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Voices . . . a mouthful of a movie

Voices is an independently produced feature film written and directed by Jack Fishstrom, with its premier in November 2000

To watch the full film, click on the link above or here: Voices
Running Time: 105 minutes (color, 16mm film)

When it takes a lifetime to develop one's own melody, harmony with others doesn't come easy.

Film Summary

Voices tells the story of Oliver Barand, a renowned speech pathologist who is successful in his career but otherwise leads a lonely life full of quiet routines. Oliver helps others find their voices, but he's unable to find his own. Shy and awkward, he's most comfortable when alone, engrossed in his hobbies. As the women closest to him -- his estranged younger sister Valery and her fresh-spirited teenage daughter, Sam; his seductive, manipulative boss; and the involved younger woman he may have feelings for -- move even closer, his own home is no longer a safe haven. Especially after Valery and Sam move in with him, Oliver has his hands full, and he is challenged to help Sam grow up. Or, is it the other way around? Voices is about real people, a family, a hospital, doctors, and their patients. But, as things develop, the lines blur between the doctors and patients, parents and children.

A loud-mouthed, world-wise teenager helps her mom and uncle grow up.

Film Analysis

Samantha, Oliver’s niece, is a rude, motor-mouthed, self-centered teenager. She’s a lot like her mom. Together, they add up to bad company, especially when they drop in to stay indefinitely with Samantha’s Uncle Oliver. Oliver is quiet, orderly, and introverted. Although he is a renowned speech pathologist and performs wondrously with his speech-impaired patients, he is no match for the assertive, talkative types. Even at the hospital where he works, he has his hands full with his sexy, manipulative boss. Oliver prefers to withdraw to the peacefulness of his quiet hobbies and music, but his home is no longer a safe haven. The clash of opposites proves explosive. Add a pretty assistant therapist into the mix, and the conflicts, jealousies, and frustrations intensify. Yet in his awkward way, Oliver exerts a positive influence on his wayward sister and niece, even while his own personal life seems permanently bound for nowhere . . . until he learns a thing or two from Samantha. Of course the kid has no academic degree and not much bedside manner, but she might be the best speech therapist of all! And on top of that, her own voice turns from trash to talent! This is the story of a doctor with a big heart but no guts and the teenage girl who helps him become whole and redefines herself in the process. Music is one medium for their self-fulfillment. The other is honesty in words and actions

A doctor with a good heart but no guts, and a teenager who helps him become whole and redefines herself in the process.

Principal Credits

Jack Fishtrom: Producer, Director, Writer, Editor
Kevin March: Original Score Composer
Robert Coates: Original Song Writer
John Wolthuis: Gaffer and Sound Recordist
Alan Young: Rerecording Engineer
~ ~
Michael Lee: Oliver Barand
Tricia Ann Smith: Valerie Barand
Sarah Colette: Samantha
Ruby D. Harris: Elaine
Diane O’Brien: Louise
Ali Dahmer: Claire
Randy Milgrom: School Counselor
Ralph Waine: Carl
Nathan Landesman: Mark Jones
Martin Puaa: Cab Driver
Eric Burnstein: Deadbeat
Carolyn Tjon Burnstein: Accompanist
Sam Milgrom: Student Writer
Laura Svejnar: Curious Friend
Arthur Brickman: Meeting Leader
~ ~
Jacob Fishstrom: Production Assistant
Jonathan Haglund: Logistics Liaison
Tracy Spada: Slate
Julia Reardon: Slate Assistant
Alan Reardon: Slate Assistant
Alan Reardon: Slate Assistant
Nic Rivard: Foley Artist
Elizabeth Rivard: Costume Support

Production from July 1998 to September 2000
Filmed in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; and Chicago, Illinois
© 2000, AA Flash Film Production

Production Notes

Voices is the first and only feature film from Jack Fishstrom. It was financed by credit card cash advances and home equity loans. Fortunately, the cast and crew generously donated their time and talents to the effort. Also, the living virtuoso Kevin March composed an original score as a kindness to the filmmaker. The film premiered at the Michigan Theater in November 2000. It was made in 16-mm format using an Arriflex BL camera and edited on a Steenbeck table and Moviola upright. The project took about 2 years to complete, starting in 1998. Scenes were shot in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with some exteriors in Cleveland, Ohio. For example, you will see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame briefly. Other scenes were shot in Comiskey Park (now US Cellular Field), the Museum of Science and Industry, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the John Hancock Tower Observation Deck on the Magnificent Mile, all in Chicago. The film was written, directed, photographed, edited, and produced by Jack Fishstrom, who worked full-time as a college technical writing instructor while completing this project. He continues to this day to work as an instructor in technical communication at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering.

Jack’s approach to making Voices was to use the method he followed as a film student: gather a crew of three people, borrow one camera and a few lights, find a talented cast, put the equipment in the back of one small van, drive to the location, and follow the director’s story board and shot list. Pack everything up and go to the next location. Repeat until the script is shot, and pickup B roll and cutaways before striking. This is bare bones, guerilla, raw-energy filmmaking in the truest sense. The goal was to let the characters and the story carry the film. The production values had to adhere to sufficient standards so that the film looks good, sounds good, and holds together. If he has achieved this goal, then he has proven that the story and the acting can achieve as much, or more, as period costumes, crane shots, special effects, and a cast of thousands.

Notably, the production process was unique among feature films in that this is perhaps the only film made where, on a daily basis, the shooting had to be delayed so one of the principal actors could leave and complete her newspaper route. Usually, Jack used the time while she was delivering papers on her bicycle to change to a new camera/light setup. Sarah Colette is a 14-year-old high school student who plays the very important, precocious teenager, Samantha.

No credentials and no bedside manner, but she heals the voiceless.

Another Note About the Cast

In a film about voices, Jack took a gamble by casting the principal role with a professional mime. Michael Lee, who plays Oliver Barand, is artistic director of OPUS Mime, a performance and educational organization devoted to mime drama and comedy. He is also a former master-class student of Marcel Marceau. Because film is a visual medium, Jack thought Michael's skill with facial gestures and body language would be invaluable and exactly appropriate for this film.

Locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan

People will see many popular Ann Arbor, Michigan, locations, including the University of Michigan campus, the historic Burns Park neighborhood, the Huron River, Whitehall Retirement Center, the Amtrak and Greyhound stations, Tappan Middle School, Kerrytown Concert House, Pizza House and Mediterrano restaurants, North Campus Family Housing, and the deeply missed Borders Books & Cafe.

Screenwriter/Director's Other Films

Voices is Jack Fishstrom's fourth full-length screenplay and the second film that he has written, directed, and edited. The other film, "Jump," is a 15-minute color and sound-synchronized film exploring the difficulties of maintaining a romantic relationship and ultimately the magic of making up. It was enjoyed by audiences, but it has not been widely seen.

Samantha is a rude, motor-mouthed, self-centered teenager. She’s a lot like her mom, Valery. Together, they add up to bad company.