where to put the red carpet — one can only imagine the more pressing pitfalls along the path to the student film premiere.
Of course, the past few months have not just been trivial debates, especially for the students themselves. They overcame old school rivalries and battled the elements in order to show the state of Michigan exactly what students are capable of doing.
“Chaos,” said Coordinating Producer Alison McKenna, a University alum, “A lot of the time it was chaos. Every single day was a rush, but in a good way … We got exposure to what it was like to actually work in the industry. Usually you’d start at the bottom and just have to bring papers to people and get coffee, but we got the opportunity to take on big roles, things that normally you’d have to have been in the industry for 10 years to do.”
All of the students working on film were aware of how unique their experience was and put aside discussions of who has the better football team in order to showcase the talent that lies within each of the three universities.
“I knew we’d all get along really well because we all love movies, but I was really surprised at how seamless the workflow was. Even on a technical level, each school has their own workflow — like at Michigan we learn on film instead of digital. But we all learned from each other,” Chundu said. “We just wanted to go out and have a good time and represent our communities and schools in the best light possible.”
And that’s what the premiere on Wednesday was all about — making a statement about the incredible wealth of talent in the film industry in Michigan.
“(‘Appleville’) really represented Michigan pride, you know, being proud of being from this state and working with people who were so talented and from the same area,” McKenna said. People throw around ‘brain drain’ as kind of a buzz word of what’s happening here, when students leave the state, but this just shows that you don’t need to go to L.A. and that Michigan is turning out those kinds of creative people too.”
During the question-and-answer session following the showing of the film, almost all of the cast stood together and said that they would want to stay in Michigan and continue to work in the industry. The makers of “Appleville” hope the work will show in some film festivals across the country to demonstrate Michigan’s talent and promise. Before moving on, however, the students are content to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“I think (this night) is the most incredible end we all could’ve imagined,” Chundu said at the premiere.