Unity Studios (Unity) announced the production of “War Flowers,” its first feature length film. The Civil War-era family drama, produced and financed by Unity and directed by veteran filmmaker Serge Rodnunsky is being filmed on the studios’ sound stages and at select off-site locations around southeast Michigan. “War Flowers” all-star cast was partially packaged by ICM and includes Christina Ricci (The Addams Family, Penelope), Jason Gedrick (Backdraft), Tom Berenger (Platoon, Major League) and introducing Gabrielle Popa.

“When I founded Unity Studios and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills (LIMS) my goal was two-fold: to bring a new industry to my home state and to put people to work,” said Unity Studios president Jimmy Lifton. “This movie is the embodiment of those goals because it is being crafted entirely in Michigan, and 55 LIMS’ graduates have been hired to put the skills they’ve learned to use as members of the crew.”

“War Flowers,” features a heartfelt family-focused storyline about Sarabeth (Ricci), a young mother whose husband has left her and her daughter to fight for the South in the Civil War. It follows the havoc and hardships the war creates for Sarabeth and her daughter, and explores their hopes, faith and belief that the man they love will return. All the while, they must decide the fate of a Yankee soldier (Gedrick) who enters their life. The movie also features impressive battle sequences and Civil War re-enactments.

The project, produced by Lifton, is in collaboration with Trivision Pictures and Interlight Entertainment.  Distribution demand for “War Flowers” has fast tracked delivery in time for the Fall Markets.

Unity Studios and LIMS recently announced that more than half of the LIMS inaugural class, which began in October 2009, reported finding work on at least one film, TV or music video production within 90 days of their January 2010 graduation. LIMS’ second class graduated on June 21 and its third class begins this August.

The American Beauty Mural Unveiled

Artist Halima Cassells explains the message behind  “American Beauty”  a public art mural project commissioned by TechTown and Wayne State University, with support from the University Cultural Center Association.  Working with 31 Detroit children ages 6 to 19, Cassell  and seven other artists  from the Detroit Mural Factory have turned a  faded architectural gem into a community focal point once more.  Here’s a look at her vision of the project. ~Nichole Christian

“As a returning native-Detroiter, I am encouraged by the amount of opportunity and talent that abounds in our city.  This mural project serves to show how transformative public art can be for a space, as well as how art brings people and community together. Through collaborative vision and work we at the Detroit Mural Factory were able to turn an eyesore into a focal point; wrapping a block-long blighted building with a vivid modular mural in three weeks.  The American Beauty | Detroit Mural depicts our past, present, and future in terms of our legacy of rich culture and industry.  The motif of light is used throughout to represent Detroit as a seat of ingenuity, and a symbol for our resilience.

The Woodward Avenue view pays homage to the unique history of people and industry in the New Amsterdam area, and marks a tipping point towards the new green industry now blossoming in this place.
The Burroughs portion depicts our ingenuity and forward movement toward green technology and industry and urban agriculture.  The large wooden, student-painted butterflies symbolize our spiritual and industrial metamorphosis and demonstrate artistic collaboration, as they are part of artist Chazz Miller’s 2010 Papillon Effect Project.

The Cass Avenue view shows a snapshot of the future,  surrounded by flourishing clean technology, while being cradled by the Spirit of Detroit.

It is our belief that art becomes more powerful as the number of hands that participate in the creation increases.  It is our hope that more Detroiters will view boarded buildings as canvases and create art for community across Detroit.”

The Spirit of Detroit
Autumn Wolfer

I have to first start out by saying that I’ve been writing this post for about a month now. It was extremely important to me that this particular post turn out JUST RIGHT, because it really does mean that much to me. Most of you also know my inherent ability to be extremely hard on myself to the point where I doubt this post will live up to my own expectations for what I had planned, but here goes. My only hope is that you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Not too long ago, I was asked why I always post stories and videos about Detroit on my Facebook page. I think the most obvious of the many reasons I do is the fact that I, along with my entire extended family, was born and raised in the city and a majority of them still live in the area.  And while I’ve lived in Chicago for almost nine and a half years now, I still like to keep up on what’s going on at “home.”  

Both of my parents, as well as all of my aunts and uncles were born and raised in the City of Detroit.  East side.  The Wolfer’s in the “house on Runyon” and the Lehman’s in “the house on Rochelle.”  I, too, spent the first year and a half of my own life in the house on Runyon; the house on Rochelle, I’ve heard, is no longer standing.  Both were blue collar families.  My Grandpa Wolfer, as many of you know, drove a Wonder Bread truck, while my Grandma worked as a nurse’s aid at Holy Cross Hospital, where my brothers and I were all born. Until the day she died, my Grandma would constantly be telling me stories of how the nurses at the hospital would always ask, “How’s Autumn?” remembering me as “Mary’s granddaughter” because of my unique name. Caring like a second family. My Grandpa Wally (Lehman) worked for the city, servicing the city’s landscapes and trees on its streets and in its parks, while my Grandma Rosie worked at home, raising their five children – all of them products of Detroit Public Schools.

And it wasn’t just my “family.”  I’ve watched several home videos of my parents growing up – playing with the neighbor kids, learning to ride bikes on Runyon and Rochelle.  Stories from my father about his childhood friend – known to me as “Uncle Jimmy” – and the mischief they caused.  Family names like the Kuhn’s, the Armstrong’s, the Finkbeiner’s, and the Tarte’s – I can’t remember faces, but know from stories that all of these “names” made up a big part of my parent’s extended families.

Their Detroit family.  A family that shocked even my father this past February at my grandmother’s funeral, when news literally spread like wildfire of her passing.  Deciding to have only one viewing day, since we didn’t think many people would come, when instead they came in droves.  All the “kids” from the old neighborhood coming to say goodbye to “Mrs. Wolfer,” some even crying as if it were their own mother’s passing despite the fact, to quote my father, “I haven’t seen him since we were kids.”  While no longer in touch, that spirit of family, of their times growing up in Detroit, was still alive. And to quote one of my favorite authors, also a Detroiter, Mitch Albom, in one of my favorite articles that he’s ever written, it was a reminder that it was “Family.  We’re all in this together.”

And THAT is the Spirit of Detroit.

A couple of weeks ago, Time Magazine dedicated a series of stories to the City of Detroit. The cover of which contained the headline, “The Tragedy of Detroit” complete with an online photo show blasting the title, “The Remains of Detroit.”  A dead city.  A calamity.  The heart of the city: broken.  And while the articles painted a picture of despair, of the physical destructions of the city, what they also spoke to is what I know will 100% make this great city even greater once again – the heart of its people.  The pride. The “spirit.”  It’s unfounded.  I can’t explain it.  While it’s been well over a decade since the last time I lived full-time in the Detroit metropolitan area, I felt it last April when I saw all my friends posting pictures of their trips downtown to cheer on the Spartans during the Final Four. Vibrance. I felt it again, when my brother, who has been unemployed, like a lot of people in Detroit and Michigan for quite sometime now, was accepted into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Detroit.  Elation.  I felt it again recently while watching a video of the remains of old Tiger’s Stadium being demolished. Memories. Progress. And most recently, I felt that spirit again, alone in my own apartment, while watching the Tigers lose to the Minnesota Twins in one of the most adrenalin-filled, heartbreaking losses I’ve ever witnessed. Intensity. Only proving that although you can take the girl out of Detroit, you can never take the Detroit out of the girl – it is a part of me.  It lives inside of me.  So much so, that to echo what I said in the first paragraph about this post not living up to my own expectations, I simply cannot find the words to express it.  It’s a strength, a courage, and sorry for reusing this word so many times, but a spirit that cannot be mimicked.

Detroit IS and always has been a great and special city. We’re a little down on our luck right now, but the foundation is still there.  A foundation that my Grandpa Wally planted its parks and on its streets, a foundation that’s built on strength and perseverance.  Knock us down?  Not a chance.

