2007-10-06 / Top News

Movie Filmed on Island in September

By Karen Gould

Interested Island visitors joined the crew of "Mr. Art Critic" to watch filming Friday, September 21, along Main Street. The movie is being filmed on the Island by Brauer Productions, Inc. of Traverse City. Rich Brauer, owner of the company and director of photography, operates the camera. Interested Island visitors joined the crew of "Mr. Art Critic" to watch filming Friday, September 21, along Main Street. The movie is being filmed on the Island by Brauer Productions, Inc. of Traverse City. Rich Brauer, owner of the company and director of photography, operates the camera. The cast and crew of "Mr. Art Critic" have become comfortable filming on Mackinac Island. They say it feels like home, and they want to come back and shoot another movie in the future.

Since arriving September 17 to make the feature-length independent film that stars Emmynominated Bronson Pinchot, the film crew has smoothly moved from one Island location to another.

"I'm not as pretty as Jane Seymour, but I bet I'm just as smitten with Mackinac Island," said Mr. Pinchot, who often takes on comedic roles, and now claims his character in the film, M.J. Clayton, will be the Island's new contender for a fan following.

"In any case, it's time the Island had a new movie to add to its roster," he said.

Ms. Seymour, who portrayed 19th turn-of-the-century actress Elise McKenna in the drama "Somewhere In Time," filmed on the Island in 1979, is scheduled to return to Grand Hotel just three weeks after shooting wraps up on this movie. Like "Somewhere in Time," "Mr. Art Critic" also will be filmed, in part, at the hotel.

During the filming of "Mr. Art Critic," photographer John Russell (left) snaps a photograph of those working on the set at Johnson Hall at Mission Point Resort Monday, September 24. Cast and crew members include (front row, from left) Toni Trucks, Chris Koury, Jennifer Weil, Susan Fay, and Brian Dungjen; (second row) Rich Brauer, Jed Jawroski, Kim Eckstein, John Lepard, and Bronson Pinchot; (third row) Darren Guiffre, Victoria Kirchner, Jeff Morgan, Rachel Dik, and Laura Anderson; (back) Brent Barker, Kelly Manion, Marta Olson, Kelly Hoyt, Pam Finkel, Brian Mc- Kelvey, Maeve Croghan, Jordan Anderson, Jim Wrocklage, Jax Baker, Kathy Verstraete, Andrea Roloff, Clement Morais, Lauchlon MacGregor, Chelsey Haske, Peter Ferguson, and Andrea Rizzo. During the filming of "Mr. Art Critic," photographer John Russell (left) snaps a photograph of those working on the set at Johnson Hall at Mission Point Resort Monday, September 24. Cast and crew members include (front row, from left) Toni Trucks, Chris Koury, Jennifer Weil, Susan Fay, and Brian Dungjen; (second row) Rich Brauer, Jed Jawroski, Kim Eckstein, John Lepard, and Bronson Pinchot; (third row) Darren Guiffre, Victoria Kirchner, Jeff Morgan, Rachel Dik, and Laura Anderson; (back) Brent Barker, Kelly Manion, Marta Olson, Kelly Hoyt, Pam Finkel, Brian Mc- Kelvey, Maeve Croghan, Jordan Anderson, Jim Wrocklage, Jax Baker, Kathy Verstraete, Andrea Roloff, Clement Morais, Lauchlon MacGregor, Chelsey Haske, Peter Ferguson, and Andrea Rizzo. Although only on Mackinac Island for a short time, Mr. Pinchot jokingly said now he represents the Island in the 21st century, and he already has grown to love it here. As he was returning to the Island after filming a scene on the Star Line Ferry dock in St. Ignace Friday, September 28, his affection was evident.

Taking a break during filming the independent movie, "Mr. Art Critic," are Island artists (from left) Maeve Croghan, Brian McKelvey, Pam Finkel, Marta Olson, and John Slevin. The local painters participated in scenes filmed in Johnson Hall at Mission Point Resort and contributed artwork used in the movie Monday, September 24. Other Island artists whose work was used in the film were Richard Wolfgang, Karl Wolfgang, Pat Pulte, and Jennie Ferwerda. Taking a break during filming the independent movie, "Mr. Art Critic," are Island artists (from left) Maeve Croghan, Brian McKelvey, Pam Finkel, Marta Olson, and John Slevin. The local painters participated in scenes filmed in Johnson Hall at Mission Point Resort and contributed artwork used in the movie Monday, September 24. Other Island artists whose work was used in the film were Richard Wolfgang, Karl Wolfgang, Pat Pulte, and Jennie Ferwerda. "Mackinac Island looked so sweet," he said as the ferry approached the Island, "even though I've only been here 10 days, I was downright homesick to see it." "In the last seven years, have completely restored five 19th century buildings on the Main Street of a tiny, early 19th century town in Pennsylvania," Mr. Pinchot said. "I have always said my absolute cutoff point for caring about any building was 1840, but Mackinac Island instantly sweeps that kind of snobbishness away. I want to magically shrink the whole island, put it under my Christmas tree, and gaze at it in a trance."

Mr. Pinchot, best known for his Emmy-nominated character performance as cousin Balki Bartokomous in the television sitcom "Perfect Strangers," has also appeared in movies including "Beverly Hills Cop," "Courage Under Fire," and "First Wives Club." He collects classical Greek art.

"Just one question," he asks of Island residents, "though, everybody here has such a nice, warm smile, but I can't help wondering, with all these fudge shops, how do you possibly keep your teeth 'til adulthood?"

