“I Wish” is the third film by Brandella Films. Photo via pinterest.com
Brandella Films' dreams are starting to come true.
The Grand Rapids-based company's recent film project, a feature titled "I Wish," will be featued during a week-long run at Celebration! Cinema Woodland, starting Jan. 18 through Jan. 24.
"I Wish" was written and directed by local filmmaker Jim Idema and co-produced by Linda Crane and Carrie Bradstreet.
The film, shot in a variety of locations throughout Michigan, tells the story of a man who stumbles on the ability to have his wishes granted. "I Wish" stars Spencer G. Tomlin, Rebekah Fuller and Benjamin Hanes.
The film and eventual soundtrack will also feature an all-Michigan collection of musicians, including Daddy'z Breakdown, Holloway, TP & Esco and more.
Tickets for each of the three daily showings during the run are $3.99 and can be obtained at Celebration's website or at the box office.
The showings at Celebration! come after the soldout premiere of “I Wish” at the Celebration! Cinema North.
The red-carpet premiere was a first and proud moment for Idema, a Grand Rapids freelance writer, who has been making films in Michigan since 2009, when his first film, “Respect For The Dead,” was released at Michigan film festivals on a budget of about $3,000.
His second film, “Heart’s Desire,” opened at the 2011 Detroit Windsor international Film Festival on a budget of about $5,000.
Idema wrote, directed and produced both films through Brandella Films.
On a budget of under $10,000, which Idema said came from friends, family, couch cushions and his own pockets, it is his most successful film.
“This is the biggest event I’ve had from our three movies,” he said. “The other thing that makes this one special is that we’ve got some tremendous people helping out. Of all the movies, this one was the most difficult journey, but seemed to pull everybody together the closest.”
A difficult journey is one way to describe the rollercoaster story of Michigan’s film industry. Idema summed up being a Michigan filmmaker in one word: Volatile.
“At first, (Gov. Jennifer) Granholm came out with all those film incentives, and that brought the Clint Eastwoods of the world here and they did their thing and they took the state’s checks and went back to California and cashed them,” Idema said. “But once those incentives went away there were so many people still here locally who had developed a sense of … belonging, I guess.
“The film industry somehow just gripped them and kept hold, even after the incentives went away. Films continued to get produced regardless. The budgets were smaller. The names were smaller, but people are still making movies.”
Idema’s theory is that as long as filmmakers keep generating events that stir interest in film, the industry will remain at the forefront of the general public’s consciousness. He believes if people are aware that local movies are being produced, they are going to be supportive and involved.
But like any other business, the film industry needs more than just casual support, he said. The state government is not going to give film investors tax breaks or invest itself in local films, Idema said, and he wouldn’t necessarily want the government getting its fingers on his art anyway.
He hopes premieres like his will attract the attention of locals with deep pockets and deeper hearts.
The question investors are asking, however, is this: “Are Michigan films profitable?”
It’s a tricky question for indie filmmakers like Idema to answer.
“What I would love to see is incentive provided for local investors to invest in local film products,” he said. “I don’t know where it could come from other than PR from events like this. Beyond that, I don’t know.”
Profit won’t come directly from film festivals, he said, because festivals are only there to showcase. Film distributors who attend and purchase the film can put it in theaters where ticket sales generate profit, which eventually flows to filmmakers.
Even that formula isn’t without its risks. Remember Idema’s sellout red-carpet premiere? It made zilch.
“‘I Wish’ didn't make any money outside covering the costs of the event, but then again, it wasn't designed to be a moneymaker,” he said. “It was designed to be an event to let West Michigan celebrate with us all the hard work that everyone in the cast and crew put forth in making the film.”
Although many questions about the film industry’s viability in Michigan remain, one thing is certain: Three movies into his journey to keep the hope for Michigan filmmakers alive, and Idema’s heart for the industry doesn’t seem to be giving out anytime soon.
And maybe it’s the heart, a recurring theme of his films, where he will find the answer to his question.
“If you don’t have passion, it’s not going to happen,” Idema said. “You need passion for the story, passion for making the story and relaying that passion to others. Films aren’t made in a vacuum.”