And one thing is for sure: As many articles as I read written by “visitors” to Detroit that call the city “dead” or “dying.” As many news stories that I hear about unemployment rates, or the numbers of foreclosed and vacant homes and businesses I see when I return. One thing is constant – that spirit. The pride for a “dying” city. That sense of we really are all in this together. Fighting, crying, hoping, and working… together. I still feel it – and I haven’t lived, full time, near Detroit since I was in my teens. It’s alive in streets named Gratiot, Woodward, 8 Mile and Trumbull. It’s alive through names like Tiger Stadium, Joe Louis, the People Mover, Trapper’s Alley and Greektown, some replaced now by the bright lights of the casinos, Comerica Park and Ford Field – lights that I’m proud to say were wired an installed by my Uncle Dale and his brothers from the IBEW at Motor City Electric – the same union that my own brother now belongs to, and the same company my brother now works for.  

So, you see. The Spirit of Detroit is far more than just a statue on Woodward Avenue. The true Spirit of Detroit is in the hearts of all those the city has touched, and who have been touched by the city. My grandfathers and their fathers, my parents, and their siblings and mine. And someday my children and grandchildren.  I’m not going to pretend that I know where life is going to take me. Whether I stay in Chicago, or one day move back “home.” But I do know that regardless of my permanent address, I will take my children to Comerica Park and Ford Field. To Belle Isle and for “rides” on the People Mover. They’ll wear Honolulu Blue and Silver, and hats with an Olde English D. And they’ll learn that the only thing that matters in life is heart and spirit. And it’s because of this, that I truly believe the pulse that beats through the empty, but not forgotten streets of Detroit, will be “alive” once again.

All my love forever to the D!
Sam Logan Khaleghi
Special to The Oakland Press

Sitting in a makeup chair, a young girl looks up yawning, before laughing and then immediately apologizing.

“I’m sorry, I’m just so tired, we were filming pretty late yesterday,” she says. “Call time yesterday originally was 5 o’clock, and for some reason the camera broke, and I was like ‘I’m sleeping.’”

The girl is 14-year-old Alora Catherine Smith, a Bloomfield Hills resident.

Alora is preparing to attend Andover High School in the fall, having already worked with an Oscar-nominated director.

Rob Reiner (“A Few Good Men”) auditioned Alora last autumn after surveying a plethora of potentials for the role of Melanie Humes for his upcoming feature film “Flipped.”

The film is a drama based on the book of the same title from author Wendelin Van Draanen.

Although Alora didn’t only read for that specific part, she says she was excited when her agent arranged the auditions and that she was, “ecstatic when I got to go in and meet Rob Reiner during the callbacks at their offices in Ann Arbor.”

When she heard the news that she had landed the role, it became an echo all around her.

She goes on to explain that the news that she got the part was soon shuffling through the locker rooms and hallways at her junior high school as she informed all her friends who wanted to know all the details about the film.

“Everyone asked me a lot of questions, but I didn’t know anything yet,” she recalls.

Alora was not familiar at first with the classic résumé of her new boss, which includes such films as 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” though she was well aware of the reputation of the writer, director and producer.

Alora admits, “I saw Rob Reiner actually for the first time as an actor on Disney’s ‘Hannah Montana,’ which is how I knew about him.”

Sitting in the green room in a Grand Blanc mansion awaiting the assistant director to call her to the set of a promotional piece for an upcoming horror film, she fidgets with the rubber animal wristbands that are covering her right arm and pulls one off to display.

The bracelets that have been a cause of much trouble in grade schools across the country are one of her favorite wardrobe pieces that she gets to keep after filming is complete.

Though not allowed to say much about this other project because of confidentiality agreements, Alora assures that the project is fun and scary, with a plotline that revolves around a babysitter who is hired to take care of a young boy inside what is revealed to be a haunted house of sorts.

Who or what is doing the haunting?

She pauses for a moment to take into consideration how much she can reveal as she lifts her head to look at her mother, Julie Smith, for confirmation.

Alora says that her mother is her talent manager and therefore needs to talk with her before conceding story details.

From Motown to Hollywood

As the manager, Julie organizes Alora’s trips to Los Angeles.

Alora and her mother are back and forth like a game of tennis with the details of her first trip to Hollywood.

Julie and her husband Clay Smith are also artists and both are graduates of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Julie works as a freelance graphic designer alongside her husband who teaches industrial design at their alma mater. Alora’s father also contracts out as a production designer for film.

Alora says she feels proud of her parents’ efforts and is thankful for everything they have done to assist in her in following her passion.

Julie laughs out when asked about her reaction to Alora’s initial interest in acting at the age of 10.

“I thought, maybe it will pass, maybe she’ll stop asking one of these days,” she says.

Like most parents would be, Julie was protective and remained well informed about the chances her daughter had, as young actors are up against time and money.

Julie began briefing on how she financed and enrolled Alora for a series of on-camera summer programs in Los Angeles two years in a row.

Reminiscing of her workshops in Los Angeles at Young Actors Camp, Alora says, “The second year I went there, I met Selena Gomez ... she’s so nice. I had a tea party with Selena and we did acting games and people asked her questions.”

Alora even had an opportunity to tour the set of TV’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” with the stars of the show.

Words of wisdom

Julie also warns parents of scammers who arrange acting and modeling conventions with promises that are a bit fraudulent.

Thanks to a previous event that left Julie with mixed feelings and empty pockets, she warns parents, “Here I thought we passed these auditions, however, I didn’t like some of their practices.”

She tells of a contract that was thrown in front of her to sign immediately before they could even talk to the agents or managers that were advertised to be at the event.

“You have to commit like 10 or 15 percent of any income you make for the next three years to them.”

Alora pushes in her own thought with her hands in the air questioning, “When they’re not doing anything?”

Julie also advises the future parents of young thespians, “Absolutely read what you’re signing ... It was quite a learning process.”

With a few years of acting under her belt, Alora poises with confidence before giving her honest advice to other would-be thespians: “Well, definitely if you don’t get a part it’s not always your fault. They’re looking for something specific. Even the greatest actors don’t make it because of what they look like, if you make a mistake (in an audition), don’t beat yourself up about it because something else is going to happen, and it was meant to be.”

Sporting a high level of charm and professionalism, Alora carries herself up from the chair when the assistant director finally pushes in and request that she be on set in five minutes.

Warner Brothers’ “Flipped” opens in theaters Aug. 6 in limited release and nationwide on Aug. 27.

Andrea Isom
My Fox Detroit

42 girls from metro Detroit are on their way to ruling the world. All of them are absolutely amazing, and in just one week, they were able to accomplish what some people never will.

These young girls are ready to show the world what they're made of -- sugar, spice and everything nice and throw in some math, science and technology, too.

"It's a wonderful experience.  Even if you hadn't considered technology as a field, this really opens your eyes," said 7th grader Lauren Pankin.

"At first, I thought it was impossible. I thought that you had to do all these lists of things, but now when I just look at it, it's looking like wow," said 6th grader Leanna Toles.

"I never really was interested in technology before this, but now it's really fun, and I think want to get a job in it," said 5th grader Grace MacLellan.

Camp Infinity is a program designed for girls in grades 5 through 8 all from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.  Thanks to the Michigan Council of Women in Technology, generous sponsors, educators and volunteers, the campers are introduced to video game and web design and some really cool robotics. Keeping these kids on the cutting edge is the key.

"The biggest thing is we found high school's too late," said Camp Director Julie Patterson.

"Plant the seed in these girls' minds while they are young so that they can latch on to the technology when they get older," said volunteer Madhuri Raju.

"Sometimes they get outshone by the boys, and you've got to have a way to draw the girls out and give them a confidence that they might not get at home or at school," said Marcy Klevorn with the Ford Motor Company.

"The percentage of women achieving college degrees is going up. The percentage of women achieving degrees in technology is going down. So, it's actually getting worse instead of better. So, it's really important that we find our best and brightest and we encourage them to consider technology for a career," Patterson said.

It's tremendous what these young minds managed to master in just five days.

"We come out with great robots, excellent web pages.  I mean, they look professional, great use of color," Patterson said.

"These are the kind of employees we need in the future," Klevorn said.

"I want to work in some place like Google or something like that, and do something in math or science," said 7th grader Prerana Shenoy.

"I want to become a politician, but I think I now have a greater understanding of the technological field of website creation. I need a campaign after all," Pankin said.

Their parents are proud and very impressed.

