Traverse City Film Festival Provides Opportunity for U-M Students

Traverse City Film Festival Provides Opportunity for U-M Students

Two U-M student teams who spent the winter semester creating original films will have a chance to display their work at the Traverse City Film Festival, happening July 29-August 3.

Started in 2005, TCFF is the brainchild of former UM-Flint student and filmmaker Michael Moore. He also played a big part in forging the educational partnership U-M now enjoys with the event. In 2008, the famous documentarian approached screenwriting professor Jim Burnstein. As a result of this collaboration, every year U-M students collaborate across schools and showcase their creative efforts in Traverse City.

“We get production, sound, and costume designers from the School of Art & Design, producers from the Ross School of Business, composers from the School of Music, and marketing and PR people from Communications in the School of Information,” Burnstein says. “In a very real sense, this course has become a model of project-based learning and collaboration, which the University highly encourages. The committee tasked with establishing the new minor in Entrepreneurship has studied SAC 423 and brought me in to explain our program.”

Proof of the partnership’s effectiveness can be found in one of this year’s student productions, “Bad Girls.”  Jacqueline Tobani was originally cast as the lead, but when an NBC producer visited the set, she was signed on as “Trubel” in the hit series “Grimm.”

Toboni has found success as a result of SAC 423, the class that brings them to the festival. 

Ben Foote, student videographer for the Association, was the supervising editor of the other production, “Thru Traffic,” a drama-comedy centering around Brendan, a dreamer who is forced into a “roadtrip from hell” to repay his gambling debt.

A still from “Thru Traffic.”

“We would pull 40-plus hours a weekend. The longest day I did was 19 hours,” Foote said. “The amount of work didn’t shock me; it’s just a matter of getting it done.”

Ben Foote is the supervising editor for “Thru Traffic” and an AAUM videographer.

Foote went on to comment on the unique opportunity this partnership offers.

“It’s an opportunity that a lot of schools can’t offer. People from the industry will be seeing my work. Work that I’m proud of. I’m kind of nervous because we made a dramedy, so what if people don’t laugh? Then again, what if they do?”

Watch the trailers for “Bad Girls” and “Thru Traffic.” Tell us what you think!

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit