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Troy — A mock film set of an all-American diner turned into a classroom for the public on Saturday at the Motion Picture Institute which celebrated its 20th year with an event for aspiring filmmakers and the curious.

The MPI is an educational institution which operates a one-year trade school for film students and actors. It has been teaching and training students to find careers working in the film industry for the last two decades, said president and CEO, Douglas Schulze.

"People were always telling me that MPI is Michigan's best kept secret," Schulze said. "So we decided celebrate our 20th year with this event."

The school has an editing room where students learn the fundamental of editing film, visual effects and computer generated imagery.

Its central room, with a giant green screen, is where multiple mock sets have been built including the diner and is where students can get hands on experiences in lighting, script continuity, acting and on set protocol.

"This is our primary classroom. We are a very hands on program. So that is what the draw is to the school. When you come here you are on set," Schulze said.

Tuition for the MPI's one-year program runs $14,000. It averages about 100 students per year for film making and film acting programs.

"We are not out for volume because we have very good inroads for career placement," Schulze said. "We have a bridge to a very hot market down in Georgia and Los Angeles where the film incentives are."

On Saturday its film making festival included product demonstrations with special effects make-up, educational sessions on film making techniques, panel discussions and a film screening.

Brandi Lee, 19, of Clinton Township came to Saturday's open house because she wants to get into film making for television and movies. She is considering enrolling in the school. Saturday was her second visit there.

"Acting does seem fun. Writer would be good. I could help with the camera work. The scenery, something like that," Lee said. "It is something I would like to do. I don't want to just learn and not be able to work in the field."

Milton Gust of Troy said he has a new respect for film makers and the complexity of the work. He does not plan to enter film making but attended the event because he was curious.

"It's not as easy as it looks. There is a number of people that are involved just to do a single scene. Maybe 13 people," Gust said.

Ring of Steel Action Theatre and Stunt Troupe, a theatrical combat organization that provides classes, training and, custom fight choreography, was part of Saturday's event, providing a table of swords and other weapons used in films, parades and other events.

Owner Christopher Barbeau said his organization has about 30 employees and works with actors on sets to lift and lower them for action scenes.

"Like in a Star Wars film when you have to force flying someone through the air, we are the people who are responsible for keeping the people safe and training them how to do it," Barbeau said.

For more information on MPI, go to their website


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