Thursday, 20 December 2012 14:21

Post-Apocalyptic Pastimes

Written by  Anya Zentmeyer
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Congratulations! You have not only survived the apocalypse and outwitted the Mayans, but you've also stumbled upon a treasure trove of films with culture, fresh starts and yes, even puppies. Allow me to explain, West Michigan.


The legendary Metropolitan Opera House comes alive with Celebration! Cinema's MET Opera: Live in HD. As an entity, this Emmy Award-winning series features 12 performances and screens at select Celebration! Cinema locations.

On Jan. 5, check out Hector Berlioz's five-act French Opera Les Troyens (The Trojans) in the Met's 2003 performance, conducted by Fabio Luisi and starring Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Marcello Giordani and Dwayne Croft. For a real tearjerker, MET Opera: Live in HD brings the tragic second installation of Gaetano Donizetti's Tudor trilogy, Maria Stuarda to audiences on Jan. 19.

Jeremy Kress, director of marketing and promotions at Celebration! Cinema, said The Met: Live in HD was developed as a way to reach not only existing audiences, but also introduce new audiences to the often inaccessible-feeling world of Opera through new technology.

"We have found that non-Opera fans have also really enjoyed this experience," Kress said. "The productions are chosen by The Met to represent a variety of styles and the full range of the Met repertoire and artists. They all feature great storytelling, great singing and extraordinary production values."

Kress said the theater sold around 3,500 tickets for the 2011-2012 series season, and expects to sell close to 4,000 this time around.

"Many people tell us that it is a perfect, low-risk way to introduce a reluctant Opera-goer to the art form," he said.

For more information, tickets and show times, visit

West Michigan native Ken Johnson is not new to the Grand Rapids film scene, but is gaining momentum with his production company, Deadmen Ink.

Johnson attended Compass College of Cinematic Arts, and said he has had aspirations of leading a film company for a while now.

"Once I was finished with Compass, it just seemed natural to get working on it," he said. "Now that I'm thrown into the real world, I'm doing everything I can do to not only survive, but bring other survivors to my side."

Though Deadmen Ink is not currently financially self-sufficient, it's on its way, and recently wrapped up a short film called The Twilite Zone, a self-described "maiden voyage" for the company that is being entered into film festivals around the country.

The Deadmen team is still in the process of recruiting new members. Right now, local filmmaker Liz Merriman is working as the company's unit production manager and Johnson is in talks about collaboration with Rotomation Pictures' Daniel Falicki on an upcoming series.

"We just want to compose our group full of people who will bleed for their art," he said. "In a world like this, sometimes when it comes to keeping the creative side alive, it comes down to an aspect of survival. So in a way, we relate our company to the fact that we are building a survival team for the cinematic apocalypse."

Though membership may be few, Deadmen Ink is certainly rooted in strength, borrowing its mission statement from the show "Deadmen Wonderland" – both the logic behind the company's name and, Johnson said, a large influence on some of his work.

"It stands for how in an industry that is as cutthroat and archaic as it is, we are a group that wants to unite our talents to survive," he said.

Johnson said that ultimately, his dream is for Deadmen Ink to be for West Michigan what Roger Corman was for Los Angeles.

"Whether or not you find his films to be good, Corman gave filmmakers [jobs] who normally wouldn't get opportunities in film, but still had the skills to be on projects that challenged their abilities and allowed them to meet others and share from their talents," he said.

Drop your kids off at the Humane Society of West Michigan's Furry Friday Films for a critter-themed flick, popcorn and real-life adorable little animals.

The event is for kids, grades K-5, so don't get too excited when I quote HSWM's Humane Education Coordinator Jennifer Self-Aulgur on this one.

"We spend time with shelter animals like bunnies, guinea pigs, cats and dogs," Self-Aulgur said. "We spend about 45 minutes with the animals. Sometimes the animals join us for part of the movie and snuggle with the kids."

That is what I'm talking about, West Michigan.

Parents who want to live vicariously through their kids can do so by sending an RSVP to Self-Aulgur until up to 4 p.m. on event day. It's $25 for the first child and $15 for every additional one.

To sign your little critter up, call (616) 791-8066 or e-mail

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