Cinemasports lets filmmakers 'play'

Jun 15, 2017

Cinemasports is an intense film event. Filmmakers have 10 hours to write, shoot and edit their films. Then the films are screened the same day.

“The value for the 10-hour, three-minute film?” asks Bill Dungjen. “Pretty much my entire philosophy of entertainment, which is, ‘Go do something.’”

Just after 9 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning in Suttons Bay, several filmmaking teams gather inside The Bay Theatre. It’s a crucial moment. They can’t just make any old film – there are constraints. Each film has to include specific elements and which are revealed right now.

Bill Dungjen, who organized the event, takes his iPad, opens up an email, and reveals the specific elements. They include a coin flip, a romantic gesture and a selfie. and with that, teams literally run out of the theatre.

Outside, Michael Mittelstaedt paces the sidewalk a block away from the theatre. He’s the co-director of his small, three-person team. He’s thinking about what their story might be. 

“What does the character want? What’s in the character’s way? How are they trying to achieve it?” he says.

A half-hour later, Michael sits down outside a restaurant and brainstorms with Shane Bagwell, his partner for the day. They settle on a plot that centers around a gardener, who has to water all the plants in the city. Right now, they’ve got about nine hours left to finish writing, filming and editing.

Cinemasports was started in 2004 by Jin Joo, a filmmaker in California. Since then, events have been held around the world.

Bill Dungjen came across the concept a few years ago, and this year he decided to organize an event for northern Michigan. Today, Bill’s helping his two kids make a couple films.

“I was just fascinated by the idea,” he says. “What a cool idea to do a movie in a day and then watch them that same night.”

Bill is a musician and every week he hosts an open mic night at the Hayloft Inn in Leelanau County. He says there’s an honesty to quick, live performance. That’s also why he was drawn to the idea of making a movie in 10 hours.

“I think a lot of the time, perfection, the pursuit of perfection in art, means that you lose a lot of the honesty,” he explains. Or a lot of…the naked emotion of the whole thing.”

Michael Mittelstaedt (left) and Shane Bagwell edit their film in the car.
Credit Dan Wanschura

Back in Suttons Bay, Michael Mittelstaedt and Shane Bagwell have finished up filming, and are editing in the car.

Michael is the director of Motion Picture Arts at Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Shane just graduated from Interlochen a week earlier. Michael says Cinemasports is an opportunity to be nimble and to hone their craft. But, he also says it’s more than that.

“In a not so stiff way, this is an opportunity to play,” he says.  “I think when we stop playing, things get so stifled … that’s what the key opportunity in a lot of this is, is just access and play.”


Six films were produced during the Cinemasports event on June 3rd. You can see all six of them as they get an encore showing today at 4:30 p.m. at the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay. 
Also, the Garden Theatre in Frankfort is hosting a 48-hour film contest next week. For details, click here.