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Our State Fair is a genre-bending documentary that takes you on a musical journey through Michigan's Upper Peninsula State Fair.
161 backers pledged $12,431 to help bring this project to life.
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$12,431

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Genre-bending, you say? 

Heads up: Our State Fair is part documentary, part musical, and we mean it when we say it's a wild ride. This feature-length film offers a unique approach to documentary film by reprising a handful of choreographed numbers from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair, made possible through a partnership with community theater group Players de Noc. The fair showcases so much of what the Upper Peninsula has to offer, and the film will do the same, introducing you to the fascinating history of the fair and its people, and the changing landscapes of local and rural economies in an increasingly anonymous and international world.

Playing to win, August 2015.
Playing to win, August 2015.

Our State Fair is rich with the color, sounds, and excitement that have become so special to me as a Yooper (folks from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). I grew up in the UP and I grew up at the fair: as a kid, I brought lambs to auction with the County Line 4-H club. As a teenager, I worked at the Fair selling shaved ice at a stand run by my neighbor and family friend, Mr. Moraski. And now, as a filmmaker, I want to bring my love of the fair and of my people to the screen.  

As an audience member, you embark on a sensory experience of this one-of-a-kind community. We see intimate observations of families at the fair; the love, hard work, and reality checks that go into raising an animal to sell at auction. We witness the effects of life on the road for the carnival workers "on the show." We meet a food vendor serving onion rings from the same spot for thirty years. We meet an entire community dedicated to their craft, their families, and their traditions.  

Ascending together, August 2015
Ascending together, August 2015

Maybe you’re wondering, why should I pledge? 

Real talk: your dollars, normally spent on the honorable task of getting you through the day to day, will get us through August. We need to be at the fair this August, rounding out the observational footage we collected in 2015 and deepening our character relationships. We will also spend our time in Escanaba this summer formalizing partnerships with local organizations and community movers-and-shakers. In order to do that, we need to rent some equipment. We need to pay our crew and get them to the Upper Peninsula. A good portion of this Kickstarter campaign will also go toward laying the groundwork for the musical production in 2016-2017: paying our composer/arranger; local musical director, actors, and musicians; and gaining rights to the five Rodgers & Hammerstein numbers featured in Our State Fair.

Getting there, somehow, some way (thanks Google Maps!)
Getting there, somehow, some way (thanks Google Maps!)

The Summer 2016 crew is made up of me, the director; Nathan Reich, the director of photography; and Brian Crimmins, the supervising sound engineer/recordist. We’re pretty lo-fi: carpooling is the name of the game (don’t worry, it’s less first-class-and-caviar, and more 2005-Jetta-and-slim-jims).

Me and Nathan at the fair, August 2015
Me and Nathan at the fair, August 2015

 

On the road with Producer Chloe and Slim Jim, December 2015
On the road with Producer Chloe and Slim Jim, December 2015

But, why does this movie matter? 

It’s going to be so much more exciting to see for yourself when we’re successfully funded, but I’ll tell you anyway. Our State Fair is a story of local ownership: In early 2009, amidst the widely publicized economic failures of the state and its Motor City, funding was slashed for the state fairs in Michigan. Because the UP State Fair is so critical to the local economy and agricultural community, the fifteen counties of the Upper Peninsula, along with the Hannahville Indian Community, created a local coalition to continue running the fair. By many accounts, it's better than ever. 

This isn’t just a story about the Upper Peninsula, though. The do-it-yourself spirit inherent to Yoopers is beautifully unique and also intensely American, and the film provides an insight into identity, community, and resilience so universal to our collective consciousness. This film takes place as small towns across the country are in the midst of a troubling transition from peaceful sanctuary to communities in crisis. However, the community-led renaissance of the UP State Fair provides a living example of what James Fallows at The Atlantic calls “reweaving [our] national fabric." Our State Fair addresses these shared truths while providing viewers with a lens into an intimate undercurrent of a rarely-discussed community.

August 2015
August 2015

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~EARLY BIRD REWARD!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first 30 people to pledge to the campaign will get a complimentary DrinkUP! Magnet/Opener made by my childhood friend, Brooke Vermullen and her husband Dave! (Estimated delivery: September 2016). Now you can think of the UP any time you enjoy your favorite bottled beverages.

 

Risks and challenges

We're a small and scrappy team. For most of us, this is our first feature-length project and our first attempt at pulling off a production of this financial size. There are so many details to wrangle! So many kittens to herd! We worry constantly about things slipping through the cracks, like losing our sound guy somewhere in the miasma between Pittsburgh and Detroit, or realizing our rewards are so great, we want to keep them all to ourselves.

But seriously: while we're being straight with each other, here's another thing. We want this project to be done with dignity and respect for all of the people who have helped to make it happen. Most importantly, that means all the great people in the Upper Peninsula. That also means you, as a donor. That means the folks who have cleared the way for us to film each year at the fair. That means everyone who has taken the time to host us, feed us, and tell us their stories. That means fair compensation for the crew of this wacky ship (just because you're indie doesn't mean you're free!). These high standards make failing easier, but we're not cozy with that idea, and you shouldn't be either.

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    Pledge US$ 5 or more About US$ 5

    Shout-Outs

    THE IN-CROWD: with $5 and above, you get a #StateFairShoutOut on social media from the director personally, and access to exclusive content.

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    Supporters

    SUPPORTED BY: Your name gets on our "Supported By" page. Plus, all of the above.

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    Tunes

    OUR JAMS: Access to the director's State Fair-inspired Spotify playlist (immediate delivery!), and a digital download of the film. Plus, all of the above.

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    Soundtrack

    THE JAMS: Get a digital copy of the soundtrack (music to your ears)! Plus, all of the above.

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    Midway Memories

    #MIDWAYMEMORIES: Opt in here for an opportunity to appear in the film in a #MidwayMemories interview series, plus a mention in the credits and access to exclusive content. For attendees of the 2016 UP State Fair only. Travel not included.

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    Wall art

    THE POSTER: Get a limited edition of our film poster, featuring the work of local artists. And, all of the above.

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    Food Tour

    THE SNACKS: Come to the 2016 UP State Fair and appear in the film during a Director-curated food tour of the fair! And, the above. For attendees of the 2016 UP State Fair only. Travel not included.

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    Associate Producer

    THE PRODUCERS: Get associate producer credit in the film, and all of the above.

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    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    Dinner Theater

    THE MEAL: Get a dinner made by director Tara Kutz (a really good cook, btw - NYC or UP only). Plus, all of the above (when available).

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    Executive Producers

    THE EXECS: Become an executive producer of the film. And, all the goodies above.

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Funding period

- (30 days)