Just a little update for family and friends out there.
Big news lately is I recently moved from Corktown to Downtown, to a quiet, tucked-away district I call the backlot, because its often used in film shoots as a substitute for New York City or Paris. Honestly it’s like experiencing a whole new city. Don’t get me wrong here, I’ve spent a lot of time in the core, but living here, learning its rhythms of activity and silence, using its amenities and eateries, navigating its grand radiating grid on foot or bike… its totally reigniting my excitement with Detroit’s vibrancy, variety, and character.
I moved in on the first of this month, and right away I began work as a local advisor& 1st AC on a film called This Is A Test. The film was an Irish production, directed by Oscar-nominated Ruairi Robinson and produced by Nick Ryan’s Dublin-based production company Image Now Films. These guys were great, they were funny, warm, gracious, talented, fun. They really loved shooting in downtown Detroit, and all of the exteriors were shot along towering Griswold Street in the central business district. This was great for me, because it pretty much meant that I just rolled my AC cart & equipment right out of my building, two blocks to set, and right into basecamp without ever loading or unloading a car. Amazing. There were also some awesome folks on the crew from Toronto & Australia, very warm, devoted, talented people all around. It also resulted in a lot of different accents being thrown around. I was fascinated by the varying pronunciations of the word “garage”. Detroiters say “graje” in one syllable. Irish say “gair-idge”. Australians say “gair-ahjz”. And the Canadians say “guh-rahhdge”. Anyway throw a room full of these people together and you have some pretty hilarious banter going on.
In the near future, I am lined up to DP a short film by Jasmine Rivera, a Columbia University film school thesis student. I’ve worked with Jasmine before and I am really excited to begin working with her again! The film is called Nain Rouge and it will definitely be one to keep an eye out for this winter.
I also want to take a minute to talk about a new documentary about Detroit by French filmmaker Florent Tillon called Detroit, Wild City. Florent, his girlfriend and sound artist Hélène Magne, and Assistant Director François Jacob shot the film in parts during the summers of 2008 and 2009, and during that time we all became really good friends. I visited him in France last year, and we had a great time exploring Terres Rouges, an abandoned industrial complex on the Luxembourg-France border.
Florent is fascinated by Detroit’s stunning landscape, people, and characteristics. His film is a meditation on the city’s polarities and ironies. Urban wilderness, impromptu blues concerts, bucolic farms, and exotic wildlife are all framed by the city’s large-scale abandonment, stunning architecture, and vibrant Summer days.
They were recently back in Detroit and we screened his film at the Burton Theatre on October 7-13. I was initially wondering how Florent’s film would be received in Detroit. Being geared for an international audience, the film lingers on the blight more than the locals here are totally comfortable with. But despite that, the film had a really positive response. I was really happy for Florent & his team. Florent said he was happy to give back to the city that helped him film here, and to show that he graciously donated the profits from the screenings to Peacemaker Farm, a grassroots urban farm that is featured in the film.
The trailer can be viewed here:
A special Burton Theatre trailer:
And here is a short film called “The Sanctuary” that was shot concurrently with Detroit, Wild City. Follow myself and local journalist Joel Thurtell on a journey up the Rouge River, where we learn about pollution, Henry Ford, and Detroit’s incredible industrial history.