HHM News

Sponsor Spotlight

By on September 7, 2012

Three years ago, Don Sabourin, DDS decided to invest in the Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, and to this day, he continues to support the festival as a sponsor.

“I’ve seen the importance it plays in the town,” he said. “The arts need to be garnered and supported.”

He originally got involved because of the many projects he was working on with Alan LaFave, the Festival Director. He wanted to support this festival as a way to help transition the blue collar roots of Bay City into a more artsy and hip town that would attract a younger crowd to the area.

Noting that there are many festivals and events in the area that support the arts, he said this festival brings something new to the table as it showcases films. It really helps diversify the community and highlight Bay City.

Sabourin said he is very impressed that the festival was able to bring Hollywood-actor Rider Strong (most recognized for his role as Shawn Hunter in ABC’s show “Boy Meets World”) to Bay City last year and that Strong wants to come back again this fall.

“That says a lot about what this festival is about to become,” Sabourin said.

It emphasizes that Bay City has something to offer to those not originally from this area. Sabourin said that bringing in these guests can attract more people to the area and, in turn, put money back into the community.

In fact, he said one of the things he likes best about the festival is the chance he gets to talk with these outside guests—the actors, directors, and producers. He said he likes to figure out how the Midwest is viewed in different parts of the country.

“It helps us establish the ability to do more as far as attracting other people,” he said.

In the end, he said, more people need to get to the festival to see what’s available. The films at the festival are ones you can’t see in theatres in this area, films this area wouldn’t normally have access to. The festival offers a unique experience.



Spotlight: Interview with Producer Shaun O’Banion

By on July 13, 2012

Shaun O’Banion, who has come to the festival in years past, is busy working out the details of his newest project: a dramatic comedy about dating in your 30s.

“I was looking for something a little lighter in tone that could also take me into a different direction,” O’Banion said.

With his previous two films, he worked as the producer and accepted the best of fest award for Dakota Skye in 2008 and the best narrative award for Girlfriend in 2011. While he really enjoyed producing those two films, he is eager to transition into the director’s chair.

He would like to work on directing this new film in which he said is a “smart, honest script.” In The Sack, working title, by Arthur Tiersky is about a man in his 30s who has been discouraged in dating and decides to start wearing a sack over his head to make people stay away from him.

Strangely enough, the sack actually draws more attention to him, making him more interesting to people of the town and mysterious to the women. O’Banion said that the sack serves as a way for him to become more confident and energetic.

“In a way, it is kind of like a superhero identity,” he said.

But as the story evolves, the young man learns that the sack is actually a crutch.

While the script was originally written for a larger city, it was adapted to a smaller community because in a smaller pool, options are limited. It also makes it easier for a reputation to follow you around. A couple of the characters decide that they would rather be unique in the small city than get lost in a big crowd.

Filming is planned to take place in Michigan with the help of producer James Stuart of a studio on Mackinac Island called Cinefab Studios. The film will be a co-production with this studio and Ravenwood Films.

Carrie Jones, Michigan Film Commissioner, and the Michigan film office has also been really helpful in finding and securing locations, answer questions, reviewing documents, and working towards state incentive qualification.

“It’s imperative,” O’Banion said, “to have the cooperation of Carrie’s office, and her staff has been extremely patient with us so far.”

O’Banion said he also hopes to incorporate local Michigan actors.

“We can make Michigan a character as well in a way,” he said.

O’Banion said that both times he came to Bay City, “he fell in love with” the feel and look of the city and the kindness of the community.

As a filmmaker and guest, he said he felt very welcomed and enjoyed the camaraderie amongst him and the other filmmakers. He enjoyed being able to hang out with them and share ideas. Even as he returned to LA, he said he kept in contact with many of them.

For smaller areas like Bay City, he said it is important to have these festivals so that people will have the opportunity to view films that they might not otherwise know about.

He said it is also important for those interested in making film. Speaking from his own experience, he said that when you aren’t in a larger city centered on film, it can sometimes make you feel isolated as a creative type.

“The greatest gift in a smaller festival is that it shows you that you have the ability to do things that it’d be hard to pull off in large cities,” he said.

He said that with a city as supportive as Bay City, people can really take advantage of the area and make great films—even if they don’t live in Hollywood.

O’Banion said that they are still looking to secure more financing for the new film. If they do lock in a new partner, they hope to shoot this summer. If interested, please contact info@ravenwoodfilms.com


Interview by Kirsten McIlvenna

with corrections 7/13/12

HHM/BC appealing to college crowd

By on May 30, 2012

Kirsten McIlvenna contacted HHM in 2011 on behalf of the SVSU Valley Vanguard newspaper to write some stories on our 6th annual film festival. After the festival ended, the following opinion piece was written by Kirsten for the university publication. It was interesting to hear about Kirsten’s festival experience. We loved her enthusiasm so much that we’ve asked her to oversee content for our web site and social media.

You’ll see lot’s of great articles from Kirsten in the coming months, including interviews with filmmakers, and stories about great things happening right here in the Great Lakes Bay Region. We believe that Kirsten’s story is a great example of how a community effort can affect an individual, and how an individual can contribute to their community.


