Blog: Scott Paul Dunham

Scott Paul Dunham is a key player in next week's Detroit Windsor International Film Festival (DWIFF) and founding partner of the The Creative Energy Alliance. A prolific networker, Scott makes it his mission to facilitate opportunities for Metro Detroit's creative community.  The TechFair at the College for Creative Studies, co-located with the DWIFF, is a special project that provides free workshops, panels and networking, and promotes Michigan's collective production talent and resources to a world market.

He served on the community advisory board for Detroit Renaissance Foundation, and was a member of their Creative Corridor Branding Initiative.  He consults on a wide range of arts-related entrepreneurial projects and is listed in the Michigan Film Production Guide as a "Creative Concierge!"  Scott has also covered the film and arts community as a freelance writer for Metromode.

Scott has a strong background in video production and formerly owned a marketing and production company.  He formed the SEMAFX Network in 1998 and has spent 15 years on community building by connecting people through monthly events, parties, conferences, picnics and workshops. He was recognized by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) as one of four Michiganders who have shown their dedication to promoting the state and its people.

Scott has also taught many workshops and classes in animation and compositing, and is the founding partner of a new school called the Center for Creative Technologies, to provide a curriculum focused on creative and conceptual thinking.

He lives in Grosse Pointe Park with his wife and two energetic sons.

Scott Paul Dunham - Most Recent Posts:

Scott Paul Dunham - Post 5: A Film Culture

So, after a week of blogging about film and festivals, do you feel like you're part of a new culture?  Do you see the potential of a creative-based economy?  Does the boom in film making give you hope for a future beyond manufacturing?  Hmmmm, maybe just putting on film festivals and workshops isn't enough.  Maybe we need something else.

Obviously, the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival objective is to provide a great time for all.  But our more sneaky agenda is to add a little to our creative culture and community.  By doing that, we help build our creative economy.  How's that?  I know it sounds like a leap.  Let me fill in the gap in that logic…

By holding cultural activities, we add to our experiences, and we inspire people to look at creative careers.  Further, by supporting training and networking, we build a strong network of resources.  So when filmmakers come here, they see a culture that is familiar to them.  They feel comfortable and confident when they see that we know the lingo, the process and the expectations that they've built up in the "Hollywood" factory for 100 years.  By encouraging our film culture, we make Michigan more like home for them.

And I'm not just talking about cameramen, grips and gaffers – but everybody.  For example, if you asked anyone in LA what "craft services" was, they'd know it's where you get your lunch on a set, and not a lesson in scrapbooking!  They see films being shot on every street corner and don't even blink an eye.  They take for granted what we're all getting goofy about, seeing a celebrity in Royal Oak or a grip truck setting up down the street.

A successful film culture means we're all more aware of what filmmakers need to make a successful film.  By learning to "breathe" the culture, we give visiting filmmakers the confidence that we can do everything the folks in LA can do with their eyes closed.

For now, we have to try harder.  Only with perfect practice will we learn to be perfect.  But now is the time to practice.  And that includes everyone in our business world.  People tend to think of the "film industry" as those traditional jobs on a set or in a studio.  I maintain that you and I are ALL in the movie business now!  

After all, haven't you felt like you've been in the automotive business most of your life?  Even if you own a restaurant or a laundromat, your income was derived from customers who earned their money building cars and trucks.

So if you'd like a little of the several hundred million dollars that are coming in with the film projects – if you want a taste, then you, my friend, are in show biz!

So start acting like it.  Learn how to market to the film crews.  Offer new services that you know are commonly needed by a production.  Promote your company at creative events and network with area producers and people who have connections with filmmakers.  

That's what a film culture can do.  It's much more than going to film festivals. It's about learning what is needed to shift our thinking – and our economy, to accommodate our guests and serve them well.   I think that is the something more that we need to consider, as we look for sustainability in the film and entertainment industry that is knocking on our door.

Well, writing this blog was an honor and a privilege.  Thanks to the folks at Issue Media Group and Metromode for allowing me into your office, home, or coffee shop!  I look forward to seeing all of you down at the DWIFF screenings, TechFair, Drive-ins and Gala events!

Scott Paul Dunham - Post 4: You've Got 2 Days

For the second straight year, the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival has featured a 48 Hour Film Challenge as part of its repertoire.  This has come one of our more popular components. When we got rolling last year, I knew the DWIFF needed a film challenge. Not only is it popular as a stand alone event, this was an excellent way to inspire our local filmmaking community.  I asked Shane Sevo to create our contest, since he and his Superhouse film group have participated in and won the National Film Challenge for four years.