"My daughter came home the first day more excited about this than about the first day of dance or the first day of soccer," said parent Joe MacLellan.

"Amazing and talented, and it's great to have young ladies being involved in technology. I think we need more women involved. This is a great start for them, as well," said parent Dewayne Toles.

"I still don't know what I want to do with my computer science degree, but I know that I love computers and you can just do anything," said volunteer Devan Sayles.

An experience like this is priceless, but Camp Infinity is free. For more information, visit www.mcwtf.org.

Although he retired long ago, Eddie Edwards has found work that keeps him busy for much of the year: staving off blight on his block.

This summer, the 63-year-old Mr. Edwards is chopping down tall weeds in empty lots and cleaning the alleyways behind his home and across the street. He also routinely takes care of the street sweeping, using just a broom and dust pan.

"It is time-consuming," says Mr. Edwards, who spent his professional life molding glass into windshields and tail lights for Chrysler. "But I don't have anything else to do."

Across Detroit, do-it-yourselfers such as Mr. Edwards are rolling up their sleeves and opening up their wallets to provide basic services that the financially strapped city can no longer manage on its own, from boarding up vacant homes to mowing lawns to maintaining parks. In some areas, residents also partner with city agencies or look to philanthropies for help.

"My cellphone is full of people" who do upkeep on their own, says Brad Dick, deputy director of Detroit's General Services Department. Many think they are going it alone, he says. "They're always shocked they're not the only one."

To serve an area of roughly 140 square miles, the city has 106 grass cutters, but also contracts with three vendors to mow vacant lots twice a year. If not for individual residents stepping in, Mr. Dick says, the city would be in much worse shape.

Mr. Edwards and his neighbors say it has been several years since the city provided many maintenance services on their far East Side block. In the winter, he also pays out of pocket for snow removal for most of his tiny block. Another neighbor has agreed to cover the rest of the block. That keeps residents from being snowed in at home, neighbors say.

"That's the reward," says Mr. Edwards. "They thank me all the time."

Southwest Detroit is home to some of the most active residential groups in the city. On one block, residents received a grant earlier this year to begin boarding up vacant homes. A nonprofit has pledged to demolish one vacant home on their own and turn another into a multipurpose space with public art.

The 30-acre Clark Park on the Southwest Side is mainly kept up by a nonprofit, community group that partners with the city. As a result, Clark Park has play grounds, fencing, baseball and softball fields, an ice hockey rink and a recreation center. Since 1991, the city has paid the utilities, trimmed the grass and collected the garbage, with the Clark Park Coalition pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations into everything from maintaining play grounds to providing summer camps and recreational sports leagues for youth. A number of similar groups exist to support other city parks.

In the Corktown community west of downtown, Howard King Jr. maintains more than a dozen empty lots, two of which he farms for his 87-year-old mother.

The 60-year-old youth advocate and part-time landscaper pays teens in his neighborhood to mow lawns and trains them to trim hedges, hoping to keep them out of trouble.

"It's like therapy to me," he says. "I like to see the vacant lots beautiful."

As Detroit continues to lose population and taxpayers, Mayor Dave Bing has been struggling to control a budget deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He cut roughly $100 million in spending from his latest budget, but tried to avoid cutting into city services such as grass cutting and street cleaning, which tend to shape people's perceptions of neighborhood quality and safety.

A tussle over the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which began July 1, left him and the City Council struggling to avert the closure of 77 of Detroit's 308 parks. A deal reached last month restored millions of dollars to save the roughly 1,400 acres of parks. But that plan depends on individuals continuing to shoulder much of the maintenance burden.

"Sometimes we really can't do much," says Mr. Dick, the General Services official.

One park spared was the 300-acre Palmer Park on the northwest side. Regulars there credit the condition of the tennis courts to William Martin, a 56-year-old psychiatrist and Detroit native who lives in the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe but still has a private practice in the city.

In recent years, Dr. Martin has spent thousands of dollars on filling cracks in the asphalt, putting up wind screens on the fencing and purchasing park benches. When the chains he bought to secure those benches failed to deter thieves, he bought thicker ones.

For the annual amateur tennis tournament he holds there, he called in someone to cut the grass near the courts. The city hadn't done that in weeks, if not months, he says. He also paid for a portable toilet, as there is no functioning toilet nearby.

"If I had to have the city's permission, it would have never happened," he says. He points up to the busted lights around the courts, noting that he hasn't been able to fix those. "To have the city represented like this" is unfortunate, he says. "This is supposed to be like Central Park in New York."

Residents know the city's straits and have been generally understanding, says Mr. Dick, of General Services. When they call, often "they're not saying send in 20 lawnmowers," he says. "They're just simply saying we need some trash bags."
Go Comedy! Improv Theatre welcomes the film Litterbug to its Thursday night lineup during the month of July. The original film by Detroit filmmaker Mikey Brown will play at 9pm immediately following the Go Comedy! original production Space Fight. Tickets ($10 for the night or $5 per show) are available online at www.gocomedy.net, by calling 248-327-0575, or in person beginning at 7pm Wednesday – Sunday at the Go Comedy! box office.

Performances of Space Fight and screenings of Litterbug will continue through July 29.


An independent film shot in Detroit using almost no grid electricity, Litterbug premiered in March at the Burton Theatre, Detroit as part of the first annual Detroit Independent Film Festival. With the goal of making a feature movie spending no money, using no grid electricity, creating no garbage and on a tight three month deadline, the film was a true experiment in radical green production. This 87 minute comedy features some of Detroit’s best actors and improvisers and a soundtrack provided by a dozen Detroit bands and electronic musicians.

“Camera batteries, editing laptop batteries, and video monitor batteries were charged using human pedal power. In fact, I lost 10 pounds during production,” said Mikey Brown, the film’s writer, director and cast member (Brown plays Bug, the film’s lead character). Brown, a Detroit based filmmaker and musician, has directed dozens of short films and commercials, and the cult feature, Garage: A Rock Saga. His YouTube webisode, Ced n Teri, received raves from fans and critics alike and spawned the 2009 Detroit-Wilder Award-winning stage show A Very Ced n Teri Xmas at the Planet Ant Theatre.

The story follows Bug who has been performing his original, electronic music and video art at dance clubs and parties for almost a decade. But don’t call him a DJ. Feeling middle-age approaching he takes one last stab at taking his music career to the next level by signing with a new manager who has some unconventional ideas. Meanwhile the cynical and self-absorbed Bug feigns interest in the Green movement to win the love of Layla, an environmental activist. Along the way he learns a lot about green living, has some run-ins with the law and tries to finally decide what to do with his life.

Litterbug will continue screenings at Go Comedy! through July 29.

Space Fight

Written by Go Comedy! resident members Jen Hansen (Madison Heights) and Pete Jacokes (Ferndale), Space Fight takes a unique look at the “Star Wars” story exploring the politics of the Empire, the grass roots campaign of the Rebellion, and the emotional struggles of Darth Vader, while poking fun at the ridiculousness of one of the world’s most beloved sci-fi sagas. This hilarious show will entertain die-hard fans as well as those who have never seen the films.

Directed by Jacokes with assistance from Hansen, Space Fight features Tim Kay (Ann Arbor) Sean May (East Point) Matt Naas (Ferndale) Travis Pelto (Canton) Chris Petersen (Ann Arbor) and Bob Wieck (Wixom).

Tickets ($10 for the night or $5 per show) are available online at www.gocomedy.net, by calling
248-327-0575, or in person beginning at 7pm Wednesday – Sunday at the Go Comedy! box office.

In Photos: Hayden Panettiere & Emma Roberts on the set of ‘Scream 4′ plus updated Dearborn, MI filming information
On Location Vacations

On Wednesday, June 29, Scream 4 filmed several scenes at Woodworth Middle School, 4951 Ternes St Dearborn, MI which was converted into Woodsboro High School for the film. Though it was previously suspected the school would be used for a flashback scene, it was actually used for current high school shots starring Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts and Marielle Jaffe.

In the first scene, the girls filmed an exterior shot in which they started walking toward the school and another character runs up to them and interrupts their conversation. Later in the day, they filmed interior shots in a classroom, the scene also included 2 buses filled with extras and 3 TV vans.