There has been a recent concern about how students from the Great Lakes Bay Region are obtaining degrees and then moving out of the area, and often out of the state. This “brain drain” has been a regional issue for a number of years. Over the last ten years, Saginaw county has experienced a population decrease of 9,870 people and Bay County a decrease of 2,386 (US Census, 2010). Of course, people will go where they can find jobs, but another determinant of people staying in the area is the appeal of it.

Research has shown that one solution to making smaller cities like the ones in this area thrive is to create a desirable culture beyond all the industry. Cities rich in art and entertainment are often able to retain more young and educated people. I think they also need to have a strong sense of community.

I would argue that Downtown Bay City has the appeal that many fresh graduates might be looking for. I moved to Bay City about five months ago, and I am already in love with the city. Many students feel as if it is “far away” or a “long commute,” but realistically, it is only about a 12-minute drive. Many apartment complexes in Saginaw are farther away from campus than those in Bay City.

I have noticed that Downtown Bay City is reaching out to young individuals and young families to make a fun and exciting place to live. Not only are there a lot of small and unique shops and restaurants, but the community is one that seems to work together. Most community events I have been to have been sponsored by many local businesses. After not only living, but now working for a few months in the downtown area, I feel the sense of community even stronger.

With almost every weekend, comes something new and exciting to do. Bay City offers concerts in the parks, art markets and festivals, boat races, fireworks and car shows. The list goes on and on, but the best part is that most of the events are offered at little or no charge to attendees. The Bay County library system also offers book discussion groups, author readings, family and youth activities and annual book sales. The farmer’s market provides fresh produce from the area, for the area.

I just finished covering Downtown Bay City’s Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival for the Valley Vanguard, and it was an experience I truly appreciated. I might not have participated if I hadn’t heard about it through my research while filling in as A&E editor for the past month. I wish more students would have attended it.

The festival really made me realize what a great community Bay City is. The festival brought in film directors, producers, writers and actors from the east and west coasts to the area to share their experiences. They also had local filmmakers. I can’t even begin to explain what an amazing experience and networking event it was. Beyond that, it was an enjoyable weekend of films and music. I was able to see films not otherwise accessible in this area.

The festival director, Alan LaFave, and all the programmers work hard all year to make this event possible. Additionally, businesses throughout the city support it with their buildings and sponsorships. I appreciate these people in the community that work hard and take their time to provide these great events.

The film festival was truly a highlight of my year and has made me consider staying in the area after I graduate in December. Before, my plans were to get out of here to find amazing job opportunities in Chicago; I’m now reconsidering. If it is possible to find a job in the area, even if it is not the best one, I will consider taking it to stay in Bay City and participate in the vibrant community life. I hope to volunteer to work on different community events so that I can attract more people to the area and show them how fantastic I think it is. If attending one film festival is able to make me change my mind, I can’t imagine the impact it would have on other students if they started participating in this and other events in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

But of course, it all comes down to being able to find a job. I won’t pretend to have any solutions for creating jobs, because really, I’m not an expert. But I do know that the Great Lakes Bay Region offers lots of job networking fairs, educational opportunities and training events.

I think that other cities and counties in the area should look to Bay City as a great example of how to attract young people. I am not all that familiar with what other communities around here are doing, since I don’t live in them. I don’t want to make it sound like Bay City is the only one doing this, but I certainly know that Bay City has me hooked.

Kirsten is currently living and working in Bay City.

TV Acting Trio Coming to Bay City

By on September 14, 2011

Hell’s Half Mile is excited to feature three short films (see Featured Shorts Program) from co-director/co-writer/actor brothers Rider and Shiloh Strong, and producer/writer/actor Alexandra Barreto.  All three are scheduled to attend HHM Fest and will be available for Q&A after each screening.

About our guests….For over two decades, Rider Strong and Shiloh Strong have been acting in theater, film, and television. Rider is best known for his seven-season run on ABC’s Boy Meets World and the cult horror film, Cabin Fever. Shiloh starred in the television adaptation of Dinotopia and the sitcom The Mommies. When the brothers joined forces to write and direct, they produced the short film Irish Twins, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and went on to win multiple jury and audience awards at festivals worldwide. That same year they (along with Alexandra Barreto) created a spec commercial for Barack Obama’s presidential bid that MoveOn.org awarded Funniest Ad and raised the money to take to air; it was the first political ad to appear on Comedy Central. Their second short, The Dungeon Master, was a selection of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival where it won Best Short in the online competition. It also won Best Comedy Short at the Sonoma International Film Festival. Their latest film, Method, premiered at the Palms Springs ShortFest, and in fall of 2011 their graphic novel, Blood Merchant will be released by Image Comics.

Alexandra Barreto has guest starred and/or recurred on just about every Jerry Bruckheimer show, and other shows as varied as Pushing Daisies and Justified. But she owes her happiness to the little show that couldn’t: Pepper Dennis, which lasted one glorious season, and in which she starred alongside Rider Strong (her partner and sometimes director).  Alexandra has produced two films directed by Rider and Shiloh, THE DUNGEON MASTER and METHOD and has produced two other short film directed by Chris Levitus (Penthouse) and Doug Hannah (White Collar). She is currently seeking financing for her two feature projects: an 80s style horror-comedy, and a new take on the traditional romantic comedy.