Lights! Camera! Action! Outdoor movies coming to Midland Street in August

Traditional movie theaters may be closed, but independent films are coming to an outdoor theater in Bay City this summer.

For a second year, the Great Lakes State Film Festival and Westown Theater are teaming up to bring dozens of original independent films to Bay City. The films, produced by filmmakers from around the globe, will be shown outdoors beginning Aug. 9 with limited seating. Social distancing and mask requirements will be followed during the screenings.

Rebecca Calhoun, Program Coordinator and CEO of exStreamability LLC, says plans are to show several feature-length films as well as compilations of short films on Sunday evenings through mid- to late September. Festival organizers are still selecting films for the series.

Great Lakes State Film Festival also is holding its second annual 72-hour filmmaking challenge beginning Aug. 9. Filmmakers who enter the annual challenge this year will be given a common theme at the beginning of the contest and asked to produce a complete film just 72 hours later. The competition draws both seasoned film producers and amateurs trying to break into the industry.

Last year, filmmakers entered from all over the world including a few from Michigan. Calhoun hopes to have at least one Michigan team come to Bay City to talk to audiences. “We’ll have a livestream of one of the filmmakers giving a Q&A, and hopefully we will be able to get a couple of filmmakers in town for live events also,” she says, but because of restrictions around COVID-19, that may not be possible this year.

More information is available on the organization's website.

If COVID-19 makes people hesitant to come to the festival near Midland Street in person, Calhoun says there’s an app available to stream the films at home. The free version allows access to Q&A sessions and movie trailers. The paid app allows viewers to watch all the films and vote for the Best Film of 2020.

Festival tickets for August and September can be purchased through the website for $10 each. Calhoun says organizers will check in with local officials and weather forecasts to update the website as the event nears. The movies will be shown near the Westown Theater, 611 E. Midland St., and Lucky’s Pub, 615 E. Midland St.

Calhoun says after months of COVID-19 restrictions, people are ready to have some semblance of normalcy for a few hours. “So, there will be something for everyone,” Calhoun says. “It’s basically going to be a couple hours of fun.”