Every Sunday, Susan Woods had a regular routine. She would pick up her TV Guide, circle every movie she saw in print and then make it her goal to see them on the big screen. Woods’ passion for film began with her TV Guide and continues today in her role as director of the East Lasing Film Festival (ELFF).
[elff] Now in its eighth year, the ELFF began when Woods relocated from California, where she worked in television, screen writing and producing, to MSU, where her husband is a professor. Woods, who had attended several film festivals elsewhere, saw East Lansing as the perfect location for a festival of its own. The presence of the university, along with the encouragement of the city, combined to fill the void when it came to independent film.
“It was the perfect marriage,” Woods said.
The ELFF is now the largest and most diverse film festival in Michigan, receiving over 8,000 submissions each year. The festival goes from Wednesday, March 30 to Sunday, April 3 with movies showing in Wells Hall and at the Hannah Community Center on Abbott Road. Some of these submissions come through advertisements placed by the ELFF, but other films are sought out. Woods travels to other festivals to see various movies and find out what’s creating a buzz. She also seeks out works that will reflect the diversified student organizations at MSU that volunteer their time with the festival.
Woods has a hand in bringing movies to MSU students at other times of the year besides the ELFF. She works with the East Lansing Film Society (ELFS) to show 12 movies per year in Wells Hall with Campus Center Cinemas. In addition to finding diverse and outstanding movies, Woods also works to provide sponsors for the ELFF. The non-profit organization receives support from the Independent Film Channel, HBO, Kodak and festival ticket sales.
[susan2] This year Woods is excited about the support the film festival has gained over the years, but also the exceptional movies that will be shown. The opening night film, “The Sea Inside,” won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
“It’s about a man fighting for the right to die, so it’s like we’re pulling this right out of the headlines,” Woods said, referring to the Terri Schiavo case in Florida.
Tonight, a silent film, “IT,” will be shown with live musical accompaniment. Other highlights include a question-and-answer session after the film “Headrush,” showing Saturday April 2, with the director, who is flying in from Ireland especially for this event.
“One more film, ‘Tarnation,’ was one of the best movies of 2004. A 13-year-old made this autobiography of himself and he incorporates movie clips,” Woods said of the film being shown Friday April 1.
The diversity among the films is apparent and is one of the aspects Woods is proud to have brought to East Lansing and the festival, allowing MSU students to experience films many never would have seen otherwise. Although she has less time to spend in front of the television these days, her efforts are opening the eyes of the MSU community to movies no TV Guide has in store.

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