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Feature film shot by WMU students now out on DVD

by Mark Schwerin

Nov. 7, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of the South Haven, Mich., pier in Lake Effect film.
"The Lake Effect" features local cast and crew members; number of familiar scenes.
KALAMAZOO--"The Lake Effect," an independent feature film shot two years ago with the help of Western Michigan University students, is now available on DVD at

Shot in southwest Michigan in the summer of 2009, "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. It 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 "Ringer."

In May, the film was shown to sold-out audiences at special sneak-preview screenings at the Rave in Kalamazoo and the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. It also won critical praise locally, with the Kalamazoo Gazette calling it "a well-acted and crisply photographed drama ... all the performances in 'Lake' are well crafted and full of subtle surprises."

A number of the cast and crew are 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.

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. Dr. Arnie Johnston, professor and chair emeritus of English, had an on-camera speaking role.

"The Lake Effect" is a comedy-drama about a couple who retreat to their cottage on Lake Michigan to reconnect. But their holiday is interrupted when Rob's estranged and very pregnant teenage daughter Celia lands on their doorstep. With 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.

Learn more about the film at