Though original reports stated that they would be filming at the school again on July 6, & July 9 from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., on Wednesday residents received an updated flier from the production company stating they would be filming at the school again on July 2nd and July 8th.

One of our tipsters, Toni, also checked out the Livonia, MI set yesterday where she was able to get a picture of the Scream mask in one of the trucks. The usual “Z” signs representing Scream 4 were spotted around the set and they saw some of the actors break for lunch. She also spotted David Arquette in his usual deputy’s costume.

In other Scream 4 news, one of our favorites, Adam Brody has officially joined the cast! According to EW, the former O.C. star will play “a cop recently graduated from college who was raised on the CSI TV series.” But, the bad news is, Lauren Graham is out.

Thanks to Carlos and Toni for all of the scoop and pictures!

Shannon Murphy, Metro Detroit native radio personality on the popular Mojo In the Morning morning radio program on 95.5 is a contender for the Live with Regis & Kelly "Women of Radio Co-host for a Day Search." 

Cast your vote for Shannon HERE!  Not only will you help Shannon be Regis's co-host for the day, but Shannon's nomination enters you in a contest to win something as well!

Hurry!  Voting ends soon!

Sahar grew up in a conservative Arab community in Dearborn, MI. It would be easy to assume that because of that she's a submissive, conservative girl. But that would not be the case. She's a strong-willed, liberal Muslim who is not easily intimidated. Expect her to speak her mind. Sahar was fortunate to have parents who allowed her a bit more space to be herself; however, there are still things that she was forced to hide from her community, like her virginity... or lack thereof. Although in a vague long-distance relationship, Sahar is used to turning heads and is constantly crushing on boys-- but just wait until she meets roommate Eric! A budding singer/songwriter, Sahar looks to explore more of this career in New Orleans, no matter what anyone in her conservative community thinks.

Andiamo Detroit presents Free Rockin' on the Riverfront Series for the Fifth Summer
Dave Mason kicks off the free classic rock concert series

Get ready to rock the 'D' this summer with Andiamo Detroit Riverfront and Detroit's Classic Rock Station 94.7 WCSX-FM as they kick off the 2010 Rockin' on the Riverfront summer concert series on Friday, July 16. This is the fifth year for the concert series.

This year's concerts will feature four sizzling bands from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on select Fridays during the summer.

Dave Mason will kick off the series on July 16. A seasoned musician, Mason is a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who found fame with the rock band, Traffic. Throughout his career, Mason has played with various notable musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Fleetwood Mac. Mason's best known singles include "Feelin' Alright", "Hole in My Shoe" and "We Just Disagree."

The three additional Rockin' on the Riverfront performers will be announced at a later date.

"Detroit comes alive in the summer with Rockin' on the Riverfront," said Andiamo President and CEO Joe Vicari. "The riverfront creates the ideal atmosphere to enjoy music and food with friends and family on these warm summer nights. We invite everyone to join us and make this experience memorable."

Admission to the concerts is free and no advance tickets are necessary. Viewing space will be on a first-come, first-served basis and people are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. In addition, boaters on the Detroit River are invited to anchor near the riverfront and enjoy the view of the stage from the water.

Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will provide refreshment and food concessions at several locations on the plaza. Outside food, beverages or coolers will not be permitted. Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will accept dinner reservations before and after the concert and invite guests to take advantage of its outdoor patio overlooking the Detroit River.

Convenient parking is available for $5 per vehicle at the GM surface lot at the intersection of St. Antoine and Atwater, adjacent to the GM Renaissance Center.

For more information, call (313) 567-6700 or visit www.andiamoitalia.com/detroit.

Detroit—A Major American Filmmaking City

The Detroit Windsor International Film Festival attracts local and international film industry talent

Jean Guo
Epoch Times 

We love Detroit, we put our house [in Holland] up for sale. We are moving to Detroit because it is such a good city; it is such a city of opportunity.” says Mrs. Mascah Poppenk (photo shown), the co-producer of Grown in Detroit, the winner of this year’s Best Documentary at the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival (DWIFF), which was hosted at Wayne State University from June 24 to June 27.

Detroit has been turning itself into a city known for tis large filmmaking industry. Michigan passed a tax credit three years ago that has made filmmaking in Michigan extremely attractive.

“We gave them a very high tax credit. The tax credit is 42 percent, compared to New Orleans and Illinois and California and other places that have far less,” says former State Senator John Kelly, a member of former Governor Angles’ Film Commission and the initiator of the DWIFF, “the proposal ended up attracting about 2/3 of all the films made in the United States to Michigan.”

The Detroit Windsor International Film Festival is a chance to rediscover Detroit, not as an automotive city, but as the center of media and culture. From the 1940s to the 1980s, Michigan was the largest producer of film in the United States.

“Michigan has the third largest per square footage of film studio space. When the car industry started making commercials, all of the producers for making films and commercials came to Detroit because they were wanting to sell and market their studio to the Big Three,” says Mr. Norman Wagner, a volunteer coordinator for the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival, “So Detroit has sixty, seventy years of making film for commercials as well as regular movies.”

With over 180 film entrants this year, the DWIFF is promoting international cultural awareness in the arts as well as working with local colleges to foster the training of talent right here in Michigan.

Michigan currently has a program in place designed to guarantee jobs for those who study film here in Michigan. At the DWIFF VIP reception on June 24, Mr. Richard Jewell, a member of Michigan’s Film Office Workforce Development, introduced a grant in effect at Wayne State University, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and three other community colleges that sponsor students studying gaming animation and motion capture. Graduates are promised jobs on completion of the film programs.

There are also programs being implemented in grades K-12 that prepare children for work in film. For example, River Rogue, a high school in the area, hires students to create high quality projects in the entertainment arts.

The goal is to train people in Michigan, keep them in Michigan, and grow a local talent base that will be sought by people from all over the world.

Mrs. Mascah Poppenk (L), a co-producer of 'Grown in Detroit,' the winner of the Best Documentary at the 2010 Detroit Windsor International Film Festival (DWIFF); Mr. Robert Ficano (C), Wayne County's Executive and Mr. Manfred Poppenk (R), a co-producer of 'Grown in Detroit.' (Ying Wan/Epoch Times)
Mr. Robert Ficano, Wayne County’s Executive said, “We now have a couple of studios that are being built; and schools that are in here for training. We’ve had people who had been laid off from the auto industry and are retrained in the film industry whether it’s on equipment, sound stages, and things like that.”

The efforts of the DWIFF and the city of Detroit to make Michigan a leader in the film industry have been working. “This year, we are happy to bring in filmmakers from Hollywood and other countries to share their experiences with filmmaking here in Michigan,” says Ms. Suzanne Jenik, the DWIFF Director of Operations, who has been volunteering for DWIFF since the program’s initiation in 2008.

One of the reasons the film industry has been able to develop so fast in Detroit is because of the enthusiasm of the local people.

“It’s all a volunteer army of people coming together, people who support and encourage talent in Michigan, especially filmmaking and the digital arts. We are trying to build a culture here that also works hand in hand with the film incentives,” says Mr. Scott Dunham, co-founder and sponsor of the DWIFF, “It’s getting people to really live, work, and breathe, and talk about and collaborate in the film, in the new media industries.”

With such efforts, Michigan will soon make its name well known all over the United States as the place to produce films, to study filmmaking, and to find film industry talent.

Ying Wan contributed to this article.

Fostering Entrepreneurs, and Trying to Revive a City
Pamela Ryckman
New York Times

James Smith Moore, the son of a single mother on Detroit’s east side, knows how to hustle.

He started a lizard-breeding business at age 15 and sold more than 500 hatchlings online for $15 to $80 apiece.

At 16, after local stores ran out of a certain popular Nike sneaker, he hired a manufacturer in China to supply him with knock-offs, which he sold for $80 to $200 a pair on his own Web site as well as eBay and other auction sites. Four months later, he received a cease-and-desist letter, but he had made a $14,000 profit, enough to buy his first car.

This bootstrapping spirit got Mr. Moore, now 21, accepted into Bizdom U, an intense boot camp for aspiring entrepreneurs who aim to start high-growth businesses in Detroit. Bizdom U is the brainchild of Dan Gilbert, a Motor City native who is founder and chairman of the online mortgage lender Quicken Loans. He also hopes to help revitalize his hometown.

