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Michael Moore and new executive director dream big for film fest

Joe Beyer (right) and Michael Moore in the Traverse City Film Festival offices in downtown Traverse City.
Dan Wanschura
Joe Beyer (right) and Michael Moore in the Traverse City Film Festival offices in downtown Traverse City.

Michael Moore has hired Joe Beyer as the new executive director for his Traverse City Film Festival. Joe replaces Deb Lake, who resigned last December.

“It’s like we found our long-lost soul brother here for Traverse City in the being of Joe Beyer,” says Michael.

Joe Beyer returns home to Michigan after working for the Sundance Institute for over 14 years.

Joe Beyer grew up in downstate Michigan, but he’d spend his summer months in Leland. Eventually, he moved out west to California where he was Director of Digital Initiatives for the Sundance Institute.But now, he’s back and he’ll be spending more than just his summers in northern Michigan.

“When I met Michael over the phone and we were able to start talking and I learned the extent to which Traverse City Film Festival also has been shaped and grown and created basically on the backs of people’s time and philanthropy and love for this place," explains Joe,  "I said, ‘That’s where I’d like to be.’”

Joe says he doesn’t necessarily want to grow the size of the festival, but wants to it to continue to be a place where people can come to relax. He says it has a great reputation among festival goers around the country.

"This festival is pretty big," Joe says. "Sundance, for example, shows approximately 120 feature films a year — maybe 75 short films. Those numbers are just about what the Traverse City Film Festival programs."

Michael Moore says an important factor for hiring Joe was that he shared his vision for the festival. 

"This film festival and these theaters — these are my babies," he says.

One of the initiatives that Joe and Michael plan to establish is more of a year-round presence with the TCFF. That includes bringing directors and movie stars to town to screen and talk about their films, and also simulcast those events to local movie theaters all over the country.

"We want to ... help other towns have film festivals, other towns have State Theatres," Michael explains. "So we have some big ideas that we hope to make happen here."

Joe says a big part of his job this first year will simply be getting out of the way of his staff while he learns all the different aspects of the festival. But he says the most challenging thing about his job will be keeping up with Michael. 

Dan Wanschura is the Host and Executive Producer of Points North.