When you think of Flint & Genesee you might think of the automotive industry and its history, or perhaps the lakes and waterways. What you might not think about though, is the connection Genesee County has to the movies. While there have been several documentaries made about the area or shot here, Flint and its neighboring towns and cities have also been used as a location for feature films and short films over the years.
The most recent film to have been shot in the area, Flint specifically, was Half Dead Fred, which is a horror thriller that was made in and around the city in 2021 and 2022. The film used local talent as well as Hollywood actors and was filmed in a local home and in several businesses around the city such as Hoffman’s Deco Deli & Cafe. The story of a detective who can speak with the dead as he works a case had its world premiere at the FIM Capitol Theatre, and the film is available to watch for free on the streaming service Tubi.
The biggest film to be made in the area is the Will Ferrell comedy Semi-Pro. The movie was filmed in and around Flint and tells the story of a fictional semi-professional basketball team based in the city. The film had stars Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson here for shooting and filmed on Saginaw Street, in front of the Capitol Theatre and down Brush Alley, to name but a few locations. Among the scenes was one of period 1970’s cars driving down Saginaw Street with fake snow on the ground to make it appear as if it was winter.
In 2009 the film Alleged used Crossroads Village as its stand-in backdrop for 1925 Tennessee. The film tells the story of the ‘Scopes Trial’ which dealt with teaching evolution in a Tennessee school. The film was shot entirely in the village, using its buildings to capture the atmosphere of 1920’s Tennessee and featured performances from actors Brian Dennehy, Fred Thompson, and Colm Meaney, among others. The film is available to buy.
While not necessarily the most famous film made locally, Chameleon Street was one of the most celebrated. The film was made by director Wendell B. Harris Jr. and released in 1990 and shot in and around Flint. The story is about a man who becomes a bit of a human chameleon as he impersonates different professionals like a lawyer and doctor. The film created a buzz with critics on its release and won the Grand Jury award at Sundance in 1990. While it’s not talked about much, it’s an incredibly well-regarded film that brought the film spotlight on Flint & Genesee and deserves to be as celebrated locally as it has been nationally in recent years.
These are not the only films to have been made in the area, though the rest are much more modest in scope and aim. Filmmaker Brad Leo Lyon has made several low budget horror films in the area like Little Creeps. The film All’s Faire In Love, a love story set at a Renaissance Fair, filmed at the Michigan Renaissance Festival but also had a scene that was shot outside of the Mott Foundation Building in downtown Flint. A 1962 short documentary about the birth of community education in Flint and was funded by the Mott Foundation and filmed by famed director Herk Harvey. There was even a notoriously silly drive-in horror film made in and around Flint from 1970 called Night of the Bloody Transplant that you can find to rent.
While Flint & Genesee may seem as far from Hollywood as you can get, the fact is that the movies came to town, and never really left. Even today there are films being made by local filmmakers that are being screened regionally and internationally at film festivals, proving that Flint & Genesee is a lot closer to Hollywood than we may have realized. There are currently several film festivals movie fans can check out.
Flint Youth Film Festival, which is held every summer and features films by young people locally and nationally and includes live screenings and workshops.
The Karen Schneider Jewish Film Festival of Flint, which is held in the spring and is a five-day festival that focuses on issues and perspectives of the Jewish community.
Finally, this October will be the Flint Short Film Freakout, which will feature short horror films from around the globe for live screenings. The festival will be held October 29 and admission is free.