Mr. Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, is hardly the first wealthy businessman to promote entrepreneurship. Among others, he joins self-made businessmen like Clayton Mathile, the former owner of Iams who also founded Aileron, an academy in Dayton, Ohio, that helps small-business owners with strategic planning; Adeo Ressi, who after a series of lucrative start-ups began the Founder Institute to mentor promising entrepreneurs; and Jeff Sandefer, the energy mogul behind the Acton School of Business in Austin, Tex.

Bizdom U, however, is unique in its focus on a single city. “Detroit is completely missing an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Bo Fishback, who is vice president for entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which gave Bizdom U a $500,000 grant in 2008.

“Bizdom isn’t catalyzing an existing system; it’s trying to create something almost from scratch,” he said. “It’s an experiment, and we probably won’t know the result for another five years, but if they can build three scalable companies, it could change the landscape of an entire city.”

Founded in 2006, Bizdom U operates on the principle that entrepreneurs are born, not made. Its program leaders do not necessarily believe entrepreneurship can be taught. Instead, an essential part of Bizdom U’s job is to unearth candidates with a distinct combination of vision, ambition, drive and risk tolerance, and then mold them into business owners.

“We dig deep by reviewing their past activities and behaviors to see if they were often drawn toward entrepreneurial pursuits,” Mr. Gilbert wrote in an e-mail message. “Was this the 6-year-old kid who had the most successful lemonade stand on the block?”

Bernard H. Tenenbaum, former associate director of the Wharton School’s entrepreneurship center and now managing partner of China Cat Capital, a strategy and investment firm for entrepreneurial and family-owned companies, called the approach a tutorial internship. “I don’t think they’re teaching entrepreneurship,” he said. “They’re teaching natural entrepreneurs to be successful in business.”

Mr. Gilbert believes he has a winning formula that can be applied to the diverse companies proposed by Bizdom U students. Groups of about 15 participants convene for four months of rigorous immersion at Bizdom U’s colorful facility in Detroit’s cultural district.

In exchange for focused work — often at night and on weekends — they receive laptops, BlackBerrys, a $1,500 a month living stipend and hands-on training from Bizdom U’s five dedicated staff members.

Guest speakers like Magic Johnson and Dave Bing, both former basketball stars and successful businessmen (Mr. Bing is also the mayor of Detroit), are enlisted along with executives from Quicken Loans to help participants articulate business concepts, test feasibility and analyze financials.

Bizdom U has been likened to NBC’s hit show “The Apprentice” because students are expected to prove themselves in real-world situations. To teach sales and marketing, Bizdom U entrepreneurs must sell memberships to the Detroit Zoo. They engage in “painstorming” exercises, identifying daily hardships that might be alleviated by a new product or service.

“We wanted people to be living and breathing their businesses,” said Ross Sanders, executive director of Bizdom U. “They learn by doing.”

Central to the experience is a value system developed by Mr. Gilbert that he calls his “isms.” They are a series of 18 principles that define the culture of excellence Mr. Gilbert wishes to breed. For example, instead of asking what “they” are doing to solve problems, Mr. Gilbert’s employees and students are encouraged to consider what “we” can do to help.

Mr. Sanders, who has worked for Mr. Gilbert for 15 years, thinks this ethos is the reason Quicken Loans has been named to Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for the last seven years. He said he tried to instill the same passion and pride at Bizdom U.

“You can go to any program to learn financials,” he said. “Our formula for success is training the right people in our culture and our philosophies and helping them every step of the way.”

To nascent capitalists with promising business plans, Bizdom U offers up to $100,000 in grant money, as well as eight additional months of mentoring and consulting. Mr. Gilbert attends nearly every pitch for Bizdom U grants to encourage and challenge each entrepreneur.

The process, said Jon Baugh, a 29-year-old Bizdom U entrepreneur who founded Dermanaut, which offers a streamlined electronic medical records system for dermatologists, produces companies that are more likely to grow and hire employees. Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sanders, he said, “are looking at the long-term vision, with the bottom line benefiting the city of Detroit.”

Bizdom U’s goal is to be self-sustaining. Mr. Gilbert has pledged up to $10 million to establish the nonprofit organization, which costs about $1 million a year to operate. Going forward, the plan is for the program to rely on funds derived from participants.

Investment returns on student companies will be funneled back into the program to finance subsequent classes. In return for its initial investment, Bizdom U takes possession of 66 percent of each concern, while the entrepreneur holds 33 percent. Once the entrepreneur pays back Bizdom U’s investment and interest, however, the percentages flip and the student assumes the 66 percent stake.

“It’s very favorable for the entrepreneur,” Mr. Tenenbaum said. “There’s no venture capital firm that would flip its equity positions when its initial investment had been paid back. That’s an astronomically charitable act.”

Of Bizdom U’s 37 graduates, 10 will have companies up and running by next month. To date none is profitable, but to open doors, Mr. Gilbert provides access to his contacts and encourages executives from his companies to do the same. One of his protégés is Mr. Moore.

At Bizdom U, Mr. Moore revisited his fervor for footwear, developing a Web-based venture, Jimmy Kicks, that produces limited-edition sneakers designed by devotees of hip-hop style. Anyone can upload blank templates from the Jimmy Kicks site and create blueprints for original shoes.

Users vote on worthy drafts and the winners of quarterly contests receive $500. Their sneakers are then manufactured in numbered pairs and sold on the site for $79.99, more than four times the cost of production. Mr. Moore carries no inventory; his overseas manufacturer ships shoes directly to customers around the globe.

Mr. Moore has plans to design a collector’s item shoe for Mr. Gilbert’s Cavaliers, and he also expects to organize sneaker release parties at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Ms. Jane Fader, Day Twah blogger and recent filmstress made the above video, showcasing her Love For Detroit.  Unfortunately, she didn't make the June 21st deadline.  Double unfortunate is that I am one of the "celebrity" judges of this contest and I would have voted for this video.

Dear Jane, don't let this stop you.  Keep the camera rolling.

The catchy diddy featured in this video is "One More Pint For Detroit," by Ben Ness, aka Doc Waffles, download for free HERE

Pillow Talk From TFLN
Texts From Last Night shares tales from the dark side

Eleftheria Parpis

They had no social lives, but their friends sure did. Ben Bator and Lauren Leto, who went on to co-found the Web site Texts From Last Night, say while they were busy studying, their buddies were having wild nights out -- nights they’d write about in descriptive, no-holds-barred texts. Texts not unlike this recent one from the site: “He practically bottle fed me Jameson, like I was a baby chimpanzee on those nature specials.” And this one: “I woke up to him eating cereal out of my viking [sic] helmet with a shot glass. No idea where he got the milk.” The texts were passed around to an increasing number of friends and  acquaintances.

“We began to realize how viral it [had become]” says Leto, 23, who at the time was in her first year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. Bator, 24, had just received a scholarship to attend the same school. (The two friends met while undergraduates at Michigan State University.) So, in February 2009, with a $15 budget -- the cost of a two-year domain name registry -- they decided to create Textsfromlastnight.com.

What began as a way to keep in touch with their own friends has turned into a Webby Award-winning business (in the mobile entertainment category) that receives some 15,000 texts a day (30-50 get posted daily), according to the co-founders. It also, for now at least, has resulted in two less lawyers in the world: Leto left school to run the site, and Bator deferred his acceptance.

Advertisers include American Apparel and some made-for-TV movies. While they decline to state their yearly revenue, Bator says $1 million “is a fair estimate.”

TFLN texts are “like contemporary haiku,” says fan Cindy Gallop, former U.S. chairman of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld.com. “It’s a  riveting socio-cultural snapshot of our times. ... You see how the insights and understanding of consumer psychology that we bring to the table are more relevant than ever before. Social media is all the same, old, fundamental human truths, instincts and behavior, just with a whole new methodology -- as demonstrated by one of my favorite texts from a couple of months back: ‘So let me get this straight. You would sleep with an uncircumsized guy whose name you didn’t know, but you won’t try the new shrimp taco from Taco Bell?’”