"Mr. Art Critic" is about a high-profile Chicago art critic who is renowned for heartless reviews and is at odds with his publisher. He retreats to his Mackinac Island cottage. While on the Island, he runs into a local artist who has experienced the sharp critic's pen of Mr. Clayton. A wager is made between the two men, and Mr. Clayton finds himself entered in an Island art festival competition.

Paintings used in the movie were contributed by local artists, and some of the artists also appear in the film, including Maeve Croghan, Brian Mc- Kelvey, Pam Finkel, Marta Olson, and John Slevin. Island artists Richard Wolfgang, Karl Wolfgang, Pat Pulte, and Jennie Ferwerda also contributed work, although were not available during the filming.

"It's very interesting to see how it is filmed in small segments," said Ms. Croghan. She also found the attention to details an interesting part of the filming process as crew members work to create consistency in the camera's view of a scene, including lighting and background activity.

As the Island experienced a warm fall day, fans worked overtime to help cool the air between scenes in the large, library-style room at Mission Point Resort's Johnson Hall. Curtains that were closed during filming to maintain the proper lighting were quickly opened when the camera stopped rolling. While crew members began preparing for the next scene, actors and film extras headed outside, hoping to find a cool breeze.

The setup of each scene takes longer than the filming.

"It is a little tedious," said Ms. Croghan, who along with other Island artists, plays an extra in the movie and stand by the paintings as the actors, playing judges, pass by, reciting lines and critiquing the artwork.

Mrs. Finkel and Mr. Mc- Kelvey came prepared to fill time between scenes. Mrs. Finkel knitted a pair of socks between takes, and Mr. Mc- Kelvey put the finishing touches on a drawing he would deliver to a client in Lansing the next day.

The filming has been successful because of the community's involvement in the film, said Kim Eckstein, associate producer with Brauer Productions, Inc., which is producing the film. Owners of hotels, shops, restaurants, and residents have contributed time and resources to aid in the production.

"This community is amazing," she said. "We could not be doing this without the support of so many of your community members. In addition to welcoming us with open arms, today is a perfect example. Our Island art festival location looks the way it does because of the involvement of so many local artists. They've done everything they possibly could to help us."

Rich Brauer, owner of the Traverse City-based production company, agreed.

"Filming was possible because of the artists," he said. "They contributed all the artwork for the background of this movie."

Rather than coming up with props or paintings from other sources, said Mr. Brauer, the local artists, by sharing their work, enhanced the movie's quality through the use of art that is authentic to the Island.

"It's all Island stuff," he said. "It's all honest."

Mr. Brauer has been in business for 30 years and this is his eighth film. He wrote the script, a heartwarming story that illustrates having the ability to create art is, indeed, a gift.

He also is the director of photography, a job he knows well. He served in this position for both of actor Jeff Daniels' independent films, "Escanaba in da Moonlight" and "Super Sucker." Mr. Brauer's other recent films include the comedy "Frozen Stupid" and a land stewardship drama, "Barn Red;" both movies are being distributed worldwide and star Academy Award-winning actor Ernest Borgnine.

To shoot the full-length movie in less than three weeks takes planning, a tight schedule, said Mr. Brauer, and dependable, professional actors that know their lines and are on the set to work.

"It's fantastic to have someone of Bronson's caliber on board with Mr. Art Critic," said Mr. Brauer. "He's funny, he has a great sense of timing, and he's an art collector."

The settling of the movie will be Mackinac Island, and it will not be disguised, he said. Filming locations and the names of bars, hotels, ferry boat lines, all will be used.

"The places we are shooting are real," he said. "That's the beautiful thing about this type of filmmaking. I'm not answering to a team of film executives from New York."

"I love the spirit of independent filmmaking and I'm sticking with it," he said. "That spirit is a small crew, peppy locations, and, in my case, I'm hiring and attracting great artists to help tell the story. I also rely on a strong crew."

There are 12 crew members who are independent contractors from the Traverse City area, many of whom Mr. Brauer has worked with on his other film projects. Actors in the movie come from Jeff Daniels' theater company in Chelsea.

Actress Toni Trucks plays Lisa Williamson, an artist in "Mr. Art Critic." She grew up in Manistee and recently starred in the television cable series "Barbershop." She had a role in the movie "Dreamgirls," which did not make the final footage, although it is on the DVD.

For "Mr. Art Critic," a sneak preview is planned at the end of the year, probably in Traverse City, said Mr. Brauer. After that, he does a final "fine-tooth" edit of the film, and then it will be given to distributors to market.

Entering the film in independent film festivals is a possibility, although not a likely route for the film.

"This film, of all the films that I've done, actually does lend itself to a film festival. Personally, I don't have the passion to take it to the festivals," Mr. Brauer said. He knows his talents and admits he enjoys making movies, although selling them is not where his interest lies, which is why he relies on distributors.

With filming on "Mr. Art Critic" about halfway done, Mr. Brauer said, "We film in a lot of communities. I was extra surprised of how welcome the Island made us feel, and they didn't have to. That makes our stay here even more enjoyable."

The crew has been staying at Mission Point Resort, and General Manager David Sanderson has provided settings for scenes, like Johnson Hall.

Filming is scheduled to finish Friday, October 5, and Mr. Brauer admits he worries about the impression the crew leaves on the Island. He has been in the business long enough to know that not all crews leave a good impression. It is something he instills in his staff.

"At the end of the day," he said, "I want to have a film and new friends. We want everyone, when we're gone, to actually kind of miss us a little bit, rather than the opposite. I want to film another movie here someday."

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