“The Traverse City Film Festival is committed to showing ‘Just Great Movies’ and helping to save one of America’s few indigenous art forms- the cinema. We are committed to showing great movies that both entertain and enlighten the audience. We need movies that seek to enrich the human spirit and the art of filmmaking, not the bottom line. Our goal is for people to leave the theater with the feeling that they just watched something special.” Michael Moore, President and Founder
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The Traverse City Film Festival is a charitable, educational, nonprofit organization committed to the idea that “One Great Movie Can Change You: Just Great Movies” and to helping save one of America’s few indigenous art forms — the cinema. The festival brings films and filmmakers from around the world to Northern Michigan for the annual film festival in late July to early August.
The festival also presents classic movies free of charge on a giant, inflatable outdoor screen overlooking Grand Traverse Bay in the Open Space at dusk. Free panel discussions with directors, writers, actors, and other members of the film industry are offered daily. And an affordable film school runs throughout the festival, offering twice daily classes for film students and film lovers.
It was instrumental in renovating a shuttered historic downtown movie house, the State Theatre, which it continues to own and operate as a year-round, community-based, and volunteer-staffed art house movie theater. Just this past year, the festival renovated the historic Con Foster Museum building in Clinch Park and turned it into a sister screen for the State Theatre, the Bijou by the Bay.
The festival was founded by Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore who makes his home here, runs the festival, and serves as president of the board of directors. Other board members are filmmakers Rod Birleson (producer, “Capitalism: A Love Story”), Larry Charles (director, “Borat”), Terry George (director, “Hotel Rwanda”), Jeff Daniels (actor, “The Newsroom”), Tom Morello (musician, Rage Against the Machine), Christine Lahti (actor, “Running on Empty”), Mark Cousins (director, “The Story of Film: An Odyssey”), Tia Lessin (director, “Trouble the Water”), as well as Traverse City residents photographer John Robert Williams and Walt Disney Co. marketing executive Penny Milliken.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Traverse City Film Festival is organized exclusively for charitable educational purposes. The festival strives to further the indigenous American art of cinema by bringing great movies and film education opportunities to northern Michigan. Each year the festival donates the films shown during the festival to public libraries in the area so that everyone can see the festival’s great movies for free. Inter-library loan programs expand the reach of the DVDs beyond the recipient libraries, and additional area libraries have provided funding for the purchase of sets of DVDs for their patrons. We hope to grow the program whenever funding or private donors allow so that the festival films will be available for free to as many people as possible. You can view a list of the libraries here.
What are the dates of the upcoming festivals? The 2015 festival will be held July 28-August 2. Tentative future dates are: July 26-31, 2016.
What are some highlights from the 2013 festival? The 2013 six-day cinema celebration founded and run by filmmaker Michael Moore logged 119,000 admissions, an increase of 28,000 over last year. Festival wide, over 85 percent of available tickets were sold to 188 screenings, of which 123 were sold out! There was a 40% increase in sponsorship support. 2013 also marked the debut of the our newest year-round venue and sister screen to the State Theatre, the Bijou by the Bay. The festival featured appearances by the acclaimed British director Michael Apted; Broadway star and Emmy Award winner Elaine Stritch; our honoree for the Michigan Filmmaker Award Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “Freaks and Geeks) and a special screening of his latest Hollywood hit, “The Heat;” and up-and-comers Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij, and Lianna Liberato. One of the biggest hits was “Inequality for All” with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in person. Over 90 filmmakers and industry guests attended with their films. Across 10 different venues, the festival presented 102 feature films, 52 shorts in seven programs, 10 film school sessions, 10 cinema salon outdoor movie discussions, seven free industry panels, seven parties and even a podcast with comedian Doug Benson.
Where is Traverse City? Traverse City is located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula in the resort region on Grand Traverse Bay.
How do I submit a film? The Traverse City Film Festival is by invitation only, but we’d love to see your films and suggestions. Filmmakers may submit their films unofficially and they will be passed on to the programmer. There is no submission form or fee, and also no feedback mechanism — we cannot guarantee that your film will be viewed. Filmmakers may email a link to a high quality online version of films to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a Blu-ray or DVD copy to TCFF Submissions, PO Box 4064, Traverse City MI 49685. Screeners cannot be returned.
I’d like to help. How can I get involved? Volunteers are the foundation of the Traverse City Film Festival. Sign up online now by filling out an application for the festival. Leadership positions are available.
How can I stay informed about the festival all year round? Patrons can sign up to receive festival news alerts by email. Sign up via the form on our homepage.
Where are the festival movies shown? The festival screens movies in downtown Traverse City at eight venues: State Theatre, Old Town Playhouse, Lars Hockstad Auditorium, City Opera House, Milliken Auditorium, Bijou by the Bay, Dutmers Theater and the Open Space Park on the waterfront.
