Yes, locally-made movies can have a Hollywood feel

(This is a story mainly for people in the Lansing, Mich., area, relating to film screenings on July 16 and 30. If you're not near Lansing ... well, there are TV stories below, with more on the way.)

By Mike Hughes

This once seemed
semi-impossible – a Hollywood-looking movie on a Michigan budget.

But in a two-week
stretch (Sunday and July 30), two films have Lansing screenings. You
can credit improved technology, plus:

-- Good sites, odd
hours: Walking to work in Detroit, David Tappan goes past the Fisher
Building; then he actually saw its elegant lobby. “I thought, 'This
is perfect.'”

Filming “Chocolate
and Cigarettes” there meant starting at 8 p.m. and ending at
sunrise. “Confidence of a Tall Man” had opposite hours: Set at
Zoobie's, an Old Town bar, it shot from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

-- Keep it short:
“Chocolate” is 15 minutes, “Confidence” is 31.

-- Use Michael
McCallum: He's the “Chocolate” star and the “Confidence”
director. “He's kind of an actor's director,” said Johnny
DeMarco, that film's star.

-- Add outsiders:
“Chocolate” co-stars Jenna Sofia from New York and Alora Smith, a
Detroit-area actress who moved West. For a Skype try-out, she was in
Hollywood and McCallum was in a Lansing bar. “It's not the ideal
audition scenario,” Tappan granted.

-- Show range:
McCallum plays tough guys in many films, including “Confidence”;
now “Chocolate” has him floundering in love. “I've had my
troubles with romance,” he said. “I had a deep pool of experience
to draw from.”

-- Elegance helps.
“Confidence” opens with a gorgeous saxophone solo from Gary
Clavette; “Chocolate” -- seeking a Federico Fellini feel – even
has two ballroom dancers.

-- Have a story.
“Chocolate” is bittersweet; “Confidence” borrows DeMarco's
bar-manager memories.

-- Audacity helps.
DeMarco is the guy who, new to acting, travelled to New York to seek
a “Sopranos” role; he was rejected, but encouraged. Tappan, 24,
moved from California to join Detroit's emerging film community. “My
friends thought I was crazy,” he said. Now he has a movie.

Movie parties

-- “Chocolate and
Cigarettes,” doors open 8 p.m. Sunday, UrbanBeat Event Center, 1213
Turner St., $5 cover charge. Film at 9 p.m.; music by Jeff Shoup jazz

-- “Confidence of
a Tall Man,” doors open 8 p.m. July 30, Tavern and Tap, 101 S.
Washington Ave., $10 cover charge; includes music by two of the
people – Alex Mendenall of Lansing, Jim Shaneberger of Grand Rapids
– on the film's soundtrack.

-- Both are the
first public showings of the films, made in Detroit and Lansing,
respectively. Many of the actors will be there. “Confidence” has
DVD's and CD's for sale; “Chocolate” has posters.