The popularity of the Web site has made texting among its target audience -- 18- to 34-year-olds -- into something of a competitive sport.

“It’s a point of pride to make it on the site,” says Leto, who now lives in New York. Though some of the texts, she adds, “make me sick to my stomach.”

The site’s design is minimalist. Texts are identified only by area code, and are rankable. Users can comment and order T-shirts of the missives as well.

It was designed in part, to be easily digestible for people with jobs. “We wanted it to be safe for work,” says Bator, who splits his time between Detroit and Los Angeles. “There are no naked girls, no graphic images. If someone is walking by your desk, it looks like [any other] blog.”

TFLN is also now a TV comedy in development at Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Pictures, for Fox’s fall lineup, as well as a book. The duo is represented by Erin Malone of William Morris Endeavor, who has helped other blogs translate to print form, including I Can Has Cheezburger and Stuff White People Like.

“They are the new art books,” says Leto.

The co-founders also have their first employee: Bator’s younger brother, Philip, a recent college grad, who edits submissions. And they’re busy sharing their story in college and professional lectures.

“I’m having a really good time doing this,” says Bator. “Law school will be there.”

‘Entourage’ set to film at The Hollywood Roosevelt with Eminem

Ari and the boys will be filming at The Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles all day today, June 28.

The scene will take place by the hotel’s famed pool and will feature rapper Eminem!

This won’t be the first time the HBO series has shot at the hotel. As a matter of fact, The Hollywood Roosevelt has been featured in dozens of movies and TV shows including “Catch Me if You Can”, “Charlie’s Angeles”, and ” The Italian Job”.

If you’re launching a new business in Michigan that you want to take nationwide, what’s the fastest way and most cost effective way to spread the word and go to market?  Michigan-based entrepreneur Peder Blohm is placing his confidence in the power of social media, integrated with public relations strategies, to launch MyNewMarketplace.com, a web site designed to help individuals and businesses buy and sell almost anything.

The beta version of the Web site was launched Wednesday night at a large gathering of the Social Media Club Detroit, held at the newly renovated Baronette Renaissance Hotel in Novi, and also through a live web cast provided by Detroit-based Eclipse Creative.

“Social Media Club Detroit is about connecting our community and providing the opportunities for others to share what they are doing in the social web space,” said David Murray, the club’s founder.  “It’s important to spotlight Michigan startups -- allowing entrepreneurs like Peder and his partners to share their work and tell their story.”

According to Blohm, MyNewMarketplace.com offers easy navigation and a variety of options to buy and sell products and services, promote new businesses, post and search job openings, and support the local economy. The site does not include personal ads.

Blohm is encouraging individuals and businesses to use the beta version of the web site as much as possible and place ads, at no cost, until Aug. 1. To promote the site, a social media contest will enable users to refer others locally and nationwide to have an opportunity to win up to $1,000 in advertising.

“It’s important that we receive everyone’s comments and suggestions, so that we can make continuing improvements on the site,” said Blohm. “It’s going to be an evolution.”

Beginning Aug. 1, there will be a very low cost to place ads, set up shops and services, and promote new businesses. Blohm explained that charging low fees will help to ensure accountability and prevent people from hiding behind fake identities that have plagued other web sites such as Craigslist.

Blohm’s partner in developing the new web site is Essential IT, founded by Brian Surowiec, a Michigan entrepreneur and technology consultant who has more than 15 years of experience providing IT and Internet-related services for a variety of industries.

Blohm emphasized that they have used Michigan-based businesses in developing the site, including the award winning firm of JCI Design and the public relations firm of Margaux & Associates, LLC.

“We want to show that Michigan is still the birthplace of innovation,” said Blohm. “Our goal is that by earning customers’ trust and confidence, we can take MyNewMarketplace.com from southeast Michigan to local markets nationwide.”


A feature in Food Network Magazine's July/August issue names what they consider the best breakfast dish from every state. Some dishes chosen are regional classics, like Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp with Grits in South Carolina, some must be spectacular versions of basic brunch dishes, like a Belgian Waffle in Nebraska, and some are head-scratchers, like the Shirley’s Affair with Oscar in Maryland. In any case, if you're thinking about taking a summer road trip, this list might be a good place to start planning your route.

Alabama: Eggs Mauvila at Café 615, Mobile
Alaska: Reindeer Sausage Omelet at Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant
Arizona: The Over Easy at Over Easy
Arkansas: Banana Pancakes at The Pancake Shop
California: Fantastic French Toast at Marston’s Restaurant
Colorado: Breakfast Burrito at King’s Chef Diner
Connecticut: The Portuguese Fisherman at Kitchen Little
Delaware: Sausage Sandwich at Helen’s Famous Sausage House
Florida: Philadelphia Scrapple at Skyway Jack’s
Georgia: HabersHam and Eggs at B. Matthew’s Eatery
Hawaii: Ahi Steak and Eggs at Eggs ‘n Things
Idaho: Oatmeal Soufflé at Red Feather Lounge
Illinois: Vegetarian Scrapple at Ina’s
Indiana: Paxton’s Potatoes at Village Deli
Iowa: Our Famous Pancake at Grove Café
Kansas: Buenos Dias Frittata at The Chef
Kentucky: French Toast at Lynn’s Paradise Café
Louisiana: Got Boudin? Omelet at Café Des Amis
Maine: Fresh Buttermilk Pancakes at Boyton-McKay Food Co.
Maryland: Shirley’s Affair with Oscar at Miss Shirley’s Café
Massachusetts: Doughnut at Craigie on Main
Michigan: The Cowboy Curtis at The Fly Trap: A Finer Diner

Minnesota: Pastrami & Egg at Be’wiched Deli
Mississippi: Beignets at Triplett-Day Drug Company Soda Fountain
Missouri: Rooster Slinger at Rooster
Montana: Haystack at Goode’s Q & Bayou Grill
Nebraska: Belgian Waffle at Petrow’s Restaurant
Nevada: Cowpoke Quiche at Dish Café
New Hampshire: Littleton Buckwheat Pancakes at The Littleton Diner
New Jersey: The Slider at Summit Diner
New Mexico: Atole Piñon Hotcakes at Tecolote Café
New York: Poached Eggs with Curried Lentils, Yoghurt and Cilantro at The Breslin
North Carolina: Fried Chicken Biscuit at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
North Dakota: Rancher Skillet at Kroll’s Diner
Ohio: Cinnamon Rolls at Omega Artisan Baking
Oklahoma: Steak and Eggs at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse
Oregon: Triple Berry Toast at Green Salmon Coffee House
Pennsylvania: Strawberry Hotcakes at Pamela’s P&G Diner
Rhode Island: Johnnycakes at Jigger’s Diner
South Carolina: Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp with Grits at Marina Variety Store Restaurant
South Dakota: Buffalo Steak Tips and Eggs at Blue Bell Lodge at Custer State Park Resort
Tennessee: Tennessee “Jack” Egg Sandwich at The Capitol Grille
Texas: Reggie’s Weekend Special at Torres Taco Haven
Utah: Sill’s Famous Scone at Sill’s Café
Vermont: Penny Cluse at Penny Cluse Café
Virginia: California Huevos Ranchero at Kuba Kuba
Washington: Corned Beef Mash: at The Braeburn Restaurant
Washington DC: Fried Chicken, Eggs and Waffles at Founding Farmers
West Virginia He-Man Breakfast: at The Poky Dot Diner
Wisconsin: Swedish Pancakes at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik
Wyoming: Chicken-Fried Steak, Eggs and Potatoes at Sherri’s Place

Leslie Hatfield

Grown in Detroit was screened at the AFSCME Building (600 Lafayette) at the US Social Forum in Detroit, and at the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival this past week. The USSF screening was followed by a question-and-answer period with filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk, Catherine Ferguson Academy principle Ms.G. Asenath Andrews and several students.

Last month at the 5th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Detroit, I was part of a workshop called Media Bootcamp, where a few colleagues and I lectured school food advocates on how to pitch stories about their programs to media, including bloggers like me. One attendee, filmmaker Mascha Poppenk, approached me at a reception that night and invited me to visit the Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA), a local high school for teenage mothers and the subject of her documentary, Grown in Detroit.

