Mary Ellen Geist interviews John Williams, one of the three founders of the Traverse City Film Festival along with award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore and best-selling author Doug Stanton. Now in it’s sixth year, Williams recalls the phone call from Michael Moore who said simply, “Let’s do it.” And they did. Last year 96,000 people attending the Traverse City Film Festival and on the first day of this year’s festival, ticket sales were up 50% over last year.
What makes this year’s festival unique? “The story is the star this year,” says Williams. Lots of the films showing this year don’t have distributors. There are some films being shown that have been promoted on a big scale such as the opening night film “The Kids are All Right.” But for the most part, these are films that are vital and smart and getting an audience, a platform.
In year’s past there have been some very big names at the Traverse City Film Festival including “Borat” and Madonna. This year, the festival is defined by the group of Cuban filmmakers, some of whom are present at the festival. According to Williams, the festival is defined by wonderful filmmakers who get to have their films shown exactly as they made them.
According to Williams, the Traverse City Film Festival is about fun. It’s about keeping the dialogue going. It’s about the joy in the lines as people wait, the welcoming atmosphere of the Traverse City and the devotion of 4,000 fans.