Fresh Coast Film Festival

%E2%80%9CThe+Burger+Bus%E2%80%9D+by+Joe+Reynolds

“The Burger Bus” by Joe Reynolds

Isabelle Tavares

Exploring Midwest Through Film

Stepping out from a crisp, sunny fall Saturday into the atmospherically dark inside of Blackrocks Brewery. It felt abnormal, considering Marquette is allocated few days of sunlight. But what was waiting inside was well worth the sacrifice. 

At eight venues across Marquette, the fourth annual Fresh Coast Film Fest (FCFF) showcased over 120 documentary-style films that narrate the hidden adventures located in the Great Lakes Region. About half of the content is from the area, or directed or produced from someone in the region, FCFF CO-Founder Bugsy Sailor said.

Segmented into blocks—the films focused on water, food, creativity and any type of person that hits the dusty, or groomed, trail. Attendees floated through these blocks over Thursday, Oct. 17 to Sunday, Oct. 20. The opening day, Fresh Coast Free, tends to attract the largest crowd with its free admission and venue. Located at the Marquette Commons, bundles of people wearing puffy coats and warm hats watched the opening films under a darkening sky in the comfort of a large heated tent. A folk band played while people found their seats, and food trucks circled the venue, enticing attendees with locally sourced snacking. 

In a push to show that the Midwest is more than just flyover territory, Sailor encourages people of any ability to get exploring outside. When attendees weren’t watching films, they were experiencing what inspired the films itself: adventure. Eight outdoor tours led by volunteers and NMU students took attendees hiking through Marquette’s wooded paths, paddling in Superior’s cold waters and climbing on outdoor rock. 

Outdoor tours coupled with local storytelling is what drew Chicago resident Hugh Thomas to the FCFF. As a rock climber and skier, the FCFF sounded right up his alley when he heard of it through his mother who planned on attending, Thomas said. 

“The fest feels very homegrown but still professional. I love short films, filmmaking in general, and the filmmaker Q&A’s they do,” Thomas added. 

The “homegrown” feel can be attributed to heavy NMU student involvement that helps keep the FCFF running. With the creation of an internship program, students like Miranda Hartman, recent graduate in media production, can get real-life experience. Hartman’s internship included selecting the films, organizing them into blocks, contacting filmmakers and helping with the showing of the films. Aside from gaining a look into what her career could be like, she spoke on her favorite part of being an intern. 

“Everyone is coming together for one thing, and it’s so cool to see that. [Volunteers] all have full time jobs, but they come together and want to see [the festival] succeed,” Hartman said. 

Sailor said the FCFF wants to build a culture that helps other filmmakers, especially NMU students. The Fresh Coast Film Fest 2019 Scholarship and internship program will help NMU students for years to come, he added. 

Superior-sourced burgers

What’s forest green and produces food? No, not quite the Jolly Green Giant, but Marquette’s only food truck specializing in burgers. After biting into a “really good” burger, recent NMU graduate Joe Reynolds decided he wanted to highlight the food truck for a class project. Thus, Reynolds cooked up “The Burger Bus,” a film showcasing the owners mission of making locally-sourced food in a forest green truck. Reynolds interest in food films started early on, but once the Burger Bus rolled into Marquette, his interest piqued. 

“The Burger Bus itself and the food scene in Marquette is interesting. The bus was brand new and the fact they were sourcing food from local farmers was really cool,” Reynolds said. “As I began to interview [Burger Bus] I saw how passionate they are about local food and I wanted to highlight that.” 

Since the mini-documentary was already created for a class project, Reynolds decided to submit it to the FCFF. The festival is great for the community, as it attracts people to Marquette during the fall season, Reynolds said. Because Marquette has a tightly connected community, Reynolds said he wanted to support a local businesses by making his film. 

“It’s pretty great to see my film in a local film fest, and I just knew I was going to put something in there,” Reynolds said. 

Facing fears on a rock face

Screams cut through the night from the lungs of four climbers huddled together on a 1,000—foot tall ledge in the Grand Teton in Wyoming. They woke up to snow on Aug. 26, 2018, as frosty temperatures persist year-round. Confidence led the four NMU students to pursue summiting the Grand Teton. Ignorant confidence, as filmmaker and senior digital cinema major Ethan Sperber said, led to their teetering near-death experience. 

“After the tetons I asked myself, ‘Why am I pursuing this if it can kill me? Why would I risk my life for something that doesn’t really matter, it’s just a rock,’” Sperber said. 

A desire to answer these questions inspired Sperber’s first film, “The Rock Provides.” Through this process, Sperber discovered that rock climbing scares him, and that’s why he does it. His film stems from this discovery, in that everyone has fears in life that they let affect them. 

“It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I get myself into these situations because it can prepare me with my struggles in everyday, normal life. Life, in general, scares me more than climbing,” Sperber said. 

Documentaries are influential in making people aware. And the right equilibrium of visuals, sound and script can make someone completely flip their mind on something, he added. Documentaries like Blackfish and Valley Uprising moved Sperber to tell his message through film, and the Fresh Coast Film Fest seemed like an opportune time.  

“The Rock Provides” was shown alongside the big productions that Sperber hopes to create one day as a professional adventure filmmaker. He said the positive recognition he received made him feel validated in his pursuits. Even more solidifying was the Fresh Coast Film Fest 2019 Scholarship he was awarded. 

“I’m super honored to get that out of the blue. It made me feel like someone out there. I worked pretty hard for the Fresh Coast beyond my film, and it felt like I was appreciated,” he added. 

But Sperber credits the jagged rock in Marquette in the making of the film, as it’s where he first learned to climb in the outdoors. Although much of the film is set out west, the four friends and NMU students left and returned to Marquette, where it all began. 

Developing a love for climbing

Marquette resident, Matt Miller, scouts, cleans and climbs outdoor rock climbing areas in Marquette—regardless of the season. In an attempt to highlight Miller’s efforts to get others “stoked” about climbing, junior art and design major and filmmaker Elliot Kennedy created “Development.” The film was structured around an interview-documentary style for Kennedy’s digital cinema class project, and the content fit perfectly with the FCFF, Kennedy said. 

Documentary adventure films is the bread and butter of the FCFF, and this is a style that Kennedy is learning and likes, he said. 

“There’s a lot of cool stories in the climbing and surfing community that needs to be told and I want to tell those,” Kennedy added. 

Marquette, exploding with opportunities for adventure activities, seemed like the right fit for Kennedy to find those stories. People come up here for Marquette and what it has to offer, and it’s a town unique to Michigan, Kennedy said. 

“If I were somewhere else I wouldn’t be able to make this film. Marquette has opportunities you need to make it. And Northern encourages you to get outside and is good at letting you learn through your experiences,” Kennedy said. 

As the FCFF looks to NMU students for a talent pool, students look to the FCFF for experience. Thus, Kennedy got by producing the trailer for this year’s fest. 

Through “Development” and producing the trailer, Kennedy hopes to get his name out as an adventure filmmaker, and thinks that the FCFF can open doors to his future.