“If you are concentrating on what your plan B is, you’ve already given up on plan A”
I’ve met a few famous people throughout my life; Steve Vai, Bobby Labonte, Jennifer Granholm. Recently the author of the Pout Pout Fish, Debra Diesen commented on my Facebook page after I included a mention of her book in my blog. Today I had the opportunity to walk with a local celebrity, Michael McCallum. I’ve known Mike for about five years through my brother-in-law John O’Meara. I often find him among the crowd at birthdays or other activities John and his wife Karyn are hosting. John and Mike both attended LCC at the same time and worked together on the production of “The Grapes of Wrath”; John was lead actor and Mike was assistant director. They also worked together at Falsetta’s for the two years John was there. Michael continues to work there as a server. That is his day job, which he keeps to support his passion. As a child Michael remembers his parents often hosting parties at his house. The adults would come in and play cards or board games and Mike would entertain them. He would do imitations and skits and when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his reply was always, “I want to be an actor”. Michael not only acts he also writes, directs and produces films almost exclusively in Lansing, Michigan.
We started our City Saunter today at Fairview St. the namesake of his first feature length film. We met up at an empty church parking lot on the corner of Oakland and Fairview. After a hug and a couple of photos we took off at a brisk pace and the questions began immediately. “So this project you’re doing, to walk all the streets in Lansing, how did you come up with the idea?” The writer of published books, the producer of multiple, award winning films wanted to know about my project? He had such a sincere interest in my story. He got it, the need and desire to delve into the folds of Lansing and draw out its pure essence in some art form. As we passed Fairview School he politely points at the school and tells me he went there as a child, having grown up on Francis St. He continues to have contact with the teachers he had while there, even inviting them to his film viewings. After passing the school he quickly reestablishes the conversation where I had left off. It was interesting to me that we both had similar reasons for committing ourselves to Lansing. We had both come to the realization that Lansing was home and a place of great opportunity. We were both born at Sparrow Hospital, grew up in Lansing and now living here as adults. We both agreed Lansing had something about it, something we couldn’t name, that keeps people from leaving or brings those back who have left. He has found a huge advantage with his choice to stay in his hometown, knowing his surroundings well and the people and places within the area. It makes it easier to establish connections that help him with each of his films. Those that are eager join his adventure do so not because of the riches and fame they might receive but because they share in his drive and ambition to make a great product. Many of these people offer up their talents and their businesses to move his projects forward. As we come to the end of Fairview and turn onto Michigan Ave. we literally walk right into one of his filming “studios”; Rubie’s Paradise, Everybody Reads, Gone Wired Cafe. He had used all of them at some point in his films. With three feature films and multiple short films he has used quite a few local businesses in Lansing. The set on Michigan Ave. was only a small chunk of his filming locations. He likes that in Lansing a different environment can be created just by filming in different locations around town. That is fortunate for Michael since his films all take on unique qualities, characters and genres. It is even more fortunate for Lansing area residents to have such a creative force strategically positioned in the heart of Old Town, where he resides.
Sometimes as a child you think you can fly. You tie a red towel around your neck, throw open the second story window, climb to the ledge and prepare for flight. If Michael’s childhood experiment had ended with tragedy we never would have experienced the joy of watching him, as an adult, reach for the stars.
On April 14-April 17 Lansing is showcasing its first ever Capital City Film Festival. Michael’s production company Rebel Pictures will be a part of this great event with a viewing of the third installment of “Waiter from Hell”. Tickets are available online.