Keeping it short

By Mary C. Cusack

Michael McCallum unveils two new films Sunday

In March, Detroit´s Uptown Film Festival named local filmmaker Michael McCallum the Michigan Independent Filmmaker of the Year. He has not rested on his laurels.

Having recently completed shooting his next feature film, “Buffalo,” McCallum found time to finish two short films. This leads to an interesting question: Since he has scored numerous awards for his feature films, why does McCallum continue to put precious time and resources into short films? After all, short films are notoriously hard to market and typically yield little financial return.

Anyone who knows McCallum and his work could provide at least a partial answer: McCallum doesn’t make movies to make money — although, of course, that would be nice. He does it for the love of making films and collaborating with his equally driven peers, including editor Jonathan Worful and director of photography A.E. Griffin.

Says McCallum, “It’s a great way to stay fresh creatively, to come up with different characters, different stories.”

As much as shooting shorts feeds McCallum’s fire, so does the premiere party. “It’s a great way to show some work, have a great time and also talk about ‘Buffalo’ and the next project,” he said.

On Sunday “Memento Mori” and “Small Town Fireworks” will be unveiled. While both films are about the failure of relationships, the tones contrast wildly.

“Memento” is a tiny slice of life, with a slight plot and no backstory. A man simply comes home early from to work to find his ex-girlfriend in his apartment, picking up the last of her things. The eight minutes of almost real-time are just enough to highlight the extreme tension of this experience.

As with McCallum’s past works, the strength of the films comes from the production values and the attention to detail. “Memento” has no soundtrack, making the silences between the nameless couple (Cody Masalkoski and Christine Therrian) that much more uncomfortable. Heartbreaking moments speak volumes about the nature of men and women, like the woman still picking up after the man, and the man saying something significant and meaningful that, in just two words, isn’t enough to win her back.

“Fireworks” focuses on a relationship that needs to die. In the opening scene, Ally (Kayla Dewitt) meets boyfriend Allen (McCallum) in a bar and immediately picks on everything from his clothes to his weight. The day gets worse, as the couple strolls around town and meets all of her ex-boyfriends, each one more goofy or grope-y than the last.

The performances are outstanding. Dewitt, playing against character, is an all-out bitch whose every line is jaw-dropping in its nastiness. Every bitter, nasty statement that she makes is jaw-dropping. If her words aren’t enough, she completes the evisceration with a simple cock of her head.

Musician Sam Corbin is hysterically funny as ex-boyfriend and crooner Cam. When he sees Ally in the Record Lounge, he immediately serenades her with a song to win her back, while Allen looks on with helpless incredulity. Corbin will be playing at the premiere; it is only fitting that he will premiere the unedited version of his song.

‘Memento Mori’ and ´Small Town Fireworks´

Presented by Rebel Pictures, UnSAFE Film Office and Vernacular Films

7 p.m. Sunday, June 24

Kelly’s Downtown, 220 S. Washington Square, Lansing


(517) 708-2007