Billy Whitehouse

Apr 222014

Regular Meeting
April 28, 2014 from 5:00 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Coleman A Young Municipal Center
2 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

13th Floor

4. ACTION ITEMS (Follow-Up): Entertainment 3 E’s – Empowerment, Economics, Education “Re-branding the city, spirit of the people.”
A. Candidates for Commission resumes
B. Honorary Chair Mayor Duggan for CrusiN’ the D’ 2014
C. CrusiN’ the D’ 2014 tribute to William Clay Ford, merging with the Woodward Dream Cruise
D. Entrepreneurship and vendors opportunities/ CrusiN’ the D’, Aug 14-16 2014
E. Licensing of Brand rights with Dream Cruise
F. Bicycle, motor cycle (car cruise) Chair H. Jenkins
G. Hub sites and party sites
H. Benefit Charities BUF fiduciary chair
I. Website design
1. Walk to Fame free App go to

Apr 142014


Detroit is one of 11 cities to take part in the 24-hour filming campaign through the One Day on Earth Foundation, which aims to put the conversation of a city’s future back into the hands of its citizens, says Brandon Litman, co-founder and executive producer of One Day on Earth.
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Apr 122014


SHOW DETAILS: Nieto Productions’ “The Cross and the Light” continues at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, 350 Madison St., Detroit, 8 p.m. April 11-12; 3 p.m. April 12; and 5 p.m. April 13. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. Tickets: $25-55. For information: 313-887-8501 or

A passion play for our times
By John Quinn

REVIEW: “The Cross and the Light”
Nieto Productions at Music Hall

Beginning in the 17th century, the town of Oberammergau, Bavaria has presented a play based on the Passion of Jesus of Nazareth, as recounted in the New Testament. It’s an endeavor of epic proportions, with a cast of hundreds. It will next be performed in 2020. Other than its big scope and common subject matter, the German production differs from Nieto Productions’ “The Cross and the Light,” which returns Friday to Detroit’s Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. Oberammergau is a pageant; stiff and ritualistic. “The Cross and the Light” is strongly grounded in the very American traditions of musical theater. While remaining reverential to the source material, the creators were not afraid to retell “the greatest story ever told” in contemporary terms.

“The Cross and the Light” follows the Gospels’ narratives from the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, commemorated as Palm Sunday, to the disciples’ first venture in evangelization, known now as Pentecost. The central character is the same, but the emphasis driving the narrative is not the same as in other musicals drawn from the same source – Jesus as teacher (“Godspell”) or Judas as Grecian-style tragic hero (“Jesus Christ Superstar”). This Jesus is a leader, and how that leadership influences his followers is the main theme. In keeping with that idea, a big part of the narrative is carried by the apostles Peter and Thomas. Played here by singers of extraordinarily gifted tenors – Joshua Gronlund as Peter and Tim Bowman, Jr. as Thomas – their motivations take on an unexpected fervor.

Church-based theater became a common instructional device in medieval Christianity, and many separate works eventually were combined into the Passion plays. “The Cross and the Light” – like “Superstar” – integrates the Magdalene plays, and Ashley Rozanski’s sweet soprano can turn to rasping sorrow in a heartbeat. But here we also find elements of the (other) Mary plays, Mary the Mother of Jesus. Beth Lackey brings her character out from behind the veil; her rendition of the lamentations at the cross is beautiful.

But there’s no story without the strong central character, and Kenny Watson succeeds on all fronts. His Jesus is approachable, warm and gentle. Watson, like all the principals in this production, possesses a killer voice. The vocal arrangements are challenging, and it is remarkable to hear such uniform quality.

“The Cross and the Light” is the creation of Kelly Nieto, who serves as executive producer. Directorial responsibilities for herding this huge cast fall to Dominique Lowell and Brian LeDuc, who also serves as musical director. For this year’s staging, six new songs arranged by Nashville artist John Hinchey have been added to the score. Patrons of previous productions are in for a much more integrated experience.

Is “The Cross and the Light” a musical for everybody? Although the musical numbers can stand on their own, the production is suitably Christocentric and is most enjoyable if one can say, “I’m a believer!”

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Apr 032014


When Luke Jaden’s eleventh-grade history teacher offered his class an unconventional choice between two end-of-year projects, Jaden picked the most unusual option.

