|TreeFort in action during the 2012 TC Film Fest
The plot: Three guys who love to tell stories. The climax: Knocking down walls, tearing up carpet, lots of pounding. The resolution: A first-of-its-kind film collective opening in downtown TC.
It’s called The TreeFort Collective, and its members number just three right now: the founding trio of Matthew Dayton, David Marek and Steen Wichmann. They are filmmakers, editors, animators and programmers who are creating a space for themselves – and other moving-image enthusiasts – to collaborate and create.
Lights, Camera, Action
Many of you have likely seen some of their handiwork: A Song For Cinema featuring interviews with 2012 TC Film Fest star filmmakers, the State Theatre Colorbook Policy Trailer that plays before every screening, and work on the TC Lip Dub.
But for the last few months, this film and video production crew has added facemasks and power tools to their day jobs, gutting a 750-square-foot corner in the basement of the Front Street Commons (aka The Arcade) in downtown Traverse City.
The space, formerly the practice rooms used by Good News Music, will be home base for this creative work collective, says Marek, whose first full-length feature film Somewhere West will have its local premier next week (see info below).
Marek credits Wichmann, though, with floating the idea in the first place.
“I knew I wanted to open up a production company, but I didn’t want to work alone,” Wichmann says. He thought maybe Traverse City – where he moved after finishing grad school a couple of years ago – was at a good point in its increasing notoriety in the film business to launch a co-business with fellow creative types – and build a freelance network for the art of moving images.
“We all want to make feature films,” says Wichmann. And while the “collective” arrangement will allow for individual work, that’s not the focus. “It’s about the projects, not the individual stuff, and this will allow for lots of projects to be going on at the same time.”
Marek says one of the creative goals of the “collective” is to do more regional cinema, to “tell Michigan stores, shot and produced in Michigan.”
“This was an impetus in my moving back,” adds Marek, a TC native who moved back two years ago from Colorado. “The landscape of my imagination is northern Michigan.”
But it won’t be all film work for The TreeFort Collective. The group is also offering services to commercial clients. In fact, it just recently completed some work for TC-based Britten.
Also this fall, Wichmann and Dayton produced a short documentary for Carter’s Compost featuring Traverse City 8-year-old Carter Schmidt, who runs his kid-sized compost business with a bike and lots of buckets. Not only a cool marketing tool for Carter, but also a film that could be pitched to environmental film festivals around the country, explains Dayton.
And about that treefort name? Yep, it harkens back to memories of building treeforts as kids and the hard work and fun that came with it. “This really reminds us of that,” Marek says of the new business. Even if their first treefort together is underground.
Somewhere West State-Bound
Somewhere West – which you first read about here – will have its TC premier at the State Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. Somewhere West recently won its sixth Best Feature Film Award, along with five other awards and 23 additional nominations from 18 festivals in 3 countries. Filmmaker Marek will hold a Q&A following the screening.