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October 3, 2012

Berkley filmmaker returns to Blue Water Film Festival

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

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Berkley filmmaker Jeremy Olstyn, left, directs lead actor Billy Hinbern, right, on the set of his new short film, “Hooked.”

BERKLEY — Jeremy Olstyn is hoping for another successful showing at this year’s Blue Water Film Festival in Port Huron as he explores a very different genre of film.

Having already made a name for himself by winning the Best Director award at the 2011 festival for his documentary movie, “Strong From Detroit,” this time the independent filmmaker has submitted a selection more in line with his comedic roots. His new 10-minute film, “Hooked,” is a dark comedy that finds humor in unexpected places.

“It’s based on the (TV) show ‘Intervention,’ but we took it in a much sillier direction,” explained Olstyn, a 38-year-old Berkley resident who teaches in the TV and radio program at Cousino High School in Warren. “Instead of focusing on drug addiction, it’s about a guy who’s addicted to receiving packages in the mail. The premise itself is pretty funny on its own, but it’s even funnier if you’re familiar with the show and how dark and serious it is.”

Written and filmed in just two weeks with a cast of about 10 local actors, “Hooked” was shot at a number of nearby locations, including at a friend’s house in Huntington Woods and even in the basement of the Huntington Woods Public Library. It was created as part of a Fortnight Challenge at the Capital City Film Festival in Lansing last April, where it took second-place honors. At the Blue Water Film Festival, Olstyn is once again up for the Best Director award for “Hooked,” while actor Billy Hinbern, who plays the lead role, is nominated for Best Actor.

Olstyn is thrilled to be returning to Port Huron again this year. “That festival is just awesome,” he said. “They’re really professional and well- organized, which gives you the feeling that they really care about film. They do a really great job of rolling out the red carpet for people, and you don’t always get that at film festivals.”

The fourth annual Blue Water Film Festival will be held Oct. 4-6 at Port Huron’s McMorran Place Theatre. It will feature a diverse array of films by 27 independent filmmakers from all over the state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, shining a spotlight on up-and-coming regional talent.

The festival will kick off with a performance from Michigan comedian and actress Loni Love, known for her appearances on such shows as E!’s “Chelsea Lately” and VH1’s “I Love the ‘90s.” In addition, it will include a cameo from actor Curtis Armstrong, a Berkley native, who has appeared in numerous films and more than 65 TV series, but is probably best known for his role as Dudley “Booger” Dawson in the 1984 cult favorite “Revenge of the Nerds.” Armstrong will receive a one-of-a-kind Honorary Nerd Award from the international computer service company Nerds on Site.

According to Jeremy Stemen, executive director of the Blue Water Film Festival, “When we first started this festival, the state film incentives were in full bloom and the film industry here was booming. There were a lot of really great movies coming out of Michigan, so we wanted to highlight all the terrific local talent that was emerging. Now, even though those incentives have largely gone away, we want to continue to give these folks a voice.”

The festival’s popularity has grown steadily over the last few years, he added, mostly through word of mouth. In 2012, Blue Water organizers received 17 more submissions than in any previous year.

“The difference between us and a lot of other film festivals,” Stemen said, “is that we are a competition with real judges, and we put everyone in a large theater that seats over 1,100 people. Most directors tell us that this is the biggest audience that has ever seen their movie, and the audience gets to enjoy a full plate of independent films. If the quality is there, then it will be shown at our festival without a doubt — that’s something we’re really proud of.”

Olstyn feels honored that his films measure up to the steep competition. Although he has only “seriously” been making movies for around three years, it has quickly become his greatest passion. He hopes to one day get a job as a college professor teaching film production classes and helping aspiring young filmmakers harness their talent.

“I love doing comedy (films), and I figure that as long as I can make a good story about something, then it’s worth all the hard work and sacrifices,” Olstyn said. “If you’re doing what you love, that’s what really matters. It’s the big thing that separates the people who are just doing this for fun and those who have more at stake.”

For more information on the Blue Water Film Festival, go to http://bluewaterfilmfestival.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.