Thursday, 29 March 2018 15:09

Hometown Hollywood: Grand Rapids Film Festival showcases talent from all over, including right here

Written by  Kara Toay
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Nottingham behind-the-scenes. Nottingham behind-the-scenes. Courtesy of Pruim Digital Media

As filmmakers from all over North America get ready to attend 2018’s Grand Rapids Film Festival, five of them won’t have to travel far.

That’s because S2S Studios, Shane McSauby, Sam Smartt, Perelandra Pictures, and four Calvin College students are among the more than three dozen filmmakers presenting their productions at this year’s festival. Here’s a look at each of their projects.


Grand Rapids-based S2S Studios filmed Refill locally to explore anxiety from an outsider’s perspective. When Nancy realizes she is out of her anxiety medicine and tries to get it refilled, her anxiety takes the form of a human and they spend the day together.

“It’s interesting because it’s two characters, but they’re not real people, so we see the relationship of this woman with her anxiety,” said Producer Alyson Caillaud-Jones.

The company came up with the idea after realizing there aren’t many films about elderly women, but also the crew has all dealt with anxiety or know someone who has.

“We thought it could be interesting to see what that would look like,” said Director Carese Bartlett.

One challenge for the group was the quick turnaround of the production: They filmed in October of last year and only had three months to edit.

“We had a great team that was able to move quickly,” Bartlett said.

Mino Bimaadiziwin

Shane McSauby’s Mino Bimaadiziwin is a love story that explores decolonization.

In the film, a man meets an Anishinaabe woman and she reintroduces him to the indigenous community and its culture.

The film is personal to McSauby, as he grew up disconnected from his Anishinaabe heritage, its traditional culture and teachings. It wasn’t until recently that he met people from the culture and saw the importance of connecting with them and using their language.

“It was a really impactful, life-changing encounter that I had,” he said.

McSauby wrote the first draft of the film as an exploration of the people he met. He wants to use his writing to empower Natives and Anishinaabe people but also allow non-natives to see that world.

“Not only do we deal with identity issues, but just like anybody else, we deal with humor, love and trying to find bravery to talk to somebody we’re interested in,” McSauby said.

A Name That I Admire

With A Name That I Admire, Sam Smartt tells the story of a seventh-generation dairy farmer in Sugar Grove, Va. who’s struggling to figure who to vote for in the general election. The main character of the film is Smartt’s father-in-law.

“It was specifically made to address politics, but there’s more to it than that,” Smartt said.

Smartt said he knew his father was a likeable guy and that the film would come across well. Trying to pack so much in a short time was challenging, as he had to go to Virginia to shoot the film alone. But one of the only criticisms he’s heard from viewers is that they would like to know more about the character.


Kathryn Postema and Jacob de la Rosa from Perelandra Pictures produced Nottingham, a music video about a dystopian society ruled by a man in a suit, where people are used as scapegoats and executed publicly.

Josh White composed the song. The day after the election, de la Rosa texted him about making the music video.

It was a way to express what was bothering him at the time, especially the idea of who controls the world’s wealth and how we perceive that.

“This was the reaction to that, and the way that people who are being taken advantage of are turned against other people who are being taken advantage of, while others are profiting from it,” de la Rosa said.

He’s most proud of the variety of different voices shown in the video.

“We were really fortunate to work with a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life and different parts of the state,” he said.

The Spirit of God is Heavy

Finally, Kendra Larsen and three other students from Calvin College submitted The Spirit of God is Heavy after initially producing it for a capstone project.

The documentary is about a small church in West Michigan that reaches out to a subculture largely forgotten and abandoned by the church.

Larsen said she wanted to highlight a specific community to demonstrate the parallels that exist between the church and music scenes. Making the documentary offered her colleagues a glimpse into the world of making a real film, she added.

“It was definitely cool, and I think all four of us became deeply invested in the project,” Larsen said.


Grand Rapids Film Festival

Fashion & Music
The Waldron
58 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
April 13, 7-10 p.m., $10

Film Screenings
Wealthy Theatre
1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
April 14, 12-11 p.m., $5 per block

Filmmaker Impact Stories
New Holland Brewing’s Knickerbocker
417 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
April 15, 5-8 p.m., $5

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