The crashing, fresh steel-blue water of the vast Lake Superior. The array of orange, brown and yellow hues pigmenting the leaves as they drop from the branches of the tall maple canopies. This is the outdoor playground we call the Upper Peninsula, the spirit of the Great Lakes and the Upper Midwest celebrated through environmental adventure and conservation documentary films at the first ever Fresh Coast Film Festival held Oct. 13-16 right here in Marquette.
The Fest kicked off Thursday offering a free night for the public and began with a food truck rally in the Marquette Commons. Locals and film lovers gathered to enjoy some of the unique and tasty options available from local food trucks Senors, Copper Crust Co., Wild Blue, Rollin Smoke Barbecue, Dia de los Tacos and Superior Mobile Koney.
People ventured around the commons greeting old and new faces and sharing chips, spreading that Marquette camaraderie as they waited in anticipation for the event to officially begin. As 7 p.m. rolled around, attendees trickled in and eventually entirely filled the heated pavilion tent equipped with a projector screen to watch the first films featured in the Fest, “Water,” “Skip Stones for Fudge” and “Great Lakes, Bad Lines.”
Film topics ranged from conservation, outdoor adventure and extreme sports to the Native American history in the region.
Though focusing on the Upper Midwest, the over 20 filmmakers are from areas all around the United States such as the Twin Cities, Detroit, California, Chicago and Marquette, said Director and Co-Founder of the Fresh Coast Film Fest Aaron Peterson.
Film venues varied all around Marquette at Ore Dock Brewery, Blackrocks Brewery, the Kaufmann Auditorium, the Masonic Building, and the Peter White Public Library.
A photographer and filmmaker himself, two of Peterson’s films were shown over the course of the weekend.
“What happens with creative works is, once you do something, others come to it. These things pull energy and we’re already seeing it,” Peterson said.
Those attending have already approached Peterson with ideas for next year, eager to create films they thought there wasn’t a place for until this festival.
Peterson hopes to see the festival grow over the years as it will now become an annual event. While there is one young filmmaker whose work is featured this year, Peterson would like to create a student segment for next year’s event for all the NMU skiers and snow boarders he is sure are filming while out on the slopes and for other outdoor adventurists.
“There’s really unlimited room for growth, so it’s going to be up to us to shape it how we want to shape it,” he said.
All of the films this year are documentary films, which sets the event apart from other film-based festivals. Featuring narrative and fiction films is another opportunity for growth, he said.
“I want to bring together the creative community in the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes to celebrate this region in film and inspire the next generation to use creativity as a conservation tool,” Peterson said.
The focus on outdoor films makes this a niche festival and brings a unique event to Marquette, said Bugsy Sailor, co-founder of Fresh Coast and head of digital efforts and marketing.
“I think Marquette and the Midwest have been known as fly-over territory to get to Colorado and what not, and we don’t care about that,” Sailor said. “There is so much beauty here to offer with access to Lake Superior and premium mountain biking and one of the oldest ice climbing festivals every February, so it’s just a paradise of adventure.”
Peterson, Sailor, and other co-founder Bill Thompson, have run into many challenges and put in a lot of preliminary work to set up this first year, but their main goal is making sure that those who do attend have a good time and want to come back next year.
“I think our dream is to get people to come here from further away, but we want to stimulate the locals too and maybe inspire people to get outside and try a new sport, a new activity, maybe see some of the new areas that they haven’t seen before, but the overall idea is that this isn’t a place that we take for granted,” Sailor said. “We’re special to have what we’re surrounded by, especially during peak fall colors and we want people to make the most of that.”
The festival also held scheduled outdoor events throughout the weekend such as guided kayaking, paddle-boarding, stone skipping clinics, related artists exhibits and Fresh Coast Conversations which let festival goers sit down to talk with filmmakers who were in attendance.
One filmmaker in attendance from Ventura, California was Collin McCarthy. Originally from Grand Rapids, McCarthy’s film “Great Lakes, Bad Lines” focuses on pipeline 5, the 63-year-old Enbridge oil pipeline that stretches from Wisconsin to Canada and runs through Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas and travels through the Straits of Mackinac. McCarthy followed the length of the pipeline to create his film and to spread awareness of what he believes is a growing environmental issue.
“It talks about using adventure and positivity as a capitalist for making change. It’s about protecting the places we like to spend time in, the places we play, the lakes and taking an extra investment in those places because we like to play there and making sure that they are safe in the future,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy finds Fresh Coast to be a special event because it brings together like-minded individuals, creating more resources for change.
“It becomes this really cool creative environment and in this case, it’s about making a change and protecting these places together,” McCarthy said. “I think that’s the coolest part. It’s a snowball effect.”