#OTGYpsi: iFFY Film Festival in Ypsilanti begins its 4th season
Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: Ypsi film festival returns with horror and international programs, filmmaking workshops, and more
Cathy Shafran: You're listening to 89.1 WEMU. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is On The Ground Ypsi. It's a program intended to bring you the stories of the Ypsilanti community. And we bring you On The Ground Ypsi in partnership with the reporting team at Concentrate Media. Today, our focus is on the exciting and very local film festival starting this week, starting tonight actually, in Ypsilanti. Today, I'm joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale, who's been reporting on this week's iFFY Festival. That's the Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti. It's kicking off its fourth year with plenty of affordable films and interactive workshops and engaging activities for the whole community. Rylee, thanks so much for joining us.
Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks for having me, Cathy.
Cathy Shafran: I know that you've reported extensively on this. Can you tell me what's going on?
Rylee Barnsdale: That's right. So, this is iFFY's fourth year, and it's actually their second year hosting the festival in person. So, the festival kicked off kind of in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they hosted the festival drive-in film style. So now, we're going to be sitting in a theater at the Riverside Arts Center to see all of these wonderful films from....we've got directors and filmmakers from Michigan, and we have directors and filmmakers outside of Michigan, all across the United States, even outside of the United States. It's a jam-packed festival with a whole lot of programming that will really appeal to just about anyone who wants to catch a movie on a fun weekend night with their friends.
Cathy Shafran: Since you've been reporting on it, I can tell you're very engaged in the whole activity. What is it that it's drawn you in personally to this activity?
Rylee Barnsdale: I am a huge movie buff. My fiancee and I love watching movies. We go to the movie theater pretty frequently, watch movies, like, just in our free time, and I am so excited to experience this sort of film and movie experience that's right in our backyard and is also super-affordable. We've got tickets ranging from $6 to $12, as well as events, like workshops that are free to the public as well. So, a little bit of something for everyone to come: families, individuals, you could go on a date night, catch a movie, you know, things like that. There's all sorts of fun things going on.
Cathy Shafran: Most people in Washtenaw County are familiar with the Ann Arbor Film Festival. This is really different.
Rylee Barnsdale: Yeah, it's a little bit smaller. And also, it, depending on what you're looking for, can be a little bit more affordable. It's housed right in the Riverside Arts Center, so it's right in the middle of that downtown area, super-accessible to Ypsi residents, as well as folks from outside of Ypsi. Of course, you know, we're going to likely see folks coming in from Ann Arbor, now that the Ann Arbor Film Festival just happened. If someone is coming from the Ann Arbor Film Festival and is still wanting to get that independent film vibe and continue that, keep that rolling, then we have iFFY right there to attend as well.
Cathy Shafran: And just a couple of practical matters: the dates, the times, and what all is contained in those dates.
Rylee Barnsdale: So, the festival is running from April 19th,today, to April 22nd. The entire film schedule is on iFFY's website, which is IFFYpsi, Y-P-SI, dot com, and you can see all of the programs, as well as workshops and things that are happening. For example, there is a workshop designed to introduce people to making films and doing cinematography on a budget, which I'm personally very interested in, and many of the films are taking place in the evenings or around the 7:00, 6:00, 7:00 timeframe. There is some stuff going on in the afternoons as well. So, if you're going with your family, if you have kids, and you want to check out maybe the animation, one of the animation blocks, there is one of those in the afternoon as well.
Cathy Shafran: And the cost?
Rylee Barnsdale: So, ticket prices are ranging from $6 to $12. You also have the opportunity to buy a festival pass if you can't decide what you want to see or you want to see everything. And you can purchase those on their website as well for around $60, I believe there's also an option to purchase a pass for three different programs. That is about $30, and you can choose which programs you'd like to go to.
Cathy Shafran: And you can all find all those details on the website.
Rylee Barnsdale: That's right.
Cathy Shafran: So now, I know that in your article in Concentrate Media, you talked extensively with independent filmmaker Micah Vanderhoof, and we learn in your article a little bit about Micah's life journey that brought her to be a part of the iFFY group. And Micah, actually, is joining us now to carry on that discussion. Thanks for being here, Micah.
Micah Vanderhoof: Thank you.
Cathy Shafran: The portion of the article that I've been able to read talks about you actually started out as a filmmaker in the West Coast. Is that correct?
Micah Vanderhoof: I actually am from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti originally, and I majored in film at the U of M, and then I worked at the U of M for a few years out of school, then moved out to Portland, Oregon, after that.
Cathy Shafran: So, what brings you to Ypsi?
Micah Vanderhoof: So, I came back after the pandemic. Everything just kind of changed, and I came back to literally take the same job I had at the U of M when I left.
Cathy Shafran: And why Ypsilanti in terms of a film festival? Is it something that...there was a void?