As we drove across town the next morning, Poppenk gave me the scoop on the school. It is one of only three remaining high schools for teen parents in the country -- there once were hundreds. About three hundred teen mothers are enrolled, and their children attend day care there. There is a big farm in the back, with crops and animals and an orchard. Although some of the produce is eaten by the students, it is not incorporated into their school lunch program. Mostly, the farm is used cleverly to suit the educational needs of the young mothers. Milking goats becomes a lesson about breast feeding. Taking produce to market is an exercise in entrepreneurship.Along the way and against major odds, they succeed; CFA boasts a 90 percent graduation rate, with most of the students continuing on to college.

Either we taught Poppenk well or, more likely, she is a natural promoter -- not so much of herself, but of the things she clearly loves, including the city of Detroit and the school. That afternoon, she took me all over town, pointing out sights. The old brick grand dames, graffiti lending an edge to their sad beauty, ivy crawling through their broken windows. The abandoned Grand Central Station. The best view of the old skyline (as opposed to the postcard view of the modern Renaissance Center, from across the water in Windsor). She is frustrated by the way that media have told the story of Detroit, mostly as a lost cause, largely ignoring the hopeful forward motion of projects like CFA's farm, just one of over 800 farms in the city. She impressed upon me several times that she hoped I wouldn't focus on the movie so much as the school, which she worries about.

Like many public schools in Detroit, the future of CFA is in the air. They might have to move, a prospect that saddens many who love the farm but whispers of promise -- a larger school might have room for a K-5, which would keep students with older children in school longer. They may be forced to revert to "transitional" status, which would mean that students would attend while pregnant, then return to their regular high schools. This is more troubling, but when I spoke to Ms. Andrews yesterday, she wasn't worried. She thinks they will be able to convince the powers that be that the transitional strategy is a bad one. If forced to move, they will start a new farm.

Rather than focus on what might happen to the school, Ms. Andrews has her sights set on an International Youth Conference in South Africa later this year, where CFA urban agri-science students have been invited to speak about their experiences. But they need some major funds to get there. Toward this end, they will be selling beads, seeds, buttons, DVDs and water bottles in the nonprofit section at the US Social Forum this week, and CFA science teacher Nicole Conaway has set up a donation page on DonorsChoose.org. If you're as inspired as I am by these women, toss them some cash and help them take advantage of this opportunity.

As activists of all stripes from around the country converge on Detroit, with its troubled past and tenuous but potentially amazing future, Ms. Andrews welcomes their interest and support, but isn't looking to them to save her school. "Give money to Catherine Ferguson!" she said, when invited to give the final words of this post. "I want to take these kids to South Africa to teach urban gardening!"

Originally published at Ecocentric.

Niki Stephens

SCREAM 4 is looking to return to Woodsboro High, but apparently only in flashbacks.

They aren't using the same school either. The interior shots for the "flashback" are being filmed at Woodworth Middle School in Dearborn, Michigan. Simply because they share a similar likeness.

The report comes out a site called, DeepsaidWhat. Here's what they had to offer:

"While most of the film is being shot in Ann Arbor, Woodworth Middle School, 4951 Ternes St., will star in a “flashback” scene in the film."

"In the coming weeks, movie production crews will be constructing a new “face” of the school at the entrance of Woodworth. So if you spot some construction taking place at the school now that it is closed, it is all for the school’s movie cameo."

"Apparently, the school was chosen because the design and brickwork closely matches a building that was featured in an earlier Scream film."

There you have it. It's not huge news, but interesting to wonder exactly what they will be flashing back to. Perhaps a conversation between Sidney and Billy? Maybe it will be something that will change the game? The flashback might add a new element to an old scene. At this point, it's hard to tell.

Paul Abowd

Tens of thousands of activists are converging for the June 22-26 United States Social Forum. Detroit will host the second iteration of a global justice "movement of movements" revival, bringing together nearly every cause on the American left's radar. But Forum-goers are also focused on the host city at a time when the event's tagline - "Another Detroit is Happening" - is both promising and foreboding.

Soon after taking office in 2009, Detroit's new mayor, Dave Bing, assembled his "crisis turnaround team," a handpicked collection of exiled auto executives, financiers, and PR people. The NBA hall-of-famer and steel executive and his team have acted swiftly to reshape a city they view as a clean slate, a city as vacant as post-Katrina New Orleans.

The new mayor is promising to shrink Detroit and its infrastructure, and has gathered the business community and suburban philanthropies to put down-payments on a Detroit dreamscape: a downtown light rail line, a new hockey stadium, shiny charter schools to complement a slimmed down "traditional" district, an industrial farm on the East side, and new housing enclaves.

While the corporate class dreams of new investments, the community has been reminding Bing that Detroit is no empty city. "I think we need to use the Social Forum as an opportunity to say to city officials, look - you're dealing with a population that can mobilize 20,000 people to come to Detroit," says Lottie Spady, a food justice organizer working on the Forum. "Outside of a sporting event, when does that happen?"

Visions of Detroit consistently refer to a sparkling time of industry, shopping, and peace that never really existed. The Motor City's avenues hosted an eight-lane American dream cruise. And when the dream picked a freeway and left town, the city's persistent class warfare and racial segregation came into stark relief. Shea Howell says Bing envisions a city that would paper over the city's long-standing inequality, not confront it.

"Their focal point is creating these protected enclaves with good schools, good services, safety; all those nice things that everybody wants. Only some people will be able to have them, and the rest of us will be on the outside looking in," says Howell, a teacher, activist, and columnist organizing the Forum.

City planning documents bemoan city workers and their "large number of labor unions restricting management's ability to properly control and discipline the workforce." Bing has demanded 10 percent wage cuts and an end to defined-benefit pensions for the next generation of public employees. Bing is also moving to discontinue the Public Lighting Department and sell operations to DTE Energy, a company notorious for a string of fatal electricity shutoffs in the city.

Today, much of what's left of the proud auto worker corps is either making close to non-union wages, working non-union jobs, or out of work altogether. A four-month strike by workers at GM-supplier American Axle in 2008 was the rank-and-file's last big stand before the Big 3's government-guided implosion. Axle CEO Dick Dauch cut starting wages in half. Months later, he picked up and moved the whole operation to Mexico. Two downtown stadiums, three downtown casinos, and two medical centers have struggled to fill the gaps, but thirty percent of residents are without a job. That's the official tally.

Reinvestment and plans to shrink the city might be needed, says Bill Wylie-Kellerman, an organizer of the Forum's Spirituality Committee. "But how do you do it in a way that isn't high-handed, that doesn't write off people's lives and communities?" asks Wylie-Kellerman, a pastor at St. Peter's Episcopal. "How do we create democratic involvement in the process of envisioning the new city?"

Organizers have begun arriving for the five-day series of workshops, meetings, and action-oriented "People's Movement Assemblies" to tackle these questions. Some visitors are pasting revolutionary literature on telephone poles, others are jimmying the lights in burned-out apartments. Organizers are prepping tent-cities. Forum-goers will see that Detroit is not only the site of capitalism's brutality on showcase, but also of a community's resolve to face it. "For a very long time, there's been an underground, more sustainable version of work being done that has come about out of necessity," says Spady.

That necessary work precedes the Forum, and will continue when it's over. Organizers agree, though, that the June gathering is a golden opportunity to solidify alternative visions of the city at a moment when Bing and company are advancing a very different idea about how Detroit's schools, housing, and empty land should be leveraged, and to whose benefit.


State-appointed schools manager Robert Bobb has run up against a legal challenge and neighborhood resistance to his plan to shutter 45 district schools next year. He's stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a foundation-funded plan to "replace, not reform" the public schools by opening 70 new charter schools by 2020 and handing control to Mayor Bing much sooner.

After a student walkout, teachers and alumni of Northwestern High vowed to sit down, chain the doors, and pursue injunctions - whatever was necessary - to keep the historic school open. Bobb kept 18 schools open, including Northwestern, but vowed to shutter 45 schools by 2013 anyway - if a judge allows him to. Many remaining district schools, some put under private management, will function as magnet schools, taking select applicants, not all comers. District schools will adopt the model of their non-union, charter school counterparts, skimming the best and brightest to raise test scores while pushing communities of "low-performing" students further to the margins.

