Inaugural children’s film festival kicks off next week

Festival will feature some big names

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WEST BRANCH — Ogemaw County will be going Hollywood next week, with the first annual West Branch Children’s Film Festival, July 30-Aug. 1.

And the film festival will be brining some big names to the West Branch area.

One of those is child star Trevor Gagnon, best known for his role as Ritchie Campbell on “The New Adventures of the Old Christine. Gagnon will participate in the awards ceremony held Saturday at Ogemaw Heights High School at 7 p.m.

Gagnon has also been cast in other movies and television shows, including “Desperate Housewives,” “Southern Belles,” and a new film called “Shorts.”

Gagnon will also be hosting a workshop on child acting. He has ties to the area, as his grandparents are Gene and Jane Hutchins of West Branch. His mother actually grew up in the West Branch Area.

Los Angeles Director Mark Jean will also be attending the film festival. Jean has won the George Foster Peabody Award, and his works include two independent films; “Early Bird Special,” and “Finn on the Fly.” “Finn on the Fly” will be featured during the film festival, and is one of the many submissions. It will be shown Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., as well as Saturday at 10 a.m., at the West Branch Cinema.

Jean also co-wrote “Beast of Bataan,” which is slated for production next year. He will be directing “The Dragon Hatcher,” later this year. His most recent work was “Come Dance at my Wedding” for Hallmark.

The film festival will feature 14 movies total, including a showing of “Escanaba in Da Moonlight.” Three of those are youth-produced films. The movies will vary in length from under two minutes up to feature length.

“The interest is high,” said Pete Fabbri, one of the event organizers. “The group that’s working on this, the people are hugely interested in being successful.”

Fabbri said the film festival committee recently had several new volunteers come onboard to help with the event.

“We’ve got a lot going on,” Fabbri said.

In addition to the many film showings that will be featured during the festival, Fabbri said there will also be eight different film workshops during the event, to teach people the skills they may need to work in a film production.

One of those workshops will be an open casting call by Kathy Mooney, owner of Pound and Mooney Casting.

“She is the top casting agent in Michigan right now,” Fabbri said. Mooney has been involved in casting several Michigan movies, including the Clint Eastwood film, “Gran Torino.”

After the workshop, which Fabbri said will last about an hour, the West Branch Area Film Association will be collecting the names of area residents to keep in a database, so that if a film comes to town and the production needs actors, that information will be available.

Admission to most of the movie events is $3 per person. Workshops will be $5 per person. There is limited seating at each, and tickets are only available at the door.

On Thursday night, Mark Jean’s film “Homecoming” will be shown in Irons Park at no cost. There will also be classic films shown in downtown West Branch on Friday night for free. The showing of “Escanaba in Da Moonlight” is also free.

Film festival attendees may also purchase a silver pass for $50, which grants them entry to all film showings, the pre-event ceremony, and a program. For $100, attendees may purchase a gold pass, which gives them entry to all film showings, entry to the pre-event ceremony, full use of the VIP lounge, and a program package.

Pre-event ceremony tickets can also be purchased for $15 a person. The ceremony will be held at Forwards Conference Center at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 29. Saturday’s award ceremony will be free to attend.

“There is no shortage of things to do,” Fabbri said. “People may be having a hard time trying to pick events.”

Fabbri said the schedule is intended to be broad and repetitive to allow people to attend just about everything, if they choose to do so.

“They can do that and have it not cost a lot of money,” Fabbri said. “That was our goal from the beginning. We wanted to make this available for everyone in the community.”

Fabbri said the goal was not to make money on the event, only to cover the cost of putting it on.

The festival officially kicks off Thursday, July 30 with the opening night ceremony in Irons Park, which will include music by The Jam Spreaders, and the showing of Mark Jean’s “Homecoming.” That event is free of charge.

A complete schedule can be found at the film festival’s Web site, www.wbcff.com.

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