State - Muskegon Residents with big dreams start film company Goal is to show that Muskegon can 'grow and thrive'

By Eric Gaertner

The Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) -- A hometown company of fledgling filmmakers isn't waiting for big-time movie producers to discover their new company MoeBoog Films, or Muskegon and the advantages film supporters believe this area offers. Muskegon-area men and women with film school backgrounds are relying on each other in taking that first step in pursuit of their "Hollywood" dreams.

The group -- Muhammad Hakeem of Muskegon, Charmaine Green of Muskegon Heights, Leeland Wyrick of Muskegon Heights, Derek Blacha of Norton Shores, Charles Stark of Norton Shores and Sidnei McCarty, a Houston resident originally from Muskegon Heights -- recently shot a short film at various locations in the Muskegon area to enter in a movie-making contest through Black Entertainment Television.

Whether they win the contest or not, the local filmmakers hope the experience and exposure will lead to production work on larger movies and be the beginning of a solid industry in Muskegon.

Hakeem, a Muskegon High School graduate who took part in the film program at Grand Rapids Community College, said MoeBoog Films is trying to become a pioneer in Michigan for minority filmmaking.

He said the goal is to prove that "Muskegon can survive and thrive" in the filmmaking industry, which has grown substantially since the state in 2008 began one of the most generous tax incentives programs for filmmaking in the country.

Wyrick, who took Muskegon Community College's inaugural Introduction to Film Production course earlier this year, said they want to be prepared with all of the necessary skills and experience if, as some expect, feature-length movie producers choose to shoot locally. The variety of scene locations, ranging from the lakeshore to urban settings, makes the area potentially a hot spot for movies.

"We're getting out here and doing it," Wyrick said. "We want to help kick start the film interest for us in the Muskegon area."

For Green, the short-film project and the potential for additional projects provide an opportunity to put her film school training from Specs Howard School of Media Arts in Southfield to work.

Green said she, Hakeem and Wyrick started talking about their project after Wyrick took the MCC film course.

"We decided let's just produce this film that Muhammad and I wrote and see where it leads," Green said.

The 20-minute short film, titled "The Forgotten," is a suspense thriller about a young girl who is abducted by a serial child killer, and a young boy, her best friend, who sets to bring the abductor to justice.

As part of the shooting, the filmmakers held an open casting call for local children, ages 7- to 10, to be extras in the film. Dressed in typical school uniform attire -- plain white shirts and navy blue or khaki shorts -- the children were filmed playing outside for the playground scene at Oakview Elementary School in Muskegon.

The film is being entered in BET's Lens on Talent: Johnson & Johnson Presents A Filmmakers Challenge. The films will be judged by a panel of people in the film industry, and the winner will receive up to $100,000 to produce a short film to be broadcast on BET. As part of the contest, some of the short films entered also will be shown on BET.

Hakeem, executive producer on the project, and Green, a producer, like their chances in the contest.

"I think we have a real good chance based on the films I saw last year," Hakeem said.

"We're pretty pleased," Green said.

Published: Wed, Aug 18, 2010