“We could either write a paper on Abraham Lincoln or make a film about the American abolitionist movement,” Jaden says. “I’d written enough papers in my past, so I decided to make a film.”

What could have been a quick school project turned out to be a full-fledged documentary entitled Madman Or Martyr. The film has now had two public screenings and prompted the 18-year-old Oakland County resident to start his own production company. Despite Jaden’s youth, going behind the camera is just the next step in what’s already been a respectable acting career. After acting in school plays starting at age 12, Jaden signed with Bingham Farms talent agency Productions Plus and booked small roles in several films including Rumors of Wars and The Giant Mechanical Man.

“Whenever [bigger film productions] got slow here, I decided to turn more to the directing-producing-writing side of things,” Jaden says.

His teacher’s challenge provided an ideal outlet for those aspirations, and Jaden found a perfect subject in John Brown. Brown was hanged for his 1859 attempt to incite a slave revolt by leading a raid on a U.S. arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Jaden was intrigued by Brown’s unusual story.

“I always thought he was an African-American,” Jaden says. “I did not know he was a white man. That kind of had my inspiration because it was John Brown who was fighting for these African-Americans as a white man. Especially during the early 1800s, that was just unheard of.”

Jaden threw himself into what he describes as “heavy research” for the film.

“I was becoming John Brown and I was just putting my mind in his mind,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I am this person and I’m helping these slaves and feeling the bloodshed and hardship that they’re going through at that time.’”

Jaden also assembled a remarkable roster of professional talent to get the job done. He cast Ed Kelly (the voice of Belle Tire’s “Tireman” character) as the voice of John Brown. Tim Holmes (who had a small role in Oz the Great and Powerful) and Phillip Edward Van Lear (corrections officer Louis Patterson on Prison Break) filled out the voice cast. Jaden found some of his 35 crew members through ads he posted on the Michigan Film Office’s website, but most were friends he’d met on previous productions. Everyone involved either donated their time or worked under deferred payment contracts, whereby they would receive payment only if the film made money.

“It was very low-budget and bare-bones, but it looks good and I’m very proud of it,” Jaden says. “There were a lot of favors that I had to call in.”

Recalling his first meeting with Jaden, Ed Kelly says the producers he auditions for typically have “white hair or blue hair” and that he initially thought Jaden was an intern. Kelly says anyone in show business ought to be impressed with Jaden’s career thus far.

“This business is a long shot,” Kelly says. “I audition for a living. When I land a role, it’s a pleasant surprise. So to have his kind of trajectory so early on is really kind of amazing.”

Jaden edited Madman Or Martyr’s original 80-minute rough cut down to 10 minutes for his class presentation last May, but then he threw himself into cutting a mid-length version of the film for public release. After another seven months of work, he completed a 40-minute cut, which premiered at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in January. Jaden was overwhelmed by the crowd of 400 that showed for the screening.

“I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I could not have asked for a better crowd,” he says. “Fifty or so people had to leave because there was no standing room.”

The film has since screened at the inaugural Freep Film Festival, and Jaden is currently seeking a commercial distributor for it. In recent months he’s also involved himself in a dizzying array of new projects. He’s currently in post-production on Juvicide, a narrative short he wrote and directed, starring Laurence Fishburne’s son Langston. He’ll be directing another short, Monster, in May, and Frank Capra III is currently directing Snowbirds, a script Jaden cowrote. Jaden is also seeking new films to produce through his newly minted company, SOS Productions.

It’s a pretty busy schedule, especially for a kid who’s still wrapping up his senior year of high school. Jaden says he intends to study film in college, but he’ll also minor in journalism or business as a backup plan in case a career in show business doesn’t work out. Michigan’s film tax incentives and the big productions they drew helped fire Jaden’s interest in the film industry, but he’s uncertain about staying in the state for the long term.

“It’s a little scary,” he says. “It was 42 percent tax incentives and now it’s down to 25 percent, which is still not bad, but we’re competing with places like Atlanta and New Orleans and Pittsburgh. Even Chicago’s been upping their game recently.”