Micah Vanderhoof: Yes. Yeah. There's not actually a film theater in Ypsilanti at all. The closest we have is the Cinemark over in Pittsfield Township. So, there's nothing, like, actually existing currently, especially in downtown. And everyone still loves to go see movies, even if you don't have a theater. So, like, there really needs to be a space that's created. And since we don't have a theater, like, it has to be very intentional to generate space for the community to come together, like filmmakers and local artists and everyone to sort of join together to see films and enjoy films. So, I was very excited to be a part of creating that little community and supporting the arts community in town.
Cathy Shafran: So, iFFY helps fill the void.
Micah Vanderhoof: Yeah.
Cathy Shafran: If not for a week, a year, it at least brings back that film offerings to the community.
Micah Vanderhoof: Exactly. Yeah.
Cathy Shafran: So, now you are the operations and program manager for iFFY, and so you are intrinsically involved in all the activities that are going on. If you could tell me about just some of the more exciting things that are planned for this week.
Micah Vanderhoof: Sure. So, we've got on Saturday and Sunday, actually, we have a workshop with Gary Schwartz, who is a local animator. He's doing this really interesting shadow puppetry with overhead projectors, stop motion animation workshop. So, anyone who's interested in learning how to do animation or that kind of thing, that's like the perfect intro. He's going to have a ton of really great insights for folks who are interested into that sort of thing. And we've also got two free workshops that really mentioned that are AI-powered production, which is kind of like utilizing all these like free open ChatGPT and other kind of tools--
Cathy Shafran: To create what?
Micah Vanderhoof: To, like, help with your production process. So, you can write a script with ChatGPT. You can do everything from that to, like, creating your schedule and your other ancillary tools that you need to put into create an actual film with A.I. tools. And so, Garrett Sammons, who's a local filmmaker and teacher at WCC, is going to be doing that workshop, as well as another one on how to do basic cinematography on a budget. And that's going to be on Saturday from 1 to 2 and 2:30 to 3:30.
Cathy Shafran: And what about films? What should we be excited to be seeing at this film festival?
Micah Vanderhoof: I am always trying to recommend opening night. Our Michigan-ish program is going to be filled with regional and local filmmakers. They submitted their film to the film festival, so they're in competition. And so, I definitely encourage folks to come out of that. That's probably going to sell out. So, I think get your tickets if you haven't gotten them already.
Cathy Shafran: How many will there be?
Micah Vanderhoof: That has got 12 films in it. So, they vary in length from about a little over a minute to...I think the longest is about 15 minutes in length. So, there are a wide variety of different kinds of film, as well from, like, more experimental kinds of film. We have a kind of science fiction, single-take film in there, which is also very interesting and a little scary.
Cathy Shafran: Is this a juried-based movie film festival?
Micah Vanderhoof: Yeah, it's juried by the programing team. And also, it's up for the audience award. So, folks will have the chance to vote on the films afterwards and contribute to them with the filmmakers getting a cash award afterwards.
Cathy Shafran: I'm assuming this will go well this week. And if it does, what do you look for in future years at iFFY?
Micah Vanderhoof: I am really excited about the the way that we're expanding the programming. So, we've also got stuff on Saturday, like the Movies for Your Ears, which is a radio campfire, which is a little group of storytellers who are sort of bringing this really unique storytelling experience that's like in-person storytelling. And also, there's an audio environment creating component to it as well, that kind of more, more innovative ways to do storytelling. I'm really excited. I'm also excited about the genre directions that we're expanding into as well. I'm the programmer for the Hauntologies block, which is going to be on Friday at nine. And it's our sort of horror and suspense and all sorts of alternative horror films--short films. And so, yeah, I feel like we're appealing both to folks who are going to be on the cutting edge of expanding what it means to be a, you know, a film or tell a story and also, you know, helping to appeal to folks who just wanna come see a scary movie or who want to have a fun night out and enjoy the movies.
Cathy Shafran: I anticipate that you hope that this will spur an interest in film in Ypsilanti for years to come.
Micah Vanderhoof: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. [00:10:44][1.1]
Cathy Shafran: This is the beginning?
Micah Vanderhoof: Yeah. Yeah.
Cathy Shafran: And you will be here for year five as well?
Micah Vanderhoof: Yeah, I'm hoping to. Yeah, definitely. I'm planning on being here. So, yeah.
Cathy Shafran: Well, I do want to thank you, independent filmmaker Micah Vanderhoof and Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale, talking about the iFFY Film Festival starting in Ypsilanti tonight. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks, Cathy.
Micah Vanderhoof: Thank you.
Cathy Shafran: This is On The Ground Ypsi. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is 89.1 WEMU FM,Ypsilanti. Public Radio from Eastern Michigan University and online at WEMU.org
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.