Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 1, 2013

Film Fest takes note of musicians, too

By GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY— Film isn’t the only performance art on display at the Traverse City Film Festival.

There’s much more music on display today than when the festival launched in 2005.

More than 90 local, national and international acts are expected to take the stage at this year’s festival venues and could make the 9th annual Film Festival one of this year’s biggest musical events in Michigan, said Mike Sullivan, Film Fest music coordinator.

Sullivan has been active with the festival since its early days, both as a performer and as a talent recruiter. He relies on a team of interns and volunteers to help schedule and accommodate more than 300 individual performers.

“Music was really incidental the first few years, but by the third year we started to incorporate it to give moviegoers a more complete experience,” Sullivan said.

Each act is paired as closely as possible with a film, and performers are asked to review the film and try to set the mood for the audience with their music.

“It’s like a wine and food pairing,” he said.

Sullivan said 90 percent of this year’s 150 movies have some form of musical accompaniment. Live concerts are held daily from noon to 7 p.m. at Clinch Park and from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Open Space prior to outdoor movies.

“In the beginning I invited musicians I knew, and people loved doing it,” said Sullivan, whose group, The Turtlenecks, filled the gaps at film venues on more than one occasion during the festival’s early years.

There is no budget for the music. There are openings for musical group sponsors, but Sullivan said performers are willing to pay their own way for the chance to network and be a part of a big festival.

“(Local guitarist) Ron Getz says when he plays the Film Festival he usually gets two or three other engagements and picks up two or three students,” Sullivan said. “A lot of networking takes place. Connections are made, and a couple of acts have gotten film scores after meeting producers and directors.”

Other performers discovered the Film Festival in similar ways. Sullivan said Khalid Hanifi visited Traverse City during the festival a few years ago, and the Chicago Blues performer is returning this year to perform.

Also back are singing duo The Bergamot who only managed one performance several years ago, but loved the Leelanau School -- which provides accommodations for out-of-town performers -- so much they returned to the area several times to do in-service and artist-in-residence programs at the school.

Also playing here: DarlenYa, whom Sullivan called “a phenomenal performer” and “a cross between Claudia Schmidt, Bette Midler and Cab Calloway, and she lives in Kalamazoo.”

This year the entertainment takes on a global feel with the return of Milagros, a singer from Buenos Aires who performed at the festival two years ago. Cellist Hayley Jenkins from New Zealand will be performing along with Rona and Tamar, two of their generation’s freshest voices from Israel.

“I love the opportunity to promote a remarkable network of musical talent here, and I also love that we get to expose the public to new trends in music. They’ll hear it all here -- from classical to kids’ Melodica, and everything in between,” Sullivan said.

Flash drives that include all past Film Fest musician compilation albums, as well as 2013 album art and official festival video bumper, will be available for $20 at film venues. The 2013 musician compilation album will be $15 and is available in CD form or through digital download through CD Baby.