Earlier this year, ten people sat in a meeting at the Community House, a nonprofit dedicated to cultural, social and educational enrichment, in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham. First question on the agenda for Community House members: “What could we do to create excitement in the community?” Then, Question Two: “What kind of event could we host that's never been done before?” After some collaboration, an answer was born for both: The First Annual Elmore Leonard Literary Arts and Film Festival.
The festival, which will kick off on November 10 and last through November 13, will serve as both an outreach to the Michigan community and a fundraiser for the Community House, where it will be held. Events will range from screenwriting competitions, to screenings of “Justified,” a TV series based on Elmore Leonard's novella “Fire in the Hole.” There will also be panels, discussing topics such as “How to Take a Book to a Screenplay to a Movie,” with participants like local writer Mitch Albom and Tod “Kip” Williams, director of Paranormal Activity 2. The festival will end with a benefit gala to honor 85-year-old Leonard, who has published 43 novels, over 40 short stories and a notable work of non-fiction. “He's a legend,” said Kathy Wilson, co-chair of the festival. “And a lot of people don't even know he lives in Michigan!” (More on Time.com:Read "10 Questions for Elmore Leonard" )
Exposing Michigan talent is a huge part of the event's purpose. And the Community House hopes to honor even more Michigan talent at future versions of the festival. “Because we're in such dire economic straits right now, the press is only focusing on the negative in Detroit and Michigan,” Wilson said. “But we've got to start bragging about who we are! We've got some incredible talent here!” Jeff Daniels, Tim Allen and Kid Rock are a few possible contenders to potentially be honored in years to come.
Wilson, who lives in Birmingham, hopes the festival will become comparable to the Woodward Dream Cruise one day. “The Dream Cruise started with a very small idea, and it's grown exponentially over the years,” she said. “I hope this will grow the same way – only instead of honoring automobiles, people would be honoring the arts.” But for now, she'd be happy with one simple outcome: to honor Elmore Leonard and "to make him proud.”
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