Incorporating a film challenge into the DWIFF works on many levels:
First, it fits the festival mission, to promote the "hard working side" of our local film industry and create new opportunities in a creative economy.  What better way than to get a bunch of talented teams out there, actually producing a final product?

A film challenge creates ACTION!  This year, sixteen crews wheeled through the streets of Detroit from June 12 through the 14th.  This is an important by-product of the challenge.  By mobilizing teams to use the city as their locations, we pique the curiosity of the public, we limber up the skills of hundreds of people and we provide real on-the-job experience for lots of new filmmakers.

We also end up with some great shots of Detroit on film!  This is very crucial. Think how exciting it is to see Detroit in a feature film – and how we can parlay that into future business.  While a few out-of-town features have showcased us recently, the challenge instantly added over a dozen new films that feature our city as a "movie set"!  The filmmakers captured parts of our city and helped add to our "filmography".  

Each year, we give all teams a required, common visual element.  This year it was the Wayne County Courthouse.  Already a familiar scene in many features (Hoffa, An Innocent Man, and this year's Betty Ann Waters), the stately Courthouse continues to shine as a popular image in our city.  Many other great Detroit venues will be seen in this year's crop of films – and all of it helps show our potential as a player in this industry.

Our teams this year included beginners, veterans and entire families.  Sixteen teams started – and 13 finished.  Nicole LaDouceur, one of the Challenge Team Leaders, remarked, "The theme this year has to be positive energy. Even though all the teams were obviously wiped out, they all stuck around at the end to applaud the other teams," she said.  "We want to thank the Y Arts and TechTown for hosting the Start and Finish lines, and kudos to the teams who participated. We appreciate all of your hard work!"

The DWIFF is proud to showcase our local talent in a special screening of all 13 completed films.  The screening takes place at WSU, in the Community Arts Auditorium, at 12 noon, Sunday, June 28.  The public is welcome and tickets are just $5, available online at or at the door (cash only).

Scott Paul Dunham - Post 3: Thanks to Our Sponsors

Putting on a film festival for our community means saying Thank You to a whole lot of talented, dedicated people who deserve so much more credit and recognition than can be written out in a blog.  It's just too much.  Beyond our army of great volunteers who put the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival together, we try to recognize those organizations who offer their support, through contributions of cash, products, services and promotion.  It's literally true to say we can’t do this without them.

You need many things to put on a successful event.  Foremost is a great location. Returning this year is our host, Wayne State University, whose great campus is full of perfect venues for holding key events and screening films.  Being partnered with a great educational institution like WSU fits our goals for education and working with young people.

And to further support our education focus, the College for Creative Studies hosts our TechFair for the second year.  The TechFair is what makes the DWIFF unique among festivals, by offering a series of free workshops that cover a wide range of topics and skills.  CCS is an amazing place with a long history of creativity and innovation, making this the perfect location for the TechFair.

The Detroit Public Library Main Branch is a classic building, with great activities year round for the public.  We are proud to offer our "DWIFF for Kids" program there again this year, with films and workshops… all free!

Our location in Wayne County has been a great benefit to the DWIFF.  Mr. Robert Ficano is a strong supporter of this year's festival.  Wayne County believes in our creative culture and our native abundance of talent.  In fact, at the opening reception, Mr. Ficano is expected to present an award to an area musician, Julian Pavone, who will be performing at the reception.  Julian is an accomplished rock drummer who has been featured on such television shows as Martha Stewart, Maury Povich, Oprah (twice) and has been covered by news companies all over the world. Oh, did I mention that Julian is only 5 years old?   

That's another thing you need for a cool and exciting festival – TALENT.  We have a bunch of it –  musicians, artists and of course, filmmakers!  We're excited to offer a selection of Michigan made films in this year's program, including a World Premiere on Saturday of "The Rain", starring Dee Wallace-Stone, Richard Lynch and David Carradine, in one of his last films.

Of course, we also need money. Many companies and individuals have helped the DWIFF, and we're especially grateful to Macprofessionals of Novi and Toronto's IC Technology, who recently opened a new office in Detroit's TechTown.  These companies are the top sponsors of the TechFair.  We are also GREEN this year, thanks to Carbon Credit Environmental Services and Chrysler, who donated the use of four GEM cars for our use.

