Support the Next Spielberg: The Michigan Student Film Festival and Joining DAFT

"Monsters University" director, Dan Scanlon and DAFT founding member and cinematographer for "Roger and Me," John Prusak.

“Monsters University” director, Dan Scanlon chats with former instructor, longtime DAFT board member and cinematographer for “Roger and Me,” John Prusak.

Support the Michigan Student Film Festival by December 31st to be eligible for a 2013 deduction by clicking here.

Not a bad vibe.  A room full of students who had just been honored at the 45th Michigan Student Film Festival talking with a past winner, soon to be premiering Pixar’s latest hit, Monsters University.

In May, Dan Scanlon, of Clawson High School, flew in from Hollywood  carrying with him a special showing of Monsters University–nearly a month before its release.  Pixar allows its directors to select a charity for a special screening benefit and Dan selected three non-profits:  the Assistance League, Friends of Detroit Film Theatre and Digital Arts – Film & Television (DAFT).

1992, Dan Scanlon with DAFT instructor, Vic Spicer.

1992, Dan Scanlon with DAFT instructor, Vic Spicer.

Mr. Scanlon was only nine when DAFT first recognized his gifts of storytelling and animation.  Julie Hinds of the Detroit Free Press noted:

DAFT board member John Prusak, an award-winning cinematographer, was one of Scanlon’s early teachers. Prusak and another instructor, Jeff Bloomer, taught the young animation whiz at the William D. Ford Career Technical Center in Westland.

Prusak says Scanlon’s mother would drive him to evening workshops twice a week after he completed his school day in Clawson. (source)

You can see the talk-show with the students filmed at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan in May, 2013.

Four decades of Programs from the Michigan Student Film Festival

Four decades of Programs from the Michigan Student Film Festival

As a video production teacher, I became aware of DAFT through my colleague Dick Rockwell of Royal Oak Dondero High School.  Dick along with founder John Prusak (cinematographer for Roger and Me) steered the early years of the Michigan Student Film Festival, helping to find its longtime home at the Detroit Institute of Arts’ beautiful Detroit Film Theatre which celebrates its 40 year anniversary on January 11th with founder and host, Elliot Wilhelm:

Best of Show students and their families gather in the DFT's Crystal Gallery in April 2013.

Best of Show students and their families gather in the DFT’s Crystal Gallery Cafe in April 2013.

 “An Affair to Remember.” Tickets are $150 per person and the party features a strolling dinner, open bar, valet parking, special guests, live music, door prizes and a presentation by film curator Elliot Wilhelm, who has been with the DFT since its inception.  (source)

“America’s Longest Running Student Film Festival” and Past Winners…

DAFT was recently recognized by the American Film Institute as America’s longest-running student film festival.  Past winners, in addition to Scanlon, include:

  • Doug Chiang (Oscar-winner for Death Becomes Her, Star Wars Episodes 1-3, The Polar Express)
  • Doug Blush (Oscar-nominated in 2013 for The Invisible War) see YouTube interview
  • Daniel Casey (screenwriter, Sundance Writers Workshop),
  • Drew and Brett Pierce (the cult zombie comedy on Netflix, Deadheads),
  • Kasey Bell (American Dad, Family Guy),
  • Aaron Lebovic (Oz the Great and Powerful, Detroit 1-8-7)
  • MyMediaDiary contributor Kale Davidoff (Iron Man 3, Transformers 4)
  • Adam Cooper, Daniel Cooper, Jordan Lederman and Chris McClellan producers of The Case of Amber Gram honored in June 2013 for high school excellence in film production at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

2013 Deductible Membership Through December 31st!

Students, educators, professionals and fans of film are encouraged to join DAFT.

  • $35 for Student Membership (includes screening events, workshops and an entry in the 2014 festival)
  • $50 for Individual Membership (non-student filmmakers, educators, fans) includes  screening events, workshops and an entry in the 2014 festival
  • $150 Institutional Membership (schools, film organizations) includes 3 3ntries for screening events, workshops and 3 entries in the 2014 festival
  • Film Festival Corporate Sponsorship:  $500, $2,500 or $5,000 (see details)

For more on DAFT, please visit the website at  You can also see more below:

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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

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