Mission

“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. The festival also 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 Traverse City Film Festival was founded in 2005 by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. He and fellow native Michiganders — producer Rod Birleson, Emmy Award-winning actor Jeff Daniels, Emmy Award-winning actress Christine Lahti and entertainment executive Penny Milliken — serve on the organization’s Board of Directors. Other board members include Oscar-winning director Terry George, Emmy-winning director Larry Charles, Oscar® and Emmy®-nominated producer/director Tia Lessin, Grammy® Award-winning musician Tom Morello, and acclaimed filmmaker Mark Cousins.

Staff in the Office

With a combined 22 years of TCFF experience, Susan Fisher and Meg Weichman have been running the show behind the scenes for years, having had their hands in just about every corner of the festival. Both starting as interns, they are working as a combined force at the helm of this year’s festival. With many different titles throughout the years, Susan now works as Managing Director and Meg as Creative Director. The Yin to each other’s Yangs, Susan has a business degree from MSU while Meg’s background is in film with degrees from NYU and UCLA. Together they bring an unmatched passion for the organization and the community as well as unrivaled operational insight. With a strong team of people supporting them, they very much look forward to making year 14 one of the best yet. They also used to be authors of a bread blog, but don’t ask them about that.

Kendall Kotcher is thrilled to spend her second summer with the fest as their Office Manager this year. She’s a Theatre Educator, Technical Writer, and the TCFF Mime!

Two-time former intern and long-time friend of TCFF, Ivy Hutchison, is happy to be back as Programming Coordinator this year! Ivy comes from an educational background with film degrees from Brigham Young University and University of London, and is a proud slasher film connoisseur.

Daniel Joyaux splits his time between working for film festivals and writing about the film industry. His festival work also includes Sundance, AFI, and Detroit’s Freep Fest, and his writing credits include work for Vanity Fair, The Verge, and MovieMaker Magazine. This is his third year working with the Traverse City Film Festival, and second year serving as Print Traffic Manager for the fest.

Having spent the last three summers as an intern, Aleah Price is excited to be back on staff as the Special Projects Manager. She studies Anthropology and Museum Education at DePaul University, fresh off working at the Art Institute of Chicago, she looks forward to spending the summer in Traverse City!

Hailing originally from England, Alan Nesbit, has been in the US for 36 years and in Traverse City for 28 years. Alan has been in the technology industry for almost 40 years during which his career has encompassed a variety of technology disciplines. He owns and runs a computer company called Netcom Computers that he started 27 years ago. As the TCFF Director of Technology he provides knowledge, hands on experience and counseling with matters related to the IT needs of the TCFF. Alan has been married to his wife Debbie for 35 years and has 3 boys, Christopher, Kevin and Stephen. Alan loves remodeling ,travelling, home automation and just about everything technology related.

Morgan Burke-Beyers, Media Lab & Videography Director

Mike Erway, Graphic Design 

Board of Directors

Founder and President Michael Moore, winner of an Oscar (“Bowling for Columbine”), an Emmy (“TV Nation”), a Palme d’Or at Cannes (“Fahrenheit 9/11″), and the British Book of the Year award (“Stupid White Men”), was the first 18-year-old elected to public office in Michigan. He operated the art-house film series East Village Cinema in his native Flint, Michigan, for eight years. Moore serves as the board president.

Tia Lessin is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker  produced and directed “Trouble the Water” (2008), winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize. With a commitment to social advocacy, Lessin has worked in both television and film and is the recipient ofthe L’Oréal Paris/Women in Film’s Women of Worth Vision Award and the Sidney Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism. Lessin serves as the board vice president.

Rod Birleson is an educator and documentary filmmaker. He earned a degree in secondary education at Eastern Michigan University in 1970 and taught 27 years in Michigan public schools before retiring from teaching in 1997. He began his filmmaking career by being one of the two key field producers for the groundbreaking film, “Roger & Me.” Rod went on to work as a producer on “SICKO” and “Capitalism: A Love Story.” He has been active on the film festival from the start, acting as a moderator, panel member and volunteer for the Traverse City Film Festival. Birleson serves as the board secretary.

Penny Milliken is a voting member of the Television Academy, Traverse City native, former marketing executive at the Walt Disney Company and currently CEO of HeR Interactive Games, developer and publisher of Nancy Drew digital games and apps. Penny brings both a love of the Grand Traverse Region and an accomplished background in digital media, filmed entertainment, theme parks, and e-commerce to the festival board. Milliken serves as the board treasurer.

Larry Charles, a Brooklyn-born writer, director, and producer, directed the largest grossing comedy of 2006, “Borat,” which had its North American premiere in Traverse City at the second annual film festival. “Borat” was named by the American Film Institute as one of the ten best films of 2007. Charles was also one of the original writers of “Seinfeld,” a director of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a writer/producer of HBO’s “Entourage,” and currently writes, produces, and directs for FX’s “The Comedians.”

Mark Cousins, an Irish-born film critic and director, wowed Traverse City audiences in 2012 with “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” his epic 15-hour look at the history of the movies which just won a Peabody Award. He returned to the festival in 2013 with crowd favorites “The First Movie” and “A Story of Children and Film” and received the festival’s Visionary Award. Around the world, Cousins is hailed as one of today’s leading film intellectuals and auteurs

Michigan-native Jeff Daniels is an Emmy Award-winning (“The Newsroom”) and Golden Globe-nominated actor, musician, writer and director. He founded the non-profit theater company, Purple Rose Theatre Company, in his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan and received the first annual Michigan Filmmaker Award at the TCFF in 2006.

Terry George, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing “In the Name of the Father.” His “Hotel Rwanda” received three Oscar nominations. Much of his film work (“The Boxer,” “Some Mother’s Son,” and “In the Name of the Father”) involves Northern Ireland. His storied career as a playwright, screenwriter, director, curator, draftsman, journalist, and magazine researcher has led him to his current place among the upper echelons of dramatic filmmakers.

Christine Lahti is a Michigan-born Emmy Award- and two-time Golden Globe Award-winning actress, and the Academy Award-winning film director of “Lieberman in Love.” She starred in the TCFF fave “Yonkers Joe” and many other films including “Running on Empty,” and is the recipient of the 2007 TCFF Michigan Filmmakers Award. She joined the board in 2008.

Tom Morello is a Grammy Award-winning guitarist noted for his work as a founder and member of the bands Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and The Nightwatchman. He is also the co-founder of the non-profit political activist organization, Axis of Justice, bringing together musicians and fans of music to fight for social justice. His music has appeared in a number of films including “The Matrix,” “Iron Man,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”