Capital City Film Festival; A Lansing Inspired Highlight


For years, filmmakers have wowed audiences at festivals like South by Southwest, Cannes and Sundance. Last month, Lansing had its own taste of festival life, hosting the Capital City Film Festival for the fifth year in a row. For four days, the city was overtaken by all kinds of creative work, featuring dozens of short films, feature length movies, musical acts and multimedia. Hosted at eight different venues spread throughout the entire city, the festival provides the perfect local creative outlet for many up and coming directors, actors, musicians and more. “It just started as a conversation with a group of friends. We thought, ‘what if we bring a film festival to Lansing?’” said Nicole Szymczak, a co-founder of the festival. ”We knew there was one in East Lansing, so we wanted to do something that was opposite and something that incorporated a little more of the music and multimedia aspect. From that, we got a lot of great people who really wanted to come together and make it work.” Having now successfully completed its fifth year running, the festival has grown into something greater than just a local event. “We’ve gotten a lot of grant support on a regional level that we really didn’t expect so much of, but that we definitely always knew we needed,” said Szymczak. “It was a labor of love that started five years ago and we’re really excited that it’s lasted so long and [is] really just gaining momentum. I think the film festival brings a new form of appreciation to a great art [and] festivals in general.” Scymczak also said that while they love the recognition and growth they’ve seen over the past five years, the best part is the opportunity to showcase local talent. “Our inspiration [for the festival] of course is SXSW (South by Southwest) and that’s something to live up to,” said Szymczak. “I don’t think there’s going to be just one thing we really want to focus on. That’s the cool thing about it; you don’t get pigeonholed into just being one thing. If we did bring in big names, we would miss out on our opportunity to highlight the up and coming acts. So really, it kind of defeats the point. We want to keep this experimentation with film and music alive.” One of the biggest highlights of the festival is the Fortnight Film and Game Contest, which features short films and (for the first time this year) video games. The contest included $5,000 in total prizes for the top three winners, along with the audience choice award (determined by decibel meter from the audience). The teams participating in the film contest had only two weeks to shoot, edit and submit their film to a panel of judges who decided the top 12 entries (selected to be screened for audience viewing) and the prizewinners. “The big thing [about the Fortnight Contest] is that it’s a huge reward, it’s a much larger reward than you would get from Detroit or Grand Rapids,” said Szymczak. “We are really appreciating these filmmakers that are taking these two weeks to craft these films. It’s fun, you know; they can get not only shown in a big theater in front of hundreds of people but also some serious money for it. I think it’s really exclusive and a cool opportunity to not only showcase all of this artwork, but inspire it as well.” While comedies tend to win favor in the Fortnight Contest (generally due to the time frame of the project), a dramatic piece called All the Wonderful Things submitted by Sensory Media placed third this year, proving that short films can be just as provocative as full-length feature movies. Written and directed by Shon Allen, founder of Sensory Media, All the Wonderful Things centers on a character that has suffered a detrimental loss and is now contemplating what there is to live for after. With the cast consisting of just two actors, Ryan Cavanaugh (Connor) and Tracy Austin (Stellen), the film brings a level of emotion that’s incredibly powerful for something that’s less than seven minutes long. “It’s either a hit-or-miss with a drama,” said Cavanaugh. “You either nail it or you don’t. Lucky for me, this crew of guys was some of the coolest people I’ve ever worked with. And with (Shon), he was able to depict exactly what he wanted every step of the project. It’s really great to work with people that are so talented in that way.” All the Wonderful Things can be viewed in its entirety at Sensory Media’s YouTube page ( For more information about the Capital City Film Festival, visit

Tags: Capital City Film Festival, film making, lansing

Kalynne McIntyre

Kalynne McIntyre is the Digital Branding Specialist at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. She loves action movies, puppies and all things Italian.

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