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East Lansing Film Festival provides cool mix

Assorted batch of flicks hit the big screen | by Shawn Parker

film festival, and in the Lansing area, nobody understands that process better than Susan Woods. Woods, a lifelong film lover and East Lansing resident


for 21 years, is the founder and director of the East Lansing Film Festival (ELFF) which is now in its 14th

year. Originally

from San Francisco, she worked as a coordinator for the San Francisco Film Festival. Upon moving to the Lansing area she quickly identified a niche to be filled. “When I got here I realized there was a deficit of film,

so I decided to start the film festival. I also run a film society where we show films that never get to this area,” said Woods, identifying Werner Herzog’s mesmerizing Cave of Forgotten Dreams as an example of the titles she aims to feature. ELFF is an annual nine-day event held

at Wells Hall on MSU’s campus, as well as Celebration! Cinema in Lansing. The event utilizes as many as 200 local employees and volunteers, and strives to showcase an di- verse mix of over 80 international, regional, even select local films. With an estimated turnout of 4,000

OU GOTTA KICK IT OFF with a killer, then you have to take it up a notch, then you cool it off a notch – there are rules. And while Rob from High Fidelity was re-

ferring to the intricacies of crafting a mix-tape, similar consideration goes into programming a

Festival and Waterfront Film Festival (in Saugatuck) are comparable. Woods has never been more excited than with the

selection of films for this year’s festival, particularly those made in and around the state. The Lake Michigan Film Competition, which is a localized part of ELFF, showcases Michigan films as well as productions from Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois. “This year we have the best lineup we have ever had

for it – it really shows that regional filmmaking has jumped to another level.” Erika Noud, director of the Lake Michigan Film

Competition, said it began strictly in-state. “It started as Michigan’s Own Film, but they weren’t

getting too many submissions so it expanded to include Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.” In an interesting twist, as the competi-


FESTIVAL November 9-17 @ Wells Hall – MSU @ Celebration! Cinema – Lansing

For the complete schedule, ticket prices, and other information Visit: or call: 517- 993-5444.

movie lovers from within the state and be- yond, attendees will be treated to a bounty of cinematic gold, from Academy Award winners to short films created here in Lansing. Whether it is to support local film making or see an

imported foreign feature, Woods wants, above all, for would- be attendees to understand what a unique experience the film festival is. “It’s a very festive setting and an opportunity to see

films you wouldn’t see anywhere else,” Woods explained. “You get to meet some of the directors and share in the joy of making the film. It is an experience you never get just going to the multiplex. “You feel like you’re with friends when you’re at a film

festival,” she added. “And once you experience it [the film festival], you never stop coming.” Compared to other Michigan film festivals, Woods said

ELFF has one of the more well-rounded slates of features, encompassing a wider mix of independent, regional and international cinema than many other fests. Of the other Michigan festivals, she said only the Traverse City Film

tion was opened to more states, the number of Michigan submissions began to grow at an ever increasing rate. “Over the past two years the number of

films from Michigan has doubled,” Noud said. “70 percent of the films showing at the Lake Michigan Film Competition [this year] were made in Michigan.” To explain this influx of quality

Michigan-made films, Woods cites the state tax incentives offered to filmmakers. “The tax incentives created a stronger,

more creative atmosphere in this area,” Woods enthusiastically said. “Never have

we had this caliber of films, and we’ve been doing this for 14 years. There are very talented people here making films.” The outpouring of quality local films was so great that

a separate local film makers’ showcase was created just to highlight 13 movies made in the Greater Lansing area that weren’t selected for the Lake Michigan Film Competition, including films made by MSU students and faculty. One constant struggle for Woods is maintaining an

audience of MSU students, which has been decreasing over the years. To remedy this, Woods has been programming more

films with student appeal, including Deadheads, a film made in Michigan, directed by Michiganians, that Woods calls “a zombie film with a lot of heart.” “It used to be 50 percent of my audience was students,”

she said. “And it dwindled down to almost 25 percent now. I’m trying hard to bring them back.” n







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