The Royal Starr Arts Institute

As an author and filmmaker, I’ve been quite productive because I dedicate a lot of attention and work hours into my field. I also connect with communities who support my type of work, in order to learn more and network. For filmmaking, this is particularly important as, unlike with writing, making films requires a team – oftentimes a huge one. Just take a look at the credits at the end of any movie.

Sometimes, the work dynamics are not apparent right away. For instance, today I’m working on my feature film with Dr. Stan Williams, a veteran award-winning filmmaker who taught screenwriting and directing at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan which I attended over a decade ago. You never know how the people you meet will team up with you in the future.

That’s why communities like the Royal Starr Arts Institute are vital to a career in film. They offer you the opportunity to associate with like-minded, like-spirited people where you can share your talents, learn about the talents of others, and possibly find a team for your current or next project. Last month, I interviewed Luke Castle, the president of Royal Starr Arts Institute, which has a free mixer every month and a film festival every year in September.

Be sure to check out the half-hour TV-interview in the youtube video. And check their website for updates given the current situation. https://www.royalstarr.org/

What’s the story behind the Royal Starr Arts Institute? Why and how was it started?

The Royal Starr mission was to celebrate the art of film through the curation and exhibition of works from all over the world, the United States and right here in Michigan. Eighteen months before the first 2016 Royal Starr Film Festival a group of gentlemen met to talk about starting a Film Festival in their community in Royal Oak, MI. After a few months of meeting,they had a name. Royal Starr. “Royal” to pay homage to the community that they made home. “Starr” to honor Orson Starr’s Family, the first manufacturer in Royal Oak. The Starrs made cowbells and bricks, helping create jobs and an economy back in 1840’s. Along with finding a name, the group of gentlemen found their very first Partnership with Paul Glantz and the luxury theaters of Emagine.

What’s your personal background in film and how does that help the Institute?      

I studied film at Full Sail University, but I wanted to stay here in Michigan to help other filmmakers; I believe in Michigan talent. I was a member of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival before this and wanted to explore my passion for modern creative arts. Thus, Royal Starr was created.

What role does the Institute play in the filmmaking community? 

We are rebuilding the fragmented Michigan filmmaker community after the withdrawal of the Michigan film incentives with consistency, communication, partnerships.

In 2018 we started the Michigan Filmmaker Community Mixer. Knowing consistency would be key to building the trust of the already fragmented community. With the belief that community thrives on face to face interaction to encourage better communication between the fragments of the community, we would hold a open and free event every second Tuesday of the month.

How has your organization made a difference in Michigan’s filmmaking community? Do you have any examples to share?

We understood we had to be more than just a networking event. We had to create viable and real opportunities. From the beginning we offered tables at the event for members to highlight themselves, for casting roles, filling crew positions, and sharing their projects. Driven by our second belief, we are here to create a viable film economy. So we made sure that whoever had a table and were recruiting for a project had to be offering some sort of monetary compensation for the roles or crew positions they were offering.

You have a yearly festival. What are the dates for 2020 and what are some of the things filmmakers should know about the festival? 

The 2020 Royal Starr Film festival will be held from September 11th- 20th at Emagine Theatres in Royal Oak, featuring films from Michigan and all around the world. We love to celebrate with our guests afterward.

What advice would you give filmmakers just starting out? Or those trying to hone their craft? 

Every project you work on is a learning experience and grows your skill set.

Where do you see the institute five years from now? 

I see Royal Starr expanding and offering more learning initiatives, especially during our Film and Digital Media Expo (FANME). In past years, we offered editing, acting, writing, and lighting workshops with leaders in the film industry.thumbnail_logo

The Scriptorium,a Place for Writing

About a year ago, I heard a good rumor that a new bookshop, The Scriptorium, was opening in Clawson, Michigan. What made it unique was its goal to serve the Michigan literary community by carrying new titles released by Michigan authors. Its owner, Diana Kathryn Plopa, was already quite active in the writing community as the associate publisher, editor-in-chief and a writing coach at Grey Wolfe Publishing, LLC, an independent publishing house. The author of six books of various genres, she had previously led writing and critique groups at Panera Bread.

“I focus on mentoring other writers and supporting their dreams of publication,” she’d once said. 

Diana spent time as a features writer for a Detroit newspaper, and for several years she wrote copy part-time for a popular local radio program. She holds a degree in English, with a concentration on creative composition, as well as a certification in early childhood development.

“Writing and a sincere love for the written word are passions that have followed me since early childhood,” she said. “Whether poetry, fiction, memoir or any other genre; my words create worlds to step into with enthusiasm and wonder. I don’t write because it’s necessary fun – although it truly is – I write because like breathing, if I don’t do it, I would die!”

Her Muse, Drake, a duck her son gifted her long ago, helps her with the tough stuff, quacking inspiration in her ear whenever necessary.

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During the summer, I visited The Scriptorium and learned that it also offers a wide variety of used books by national bestselling authors, writing workshops, writing groups, critique groups, book clubs, children’s literary adventures and a host of other bookish events. When you walk into the bookstore, you’ll immediately notice that they have a special space set aside for writers to focus on their work.

I went in one Wednesday evening to meet Diana when I noticed several tables getting filled with writers, their laptops, coffee cups, and even their dinner of sushi or whatever else. Diana explained that unless the space is temporarily being used for an event, you’ll always be able to find a table and an outlet to comfortably add energy and creativity to your works-in-progress. They even provide hot beverages, bottled water, and snacks (supported by donations) to help fuel one’s enthusiasm because, Diana says, “Our imaginations are fueled by the abundance of hot cocoa whenever we write together.”  

The warmth of the atmosphere and the fact that there was coffee available to energize me, I decided to take out my pen and journal and join the writing group. It was a productive two hours, from 7 pm – 9 pm, so I returned the following week. Now that my children are back in school and I lead a Girl Scout Troop with a conflicting schedule, I haven’t been able to go much, though it still lives nicely in my memory. Not just the writing space, but the spirit of the place and its people.

Diana lives with her husband, Dave, and their two dogs, Alex and Finnigan in Birmingham, Michigan. She enjoys writing, sailing, kayaking, escaping to their cabin in mid-Michigan to write and spend time with the family, especially her son Zachary. Wolfe Cub: The Inspiring Story of a Woman who Made the Conscious Choice to Raise her Child as a Single Parent is the story of Diana’s Wolfe Cub, Zachary, and how together, they re-imagined their limitless American Family. Diana writes about how she raised her son as a single parent not by death of a spouse or by divorce, but by choice. She made a plan to raise her son with intelligent love, reasonable boundaries and lots of patience.

Throughout the years of raising her son, she found many creative ways to support her family. She has spent time in the theater as a technical director and lighting designer, worked as a nanny, a preschool computer teacher, and a medical transcriptionist. During Zachary’s teenage years, she opened a website design company called Wolfe Technologies, Inc. In her free-time, she writes with enthusiastic abandon. She’s currently working on a number of books.

“My personal goal is to write one book in each of the major genres,” she said, “and then choose a favorite – if that’s possible.”

Check out Diana Kathryn Plopa’s website to learn more about her work http://www.dianakathrynplopa.com/

Here’s a link to the Scriptorium Bookshop https://www.thescriptoriumbookshop.com/

Link to Grey Wolfe Publishing http://www.greywolfepublishing.com/