But Jaden’s still got high hopes for a career in film somewhere. He says he aspires to be a director and actor, to “kind of pull the whole Ben Affleck thing.” Kelly says that even at a young age, Jaden’s definitely got a remarkable edge when it comes to knowing his way around the industry.

“The way you succeed in the business today is to know every job from the janitor’s closet to the penthouse,” Kelly says. “He writes, he directs, he produces, he promotes. He’s a one-stop shop.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Metromode and Concentrate.

Apr 032014

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player
Sneak peak: Director, cast & ‘Firebreather’ of JINN

A film shot on location in Michigan will open in theaters across the country on Friday.

“Jinn” was written and directed by Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, who is the co-founder of Detroit-based Exxodus Pictures.

The movie centers around an automotive designer played by Dominic Rains who enjoys an idyllic life with his new wife until it is interrupted by a cryptic message that warns of imminent danger and a curse that has afflicted his family for generations.

Apr 022014



Is a community film project that sets out to discuss the topic of suicide. There are different ways to approach this sensitive issue and as a community it is important to discuss it. In the United States there are approximately 36,000 suicides per year and 800,000 attempts with women leading the way at 20% and men at 12%. It is important to talk about the ways that it affects the community.


Communities can provide a large support group. Here in Livingston County Michigan, the community is coming together for many reasons, both happy and sad. There is a lot to be learned from the reasons that a community is brought together. Recently the community has been cautiously focused on the topic of suicide. With the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds being suicide, the community is looking deeply into this issue.

Inspiring and heart-wrenching, HOPELESS? is a film that explores a community that has been impacted by suicide. Starting off with a scene from a funeral of a recent suicide, this movie pulls at the heartstrings and develops a story of dialogue.

A News Team has to cover this story and struggles on how to approach it and how to air it appropriately to their audience. Their discussion brings up common concerns and issues when the topic of suicide is on the table. Legal experts and community members are brought in to make this discussion more beneficial.
The Superintendent of the local area school district is concerned about how this issue is affecting his students. With the assistance of the teaching staff he brings the students into a discussion with their peers and with trained professionals.

HOPELESS? is meant to bring the issue of suicide into the community as a topic to discuss. It is a movie to inspire dialogue about a sensitive issue that many people are hesitant to discuss. By using stories from the community as inspiration this movie will show you how life goes on and hope is always there.

Mar 242014


Cookies, Movie Makers!

There will be a meeting this week! We will get together at LIAA at 6:30 Wednesday 3/26 evening, at the offices of LIAA and UpNorth TV. We will feature some sneak peaks at the work of our group: for example, Micheal Toms will share some footage of the Jeff Haas and friends performance he recently filmed. If you would like to share a bit of your work, bring a few minutes of your latest project to share with the group.

Snacks will be provided – I will bring some of my famous cookies, and almond and cows milk to dunk them in. Pajamas optional.>

Feb 242014

Coleman Young Building, Detroit Michigan – 13th Floor

4. ACTION ITEMS (Follow-Up): Entertainment 3 E’s – Empowerment, Economics, Education “Re-branding the city, spirit of the people.”
A. Dream Cruise 2014 Connects Detroit: Planning Team Supporters/
* Interested Parties
* Route
* Activities
B. Motown Festival 2014-15: interested Supporters Committee ASAP
C. Candidates: Entertainment Commissioners Profile defined
D. Commissioners resumes: input Marcell Todd requested
E. FMQN production co. Sony/Music looking for marketable talent/John Mertis
F. Techno Festival @ Ford Field
1. Catherine Blackwell inductee died last week
2. Bob Cafagna / Joe Malleck (movie project) TGIF
3. Walk to Fame free App go to

Feb 222014

Show business unionists have turned out enthusiastically in the middle of the weekend with promises to support legislation to sweeten California’s film tax credit program.

More than 700 attendees came to the standing-room-only rally at Pickwick Gardens in Burbank — three days after the introduction of Assembly Bill 1839, aimed at overhauling the current incentive program and attracting bigger movies and TV series. Speakers urged the audience to press their legislators on the issue, stressing their assertion that the tax credits are essential to keep productions from being lured out of state.

“We are going to stand with you to make sure Hollywood does not become Detroit,” said Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who noted that Detroit has seen its status as the automotive industry leader eroded in recent years by government incentive programs elsewhere.
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