How can I learn more about filmmaking? The Traverse City Film Festival features a film school, with classes held Wednesday through Saturday, twice daily. Classes, held at Scholars Hall at Northwestern Michigan College, are taught by industry experts.
Are there any free movies at the festival? Each night of the festival, classic films are shown on the waterfront in the city’s Open Space Park on a giant inflatable screen. No admission is charged. Seating is general admission, so be sure to bring chairs and blankets. For the first time this year, free films will also be shown at select times in some of our indoor venues. For more information about how to attend the festival on a budget, click here.
How is the festival financially supported? The festival is funded by local and national businesses, community groups and individuals. Sponsors are needed for each theater, film, filmmaker, and event. If you would like to contribute, please contact us at (231) 392-1134. The Traverse City Film Festival is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with tax-exempt status.
Who created the festival? The Traverse City Film Festival was founded by Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore in collaboration with photographer John Robert Williams and author Doug Stanton. Festival board members include filmmakers Larry Charles (“Borat”), Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”), Sabina Guzzanti (“Viva Zapatero!”), actress Christine Lahti (“Lieberman in Love”), producer Rod Birleson (“Capitalism: A Love Story”) and co-founder John Robert Williams.
If I have more questions, how can I contact someone at the festival? We can be reached by phone at the festival office at 231-392-1134, via email at email@example.com or via mail at: PO Box 4064, Traverse City, MI 49685.
Are there any year-round festival activities? The Traverse City Film Festival operates two year-round movie houses, the historic State Theatre, and the Bijou by Bay, in downtown Traverse City. Visit the TCFF Theaters website for complete information.
FESTIVAL BY THE NUMBERS
The 2014 festival – 10th Anniversary
- 130,000 admissions
- 82% of available tickets sold to 250 screenings, of which 170 were sold out
- 128 features, 85 shorts across 12 venues
- 160 industry guests
- 1,600 Volunteers, 500 Volunteer Managers
- 100 festival musicians
- Mid-Life Achievement Award – Barbara Kopple
- Movie Around the World
- The Buzz and Movies on a Boat added as Venues
- “Best of” Open Space
The 2013 festival
- 119,000 admissions
- 85% of available tickets sold to 188 screenings, of which 123 were sold out
- 102 features, 52 shorts across ten venues
- 150 industry guests
- 1,500 Volunteers, 250 Volunteer Managers
- 80 festival musicians
- MI Filmmaker Award – Paul Feig
- Bijou by the Bay added as a Venue
- “Compliments of the Festival” Free Screenings
- Closing Night Bash in Open Space
- Academy-qualifying status for Best Documentary Short winner
The 2012 festival
- 91,000 admissions
- 93 features, 117 shorts from every continent but Antarctica
- 167 industry guests
- MI Filmmaker Award – Winsor McCay
The 2011 festival
- 128,000 admissions
- 156 screenings
- 147 films (88 features and 59 shorts) from every continent but Antarctica
- 130 industry guests
- Dutmers Theater for experimental film added
- Renovation of Lars Hockstad Auditorium
- First year of Kids Fest on the lawn outside Lars Hockstad Auditorium
- MI Filmmaker Award – Sue Marx
The 2010 festival
- 106,000 admissions
- 80 films and 40 shorts from over 25 countries at 135 screenings
- Second annual film school, doubled in size
- Five free panel discussions and six outdoor movies
- 70 industry guests
- MI Filmmaker Award – John Hughes
The 2009 festival
- 96,000 admissions
- 71 films and 50 shorts from over 30 countries at 123 screenings
- New film school, new kids fest
- Five free panel discussions and outdoor movies
- 65 film industry guests
- MI Filmmaker Award – Rich Brauer
The 2008 festival
- 80,000 admissions
- 71 films at 108 screenings
- Three student workshops and students shorts
- Five free panel discussions and outdoor movies
- 50 film industry guests
- A new 400-seat venue
- MI Filmmaker Award – Kurt Luedtke
The 2007 festival
- 80,000 admissions
- Six days long
- 66 films at 98 screenings
- Two student workshops and short films by student filmmakers
- Five free panel discussions
- 30 film industry guests
- A new 900-seat venue
- MI Filmmaker Award – Chirstine Lahti
The 2006 festival
- 70,000 admissions
- Seven days long
- 67 films at 95 screenings
- A student workshop and short films by student filmmakers
- Six free panel discussions
- 40 film industry guests
- MI Filmmaker Award – Jeff Daniels
2005 inaugural festival
- 50,000 admissions
- Five days long
- Planned in a two-month span
- 31 films at 52 screenings
- Four free panel discussions
- 10 film industry guests