Local filmmakers produce film on eccentric Detroit sailors

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published March 29, 2016


MACOMB TOWNSHIP/GROSSE POINTE — A pair of local filmmakers have collaborated over the last seven years to produce a film that is set to premiere in early April.

Kim Stricker, 36, of Grosse Pointe Park, and Mike Pfaendtner, 59, of Macomb Township, have created a nearly 70-minute film called “The Goat Yard,” which tells the tales of a sailing club on the east side of Detroit, and the sailors who used to or still inhabit it.

Stricker has worked in corporate video and commercial production since she was 17 years old and has been a member of the Detroit Sail Club since 2000. After being introduced by a friend to the Goat Yard, she knew she had a story on her hands that would take her beyond the corporate realm.

“The stories these sailors told there were fascinating, and I always wanted to work on a project that wasn’t necessarily a commercial production or a corporate industrial video, something that was more geared towards something that was interesting to me,” Stricker said.

In 2008, Stricker took her idea to Pfaendtner, who was working at the same post-production facility as Stricker in Farmington Hills.

“I brought him back to the Goat Yard, and he was hooked. He said, ‘Let’s do a documentary and tell the stories that these sailors have told for many years,’” Stricker said. “Seven years later, we’re finished and ready to debut it.”

“The Goat Yard” will make its world premiere as part of the Freep Film Festival at 8 p.m. April 1 at the Detroit Film Theatre. An additional screening will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 3, at Cinema Detroit.

The film gets its title based on the fact that an actual goat used to inhabit the boat yard. In addition to the wildlife, Stricker also detailed the many eccentric characters who sailed out of the Goat Yard.

Stricker pointed to one individual, Stephen Hume, who frequently ran against Coleman Young to be mayor of Detroit, as an example of quirkiness in the yard. Stricker said Hume’s key campaign promise was to create amphibious vehicles that could operate in water and on land in order to bring new jobs to the city.

“Everything was done in a fun-loving way, and in kind of a humorous way that was very entertaining,” Stricker said. “The fact that a lot of these people were artists — one developed the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto logo — it had a way of drawing in these types of individuals who were very creative and eclectic folks, and they all had very diverse backgrounds. The camaraderie of the sailors was the big part we really enjoyed and were able to expand upon.”

The Goat Yard also briefly published its own newspaper in the late ’80s, the Hardline, which sought to uncover corrupt political practices in the city. Stricker said after the paper’s first edition was released, the building it was listed to be published out of was shot up, then after the third issue, it was fire-bombed and burnt to the ground.

“Obviously, they were hitting a nerve with the corrupt individuals in the city of Detroit and they wanted them silenced,” Stricker said.

Some of the individuals who were interviewed for the movie have since passed away, Stricker said, which made the completion of the film bittersweet.

“When we started this project seven years ago, we interviewed all of these individuals, and they’re very good friends of mine as well,” Stricker said. “Every week when I work with Mike, it’s very surreal in the fact I see all these people who I was very close with and I admired, and they were just great, interesting, larger-than-life people, and being able to edit it every week was kind of like they never left.”

“I’m elated to share it now, but a little part of me is sad because it was fun kind of reminiscing and hearing these stories again.”

The Goat Yard is still in existence today, and is located near the end of St. Jean Street along the Detroit River. However, Stricker noted that most of the boats have been moved to a nearby marina called Grayhaven.

With the production of the film behind them, Pfaendtner said he and Stricker are adjusting to life without making the film, but they will soon create an action plan to promote it.

“We want to do other film festivals. That’s the first thing to get it out there, and hopefully we’ll get a good reaction,” Pfaendtner said. “We hope to do a bit of traveling with it, but that’s still up in the air. It’s taken so long to make it that we’re still adjusting to the fact we’re not working on it anymore.”

Pfaendtner, who has worked in filmmaking since 1978, said early reviews of the film have been positive.

“Now that we’ve shown it to the people involved with making it, and they were very positive about it,” Pfaendtner said. “I’m very happy with it. It’s been a long time, and it’s been an adventure.”