MPA on the Move

Crescendo issue: November 2013

The Future of Cinema Film Festival has closed out another triumphant year here at Interlochen Arts Academy. The guests, artists and art were, as always, outstanding.

"By far the highlights of the fest were the presentations and masterclasses offered by our guests," says Motion Picture Arts director Michael Mittelstaedt. "Wayne White and his wife Mimi Pond did individual sessions with Motion Picture Arts and Visual Arts. White is a production designer and visual artist, most widely known in the past for his production design on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. He entertained us with his 'Talk, as he calls it, a one man show retrospective on his life story and the ways that he keeps vital in his creative work with the diversity of media, economizing his resources using found items and scraps to create sculptures and puppets. On Saturday, he led about 25 students and faculty in a puppet making workshop. These events all centered around the screening of 'Beauty is Embarrassing,' the feature documentary about White, and a comprehensive gallery showing in Dow Visual Arts on Interlochen's campus."

"Mimi Pond is a cartoonist with a strong cult following," continued Mittelstaedt. "She is a member of the creative family of the New York scene from the 80s with people like Matt Groening of the Simpsons. Her writing credits include National Lampoon's Magazine, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. She met with visual arts majors to share her work in visual storytelling, and is currently working on an illustrated novel and preparing to tour in the spring of 2014."

"Dan and Stacy Chariton, husband and wife feature screenwriters of films such as 'The English Teacher,' starring Julianne Moore and Nathan Lane, hosted master classes with motion picture arts and creative writing students," explained Mittelstaedt. "They shared their formula for longstanding collaboration and working as screenwriters in Los Angeles, with a diverse background in cinematic writing. With the MPA majors, they performed an exercise where students received a short section of a script that they wrote that students were challenged to rework and pitch as if the Chariton's were studio executives. The result was as varied as a 'Transformers' reboot to a romantic comedy / sci-fi take on Comicon where the conference-goers became the heroes of the costumes they wore."

"In the midst of it all we took time to play with a demonstration of aerial camera drones on the Opera Field presented by Aaron Cook of Northwestern Michigan College's pilot program," concluded Mittelstaedt.

This sixth annual festival is an enjoyable affair wherein the contestants, guests, faculty and students come together to create an amazing bit of cinematic magic, all in support of the Academy's MPA program.

"The thrust of the festival is to establish Interlochen's motion picture arts division and the Future of Cinema Festival as a summit of student filmmaking," says Mittelstaedt. "I invite guests who share generous amounts of personal time with students in masterclasses and workshops. This distinguishes Future of Cinema from other festivals where guests are only voices from a lectern with promises of short meet and greets. FOCFF's intention is that student's work is influenced and improved by the interaction with both special guests and other students. Bringing guests of many different backgrounds to help spur the conversation of what's next in visual storytelling, the event attracts the attention from students of all art forms. This season, MPA, visual arts, comparative arts, creative writing, and math/science classes all participated in the conversations and demonstrations with Wayne White, Mimi Pond, Dan and Stacy Chariton, and Aaron Cook."

While this Festival's competition is not open to Academy students, it is, none-the-less, an incredibly valuable experience for the students and opens the door to other students who may end up attending Camp or Academy as a result of the Festival, whether that result is because of an phenomenal experience within the Festival or because of the scholarships that are offer to the winners.

"The fest benefits both current students of MPA and finalists from off campus because of they are working together during the masterclasses, getting to know one another's work, building new skills and finding a whole new group of potential collaborators," explains Mittelstaedt. "The access to our guests is a boon for their first steps in networking, keeping in contact for questions they have in the future and using that initial contact to later reintroduce themselves when they begin to search for internships and jobs during and after college."

As mentioned, the success that the MPA program is seeing is not only limited to the FOCFF.

"Over the course of the last few years our Motion Picture Summer Camp program has been expanding to meet the desires of students to learn more about the various disciplines in visual storytelling," says Mittelstaedt. "In addition to our offerings in digital filmmaking and screenwriting, we added animation and documentary programs which allowed electives for intermediate campers. These electives were added with the intention of developing an intermediate filmmakers program where 6th - 9th grade students could begin their hands-on visual exploration in cinema. With great potential, students can learn cinematic storytelling earlier. It's as simple as that. Think of the filmmakers they might be with several years of instruction in story and production skills. There will be two three-week sessions offered this summer and both are poised to fill up fast with the response from students."

If you are a student interested in these new MPA offerings (or you know of one who may be), visit here for more info.

For more information on the Future of Cinema Film Festival, including the winners and prizes awarded, visit here.