Monthly Archives: November 2015

Coming-of-age film ‘Superior’ showcases beauty of Northern Michigan

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Photo/Edd Benda

Birmingham-native filmmaker Edd Benda returned to his home state last year to put together the Upper Peninsula adventure film “Superior.”

The idea for the film came to Benda, 25, at a family Thanksgiving dinner table a few years ago. His uncle, Karl Benda, shared the story of a bicycle trip he took Up North more than 40 years ago with friend Dan “Dudza” Junttila, before they were deployed to Vietnam.

The tale inspired Benda to share the beauty of Lake Superior and uncertainty of young adulthood through “Superior,” his first feature-film as a writer and director.

“‘Superior’ is a snapshot of America in 1969, when futures were uncertain, and yet the most outlandish adventures remained possible,” Benda says.

“I was so fascinated by the time, place and adventure itself (of his uncle’s story) that I started writing this movie. Superior is not just based on their story — it’s more of a patchwork quilt mash-up of stories I’d listened to over the years. My dad is from family of nine kids who went on lots of adventures, and he was always sharing stories with me also.”

After graduating from The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Benda moved to Los Angeles. Studying filmmaking at the University of Southern California, he stayed on the West Coast after college, making short films through his independent film company “Beyond the Porch Productions.”

Benda shared his idea to base a film on his uncle’s story, and his team was interested in the project. Benda’s dream to create “Superior” became reality in summer 2014. He thoroughly researched the time period, considering his uncle’s story as well as life in the 1960s and early ’70s — especially for young men facing the draft — and the story line came together.

For 21 days, they filmed in the Keeweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost point in the Upper Peninsula.

The film crew, who were mainly from Los Angeles and had never been to the Midwest, also got into character, camping and living the Northern Michigan lifestyle the movie centers on.

“We not only spent time making this movie about an adventure, but were living it on our own,” Benda says. “It was a big part of the creative process.”

“Superior” stars Paul Stanko and Thatcher Robinson, as well a cast of what Benda described as “true-blue Yoopers,” noting he wanted to truly bring out the Michigan character.

“The movie takes place in Northern Michigan, and showcases one of the most beautiful parts of the state that I get to call home,” Benda says. “You couldn’t make this movie anywhere else — it had to be made in Great Lakes state.”

In addition to filming on location true to his uncle’s story, Benda wanted to make everything true to the times. Finding old vehicles and props was sometimes a challenge, but the bicycles ridden in the movie were those used by his uncle and friend back in the day.

While the film is only roughly based on his story, Uncle Karl has enjoyed being a local celebrity, Benda says. And “Superior” has been praised by people in the UP as well as nationally.

Following screenings in nine Michigan cities and locations around the country, the final showing of “Superior” is on Monday, Nov. 9, at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township. Benda says he’s excited to bring his work back home.

“To round it off in my hometown is what I’m most excited about,” Benda says. “This film is very much a labor of love of mine, and it showcases the state I love so much and the kind of world that created me. I went to school in Birmingham, and had a lot of friends and support in local community — it’s part of who I am.”

For more information about Superior and Edd Benda’s other work, visit eddbenda.com/. Tickets to the screening at the Bloomfield Maple Theater can be purchased at themapletheater.com/.

Latest exhibit at Lawrence Street has ‘Some Strings Attached”

Stephanie Sokol for Digital First Media

Alice Frank combined her favorite artistic elements — watercolors, fired enamel on metal and stitching — to create unique pieces in her latest exhibit “Some Strings Attached.”

“These works are my own recipe — I have never seen anything like it,”

One of Frank's works, Willy B. Threadbear.

One of Frank’s works, Willy B. Threadbear.

Frank says. “I tried to experiment and see if I could add all the ingredients I enjoy into my paintings, and I am really pleased with my results.”

With this exhibit, she wanted to make something fun and interesting for both herself and observers. Working on multiple pieces at once, she created her works by firing metal as much as 20 or 30 times to achieve certain colors, then working it together with watercolor and stitching.

In addition, this exhibit also showcases fired enamel tabletop sculptures, and fun projects like her homemade string teddy bears with clever names such as Willy B. Threadbear and Vera Threadbear.

This work is unique artistically, and her goal with it is to bring people happiness.

“When people look at my art, I want them to smile,” Frank says. “I think smiling can never be overdone. I want people to feel that the pieces they’re looking at and viewing are things they want to look at a little more.”

Frank said the works in this collection just came to her. Describing her art as “whimsical,” she says inspiration can be triggered by something simple she notices in everyday life, or from the influence of others.

While teaching in Michigan, New York and New Jersey, as well as at Seoul National University in Korea for a year, she has seen different ways of life by visiting new places, and been exposed to different ideas in the art of her students.

“Going to a new place for travel or work, I’m always looking around to see what’s there,” Frank says. “The colors and the light are different. Depending where I am, I might carry my sketch notebook. It could be the way light is shining on a building, or how some dishes in a cafeteria are lined up in a way that they become shapes in my mind. It’s kind of an abstract, difficult thing to explain. I also get a big kick out of watching kids create.”

For Frank, creating art is rewarding and relaxing. She says time flies when she’s working on a piece.

She tries to create her pieces in a way that makes people take a second look, adding details that will be found when someone is paying attention and really taking in the art.

After 25 years exhibiting at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs and other high-end art shows, fighting the elements of Michigan weather, Frank says she now prefers to take her art to smaller, indoor venues.

Recently, she’s shown at the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield with the Michigan Watercolor Society, at Michigan Fine Arts Competition in Bloomfield Hills and OUR TOWN Art show in Birmingham, to name a few.

She has also put her art on display at other places in six to 10 exhibits a year around Michigan and also making home visits to help people decide on the right painting to purchase.

“Art should be a feeling you have in your mind and heart. It should make you feel good about it, whatever it is,” Frank says. “Whether it’s a funny thing or a serious thing, it has to speak to you. I don’t put anything in my shows that doesn’t speak to me, so when it speaks to other people, that gives me a really good feeling.”

“Some Strings Attached” runs Nov. 4-28 at Lawrence Street Gallery, 22620 Woodward Ave., in Ferndale. The opening reception takes place 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, and the mid-month reception is 6-9 p.m. Nov. 20.