On Saturday mornings, I take a class at the Detroit Film Center. Like most things in life, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Let’s take a quick tour.
The center recently relocated from the Wayne State area to the Eastern Market, where lots of artists are setting up in the ancient-but-cheap warehouse/loft space. The address is on the Chrysler Freeway service drive, which is confusing to some people. Fortunately, there’s a helpful sandwich board and, this being Detroit, a smear of graffiti (I think it says, “butout”):
But the Hollywood glamour really starts when you step into, um, the…I guess you’d call it the foyer:
It’s a lot murkier than the picture suggests. I think it would be an excellent set for a serial killer’s lair. There’s another sandwich board at the end of this passage, which directs you to take a left turn, and please close the door behind you to save heat. Then you enter the glamorous anteroom:
The incredibly steep staircase is the next leg of your journey. Last week I got there early and took a closer look at that pile of moldering banker’s boxes:
The one on top was labeled “closed appeals.” (Apparently there’s a lawyer’s office elsewhere in the building.) A shameless snoop, I plucked one out at random and started reading a very sad story about a man who loved marijuana more than paying child support. Drama is all around us; all we have to do is look.
But at some point you have to ascend two floors at a sharp angle. I always take note of the chandelier:
Every time I see it I reflect that if it were featured in the New York Times Thursday Styles section, it would sell for $3,000. But keep climbing. Now you’re halfway there:
You’ll notice it starts to look significantly less grimy at this point. By the time you get to the top, it’s actually pretty nice, in a shoestring-budget, kindness-of-strangers, scrabblin’-for-grants kind of way. And the view is great.
I’ll always remember this place as the first time I ever heard actors read lines I’d written. We had auditions for our group project this week, although “group project” probably makes a three-minute narrative film sound a little grand. Not film, video. But it has a story, and two actors, and two locations, and a script. Seven people answered our Craigslist ad, which promised only lunch in return for a day’s work. But this was the strange part — one couple presented themselves as a package deal, so we had them read together. They put a lot of energy into the lines, and it worked very well. Then the next guy came in, and played it just the opposite — very dry, very low-key, and it worked equally well.
We cast the first couple, but told the other guy we wanted to keep him close, because the teacher wants the next class to write something specifically for him. (Just like in Hollywood, only with no money or recognition whatsoever.) On just these Saturdays, I’m getting a little of the newsroom back — that sense of collaboration and teamwork.
Of course, production isn’t until this weekend. I may feel very differently after that.
So, another busy morning on not enough sleep. (Thank you, God, for coffee.) So short bloggage today, but some:
Flash fun to be found here. Load and wait two seconds for the fun to start. If anyone reads Dutch, let me know what it says.
If you’re in a Super Tuesday state, tell us a little about E-Day where you are. An experience in collaborative citizen journalism, eh?
Off to run six errands and make eight phone calls. Back eventually.