The last thing we need is YOU.  To come down and take part in the festival.  See some films, attend a workshop, join in a panel discussion- and have a good time!   And for that, we…

…Thank You!

See you at the DWIFF.

Scott Paul Dunham - Post 2: Minting Motion Pictures

When the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival was envisioned, it was long before the Michigan film tax incentives were making an impact on our community.  We knew we had enough raw material and a strong creative legacy to build a world class event. However, there's no doubt that the attention the film incentives have generated has helped to expose the DWIFF and our entire creative community to a larger audience.

At this time in our history, we could use some good news.  The films coming into Michigan are a positive thing.  Crewmembers are getting work.  Actors are acting.  Studios are in development.  In light of our industrial and financial woes, this is encouraging.  Many of us are hopeful that this flurry of activity will inspire new opportunities for jobs and growth.

Now, I'll be frank.  I'm not a business or financial wizard.  I'll leave that to smarter people – or at least those who like that sort of thing!  I'm an artist.  I measure measurables that those wizards either don't see or ignore.   Instead of ROIs and bottom lines, I tend to focus on the smiles on people's faces when they talk about the movie they worked on – or the excitement in their voices when describing being hired as an extra and getting to "hang out" with George Clooney or Hilary Swank.

Now, can these emotional successes be equated to a dollar value?  Probably not in a direct way. But they are indicators.  They are inspiring. Maybe that extra is an entrepreneur who will open a successful store that services the film community.  When you're that person, your measurable may be as simple as being able to feed your family.  Or to work in a job that you truly love.  

The DWIFF isn't trying to fix our economy.  But we are adding our encouragement.  By providing an opportunity for people to get together, share and network, we support an arts and film culture – and by extension, our creative economy.  

This year, the tax incentives and the attention they've brought to Michigan raise the stakes a bit.  While we have their attention, the DWIFF is doing whatever it can to ensure our event and our community make a good impression.  

When we came up with the idea to put the DWIFF on, we always intended it to grow, until it will one day rival the pantheon of festivals around the county – LA, Sundance, Telluride and Tribeca, to name a few.  Detroit isn't a pretender to the throne. We have a proven history as a mover and shaker in the creative fields.  Music, film, design, architecture, fashion and more – we've shown the world we've got it.  And by continuing to encourage our creative community and taking advantage of the increased awareness  and interest in our creative capabilities, the world will realize it once more.

Scott Paul Dunham - Post 1: A Film Fete

The stage is set. The lights are focused.  The show is about to begin…

Final preparations for the Second Annual Detroit Windsor International Film Festival continue, as we count down to the DWIFF, taking place on June 25-28, in locales throughout Midtown – at Wayne State, the College for Creative Studies, the Detroit Public Library and the University of Windsor.  I'll start off with a plug to please come down and enjoy all of our hard work.  It's a great weekend of film, friends and fun.

Friends of mine have suggested I write a book describing my experiences, to help others build their own successful film festivals. Apparently there isn't such a book on the market.  And that surprises me.

There are so many great film festivals around the world – including right here in Detroit.  And you know, almost every single one of them seems to work!  They provide a fun and entertaining event for people to attend.  Filmmakers get to show their stuff, and it seems to be a win-win for almost everyone involved.  If all of the festivals are a success, then it must be easy, right?  Who needs a book if it's a no-brainer?

Well, I know from experience, it's just not that easy – or simple.  As my six year old says, "It's H-A-R-D!"

Putting on a successful Film Festival like the DWIFF requires the resources, determination and guts of a whole army of dedicated people.  So it would be presumptuous for a single author to write the book that claims to give a comprehensive lesson on putting a festival together.

If a book is to be written, it has to include all of the experiences, anecdotes and lessons that were experienced by the hardworking, passionate people who give their time and creative energy to pull off an event like the DWIFF!

If I'm to contemplate writing a book, why not go all the way (and stretch the metaphor) by turning the book into a MOVIE!  After all, putting together a film festival is a lot like making a movie.  You have writers, directors, producers, actors, crew, caterers and a long credit roll of volunteers, sponsors and fans who make it all work.  So, the Second Annual DWIFF is like a sequel.  We've brought back many of the old faces – and have added a whole new cast of characters.  

And just like all of the crews and actors working on film projects around town today, our crew at the DWIFF has prepared for you to come down and watch our production!  We hope you enjoy the show.

Coming Soon: A Behind-the-Scenes View

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