Ismael Duran Galfano and Mary Duran say they won't go along with Bobb's plan for a K-14 "megacampus" that would consolidate three neighborhood schools into one contiguous campus. Bobb asked the long-time residents in the growing Latino neighborhood of Southwest Detroit for some real estate, namely their home, which has been in Mary's family since it was built in 1910. Galfano runs a community arts center and Duran is retiring this year from 30 years of teaching in the Detroit Public schools. The two have lived in their home and tended their garden there for three decades. Ismael says he didn't leave Pinochet's Chile to put up with more dictatorship in his backyard. By email, he told his neighbors he wouldn't be going without a fight.

"Bobb had no idea this guy's a community organizer - he's going to know a thing or two about creating resistance," says Howell. "I think if they asked people to sit in on their property, they'd have a lot of us right there."

Bobb eventually got the message, assuring the Duran family and their neighbors that no homes would be destroyed in the consolidation that would bring six-year-olds onto campus with 19-year-olds. The proposal is questionable, and has become the next focus of organizing in the neighborhood.


Bing says he'll demolish 10,000 homes during his term to ready for rightsizing. But even the mayor has switched up his plans, firing a city planner after her proposal to consolidate two East Side neighborhoods hit the press to bad reviews. The phrase "eminent domain," loaded in Detroit's mind after a GM plant wiped out a Polish enclave in 1981, dropped from Bing's vocabulary. His May invite-only land use summit assembled foundations, investors, and city planners, then promptly went underground, promising to return in 18 months with more details.

Organizers for the USSF aren't twiddling their thumbs waiting for his re-emergence. Spady's East Michigan Environmental Action Council organizes around air quality and food justice, engaging Detroit youth with participatory environmental education programs that emphasize media making and civic action. In the lead-up to the Forum, EMEAC has linked with national organizations, hatching plans for a direct action against the city's trash incinerator. They're also hosting a youth-led film screening with media-based environmental justice groups like the Green Guerillas and Outta Your Backpack Media.

EMEAC was part of a collaborative effort to establish a Community Food Justice Task Force to examine the entire food system and evaluate where the community can take ownership to meet its needs, not market needs. While a growing network of city gardens builds long-term toward a self-sustaining food system, a financier has tried to take Detroit's urban agriculture phenomenon large scale. John Hantz has bought hundreds of acres of land on the East Side for what's being called the "corporate farm," a year-round operation producing for wholesale markets. But it's far from a done deal. "When people like Hantz want to come in and plunk down, we're going to have an educated citizenry to say no no no, this is not what we need," says Spady.


A 2010 land study shows that 95 percent of Detroit's vacant single-family homes are still in liveable condition - that's 218,000 homes suitable for occupancy right now. Still, Detroit's homeless population is among the highest in the country, and has been on a steady rise. Two major housing projects near downtown have been torn down or vacated in the last decade, their former tenants re-assigned to mixed-income townhouses or displaced in the shuffle. Ballparks and casinos now sit nearby.

Maureen Taylor, a Forum organizer and activist with Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, says the recently demolished East Jeffries projects were not only communities, but solid, well built housing stock. MWRO fights for residents' basic needs. Their housing takeovers are featured in "Locusts," a hip-hop documentary by Detroit's own Invincible and Finale. The video jumps around Detroit to show how space remains contested and cordoned off, even in a city with so much of it.

"We have people who need housing, and we have available housing. So we got those people ready, and took them straight to those units, kicked in the door, got new locks on 'em," says Taylor, in "Locusts." "That's direct action - there's nothing else left between us and homelessness."

Fresh off a month of action that featured civil disobedience "live-ins" at government-owned or foreclosed homes in ten cities, Miami-based Take Back the Land will arrive in Detroit, joining efforts with MWRO and housing rights groups from Chicago and New Orleans at several strategy sessions.


Detroit's Midtown area, a constellation of six central-city neighborhoods, is one of the clearest signs that reinvestment is more than a boardroom daydream. The area bordered by four freeways boasts nearly $2 billion in investment in the last decade. Midtown reaches south to a stunning downtown skyline, still blinking like a real corporate city. Downtown's entertainment district reaches back to meet it. In between sits the "South Cass" Corridor, a collection of hand-painted signs on bygone bars, plywood, and parking lots - as well as several social service and homeless organizations.

Midtown's "changing" neighborhood is rebuilding from the ground up, giving rise to a small business bohemia. Gentrification is not an issue now, and it might never be, says Sue Mosey. A long time Detroiter, Mosey heads up the University Cultural Center Association, a non-profit headed up by local business owners and redevelopers. UCCA has its hand in nearly all things Midtown, an idea more than a neighborhood radiating from the Wayne State University campus.

Mosey lists off in rapid fire the projects that her nonprofit has underway. With a $5 million annual budget raised from local foundations, the group funds small business start-ups and facade improvement, street beautification and urban gardens, and is planning an arts district based around an auto dealership turned contemporary art museum.

Then there's real estate. UCCA owns, manages, and helps develop housing for a mix of incomes - for now. "We haven't seen anything like other markets where people throw out low-income and go for lucrative high-end," says Mosey. "That's not the market here, and that's not what we're going for." All of the UCCA's projects, she says, have taken place in vacant or abandoned buildings, and many have a green ethos.

While the Midtown name imports its status from New York, the Cass Corridor is undeniably Detroit. The Corridor's legacy as home to a gritty arts community is too famous to be erased. But its authenticity is becoming marketable, too. "We're not about changing neighborhood names," says Mosey. "But we are about branding the bigger neighborhood that encompasses them all, and we call that Midtown." But slapping a brand on neighborhoods raises the question: can development be about more than just attracting new consumers?

"A little gentrification's good," says Pat Dorn with a smile. But it was his concern that the whole neighborhood would go high-end that got Dorn into affordable housing work. The neighborhood was home to a sizeable white, Appalachian auto worker community when he started the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corporation in 1982. Two blocks of Brainard Street in the heart of the Corridor used to house thousands of people, but began clearing out when the Big 3 stopped hiring.

CCNDC eventually bought up that block for redevelopment. "We wanted to establish a percentage that would always remain affordable," says Dorn. "So we took the center, and we dedicated some units to people who get pushed out. "


Midtown and the Corridor tout a growing number of community-based projects. A locally-owned organic bakery and health food store share a block. Around the corner, there's a community bike shop. Down Cass Avenue, across from the Mandarin signposts of old Chinatown, a recently closed school hosts an independent movie theater and studio space for artists and activists.

But while another layer of life and culture imprints itself on the city's rapidly changing palimpsest - a blend of decay and rebirth, exodus and return - Midtown's humble, village-like charm exists precariously. Because Detroit has gone from majority white to majority black, from industrial powerhouse to industrial graveyard, in a relatively short period of time, no degree of transformation seems untenable. The covered wagon and the kibbutz set off larger processes of settlement and takeover, and gentrification, too, happens in phases on the urban frontier. Larger commercial and real estate forces always hover, ready to capitalize on "cool," capable of enacting large-scale transformations in short periods of time.

For now, there's only one Starbucks in Midtown. And the high-end lofts that sit above it are half-empty. Around the corner, California investors took out a $2 million mortgage on the Hotel Eddystone. The purchase of the 13-story blown out structure comes after rumors that Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch is considering the Corridor site for a new hockey stadium. A shredded "Move in Now" banner still hangs on the Eddystone's windowless shell, a reminder of a highly-touted 2005 redevelopment effort - one of many false starts that precede the current attempt to transform one of the poorest parts of the city.

Bing's remapping efforts will continue to bump up against pervasive inequality in the city. The most transient visitor, funneled from highway off-ramp to casino parking garage, will still see people posted up on every corner, asking for change.

The tens of thousands of visitors arriving in Detroit for the five-day Forum will take on superficial "renewal" plans with skill-building, strategy sessions, and direct action to shape community-driven solutions. They come together, however, with an understanding that no number of visitors can save the city in one week. "It can't be the end," says Spady. "We'll have to come back out from it stronger. It's got to be more of a beginning."