Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 3, 2014

Feature film may be first to be filtered on Instagram

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Cat Muncey got an early Christmas present: lots of snow for the opening montage in her film, “Division.”

The suspense film — a spooky social commentary on the use of social media — began shooting Dec. 20 and 21 at locations like downtown Traverse City and the Grand Traverse Commons. But it’s what will happen after filming that makes the movie unique.

Muncey, 30, expects to become the first director to create and market a full-length feature film entirely filtered on Instagram. The photo- and video-sharing smartphone app allows users to take a picture or a video up to 15 seconds long, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, and then post the result to Instagram or share on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

Muncey’s film will be shot with professional cameras instead of a cellphone and won’t be posted or shared after filtering. But it will be composed of more than 1,000 Instagram videos of 15 seconds or less, strategically stitched together for a seamless look.

Instagram’s 15-second-limit format lends itself well to advertisements, since 15 seconds is an established ad length in the TV world. But Muncey, who recently left her job as creative director for a digital marketing agency to make films for her own production house, maintains it’s equally well-suited for feature films.

“It’s very rarely in any film that you rest on anything more than 15 seconds,” she said. “You have quick cuts.”

The director said she was interested in using Instagram as a production tool because other filmmakers haven’t done it and because it will allow her and the film’s three editors to alter and enhance video footage more quickly and efficiently.

She also hopes to inspire others without professional equipment to make their own films.

“Some people don’t have the budget to make art, but they can use a cellphone to tell a story,” she said.

Muncey said she wrote the screenplay last summer after hearing local history and legends about Genevieve, the so-called ghost of Bowers Harbor Inn, and the former state hospital facility originally known as the Northern Michigan Asylum. She called it “Division,” after the street that once divided the city’s sane and “insane.”

In researching for the film, she said she was struck by how easy it was to have someone committed to a mental institution.

“Women were committed by their husbands or doctors for having post-partum depression or menopause,” she said. “In an old book I found, one of the top reasons for women being committed was ‘excessive reading of novels.’”

In Muncey’s script, Genevieve is a former asylum patient. And Megan, an artist-slash-writer experiencing a slump and David, her boyfriend, hopes to encourage her by videotaping her life using — what else? — a cellphone.

“They start to research local folklore and paranormal activity and the history behind the state hospital. As they uncover more, she becomes more and more haunted,” said Muncey, who majored in English at the University of Michigan.

Professional actor and magician Ben Whiting, who moved to Traverse City in February, plays David.

A stage actor whose credits include everything from local roles with Parallel 45 and the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival to roles with the prominent Steppenwolf Theatre and the New York International Theatre Fringe Festival, Whiting is making his first appearance in a feature-length film.

“I did a three-minute short in Chicago. I was abducted by aliens so I didn’t have any lines,” he said, with a laugh.

This time around, he plays an all-around nice guy, though there’s plenty of creepy ambiance.

“What appeals to me about David is his everyman quality,” Whiting said. “But what really appeals to me is a movie where Traverse City and its genuine history is its own character and the idea of it being filtered through Instagram. At first I was a little nervous. I thought it might be gimmicky. But when I read the script, I realized it was a good story and being filtered through Instagram made perfect sense.”

Muncey still is seeking sponsors, locations and backers for the film, although a crowdfunding campaign slightly surpassed its goal of $25,000 in 30 days.

“We went into it knowing that the likelihood of it succeeding was slim,” said Muncey, who spent 60-hour weeks stumping for funding. “Eighty percent of Kickstarters fail.”

She said most of the filming will take place in May, with “simultaneous” editing. She expects the film to be completed in June and then plans to shop it around to film festivals.

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