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Film shot by WMU students gets Midwest premiere

by Mark Schwerin

May 18, 2011 | WMU News

Publicity still of Ross Partridge as Rob in Lake Effect.
Partridge stars as Rob in "Lake Effect"
KALAMAZOO--An independent film shot two years ago with the help of Western Michigan University students will be screened for the first time in the Midwest later this month in Kalamazoo and Saugatuck.

"The Lake Effect" was filmed in Southwest Michigan in summer 2009. Screenings are set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, May 25-26 at The Rave Theater in downtown Kalamazoo and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. Members of the cast and crew will be in attendance. There will be a reception after the May 25 screening. Tickets are $12.50 and are available at or by calling (800) 838-3006.

"The Lake Effect" features a number of local haunts including the Heritage Guitar factory, Bell's Brewery and Tot to Teen Village in Kalamazoo, as well as Sherman's Ice Cream, Phoenix Street and the pier in South Haven.

The film stars Kay Panabaker from "Fame" and ABC's "No Ordinary Family," Ross Partridge from the Duplass Brothers' film "Baghead" and Tara Summers from television's "Boston Legal" and "Damages."

A number of the cast and crew came from Kalamazoo, including celebrated actress Sharon Williams, Chase Maser, a Portage Central graduate with a burgeoning film career in Hollywood, and a cadre of interns from Western Michigan University's film program.

All of the WMU students who took part in the film have since graduated. They include:

Many were students of Dr. Jennifer Machiorlatti, WMU associate professor of communication in the film, video and media studies program, who acted as the film's assistant director. Students worked as interns in pre-production and on the set as the film was being made. Students assisted in everything from casting and coordinating extras to working with sound and camera units.

Others with WMU ties also took part in the project. Dr. Arnie Johnston, who retired in 2008 as professor and chair emeritus of the WMU Department of English had an on-camera speaking role. Matthew Runyan, a former WMU student, also participated.

Producer Jennifer Westin, a Kalamazoo-native, was drawn back to the state by its generous film tax incentive, as well as the incredible beauty of the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

"Whenever I bring people from out of state to the beaches around South Haven, they are awed by the natural beauty of our coastline," Westin says. "I wanted to share that feeling with a broad audience."

So far the film has won awards including Best Screenplay, Best Ensemble Acting and Audience Favorite from prestigious festivals including the Phoenix Film Festival and Moondance International. The Raindance Film Festival in London named writer/director Tara Miele "a Top Ten American Indie Filmmaker to Watch." called the film "a well-acted and terrifically realized relationship dramedy."

"The Lake Effect" is a comedy-drama about a couple who retreats to their cottage on Lake Michigan to reconnect. Natalie's biological clock is ticking; Rob's resistant to change. But their holiday is interrupted when Rob's estranged and very pregnant teenage daughter Celia lands on their doorstep. His marriage on the rocks and his daughter in need, Rob must embrace his role as a husband and father before he becomes a grandfather.

More information on the movie can be found at