Ted Raimi is feeling homesick, and more than a bit envious.
"I'm really jealous that there's so much production going on there," the Royal Oak native says by phone from California, where he moved in 1989 and carried on the family honor by carving out a laudable career as an actor, director and writer. "I'm not jealous of the filmmakers. I'm envious because when I was a young guy coming up in the business in Detroit, all we had were industrial films. That was it."
The homesickness Raimi feels will be cured this weekend, when he returns to town to screen his popular 2010 Web series Playing Dead at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Detroit Film Theatre, the main attraction in a multimedia evening conceived as a benefit for the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. (Metro Times is a co-sponsor of the event, billed as "Playing Dead — LIVE!") He maintains, however, that if the cinematic opportunities now available in and around Motown had existed 20 years ago, he might never have left in the first place.
"I probably wouldn't have, and my life would have been very different," muses Raimi, 45, who pops up on episodes of Supernatural and the syndicated Legend of the Seeker but may be best known for his roles in Patriot Games, Steven Spielberg's classic '90s sci-fi TV series SeaQuest DSV and the trilogy of Spider-Man blockbusters directed by his older brother, Sam. "I mean, what I'm envious of are all these young actors in Detroit now. There's a ton of movies going on all around them, with two- or three-line parts to get their SAG (Screen Actors Guild) cards."
Playing Dead — written by and starring former Groundlings improv trouper and Girls on Film online host Suzanne Keilly, who'll be joining Raimi at the DFT Saturday — is a quirky dark comedy about Grace, an out-of-work actress so desperate that she agrees to work as the Grim Reaper's assistant to make ends meet. "It's a very L.A. story," Raimi observed. "Even temping for Death is OK, provided you can put it on your résumé."
Raimi and Keilly had worked together on several projects previously, and when she brought him the original Playing Dead 10-minute script, "I just liked the story," he says. "I thought it was funny, and it's hard to find scripts for Web stuff that aren't just sex or violence or vampires. There's a million of those, so I wanted to do something a little different.
"And it's doing surprisingly well. As you know, the Internet is a dicey business at best, but we've had almost 50,000 views, so we're very pleased with the results. Annette Madius, one of the heads at Mosaic, suggested I come show it with the Mosaic gang for charity, and I thought that was a really good idea. I'm from Detroit, and anything I premiere I want to premiere there first."
Madius, associate director of development for Mosaic, says she directed Raimi in a few productions when he was a teenager. "It's so much fun to see young artists that you've worked with grow up to be successful," she says. "It's the biggest joy I have at Mosaic. And when I saw Playing Dead, I immediately thought it would play well on the large screen at the DFT. It's kind of like That Girl on TV, which I loved as a kid, only really dark, kitschy and cool."
While here, Raimi and Keilly will be conducting a workshop with the Mosaic Acting Company and with young filmmakers from the Digital Media and Arts Technology program at YouthVille Detroit Thursday night (Aug. 26), Madius added.
Fellow Detroiter Kurt Rauf produced and shot the series of eight webisodes. What's more, Raimi made sure all the music used in Playing Dead was performed by metro Detroit musicians, and two of the acts, garage-rock icon Troy Gregory and Ypsilanti popsters Lightning Love, will perform live during Saturday's benefit. Additionally, the works of stylized local visual artist SLAW will be on display at the DFT beginning at 7 p.m., before the performances. WDET-FM's Ann Delisi, the doyenne of Detroit indie rock, will host the evening.
Raimi vowed that, with the production infrastructure of the city continually improving, he will come home again to mount his next creative project. "The next series I am shooting [in Detroit] completely," he says. "It's a horror anthology, in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I wrote the thing to be shot in Detroit."
Saturday's event will include the screening of a blooper reel and a "making of" video, as well as an audience Q-and-A session with Raimi and Keilly. Tickets for Playing Dead — LIVE! are $12; a special $50 patron ticket includes a meet-and-greet reception with the Playing Dead principals after the show. Call 313-833-4005 or see mosaicdetroit.org for ticket purchases. The Detroit Film Theatre is located inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. And even though all proceeds go to the Mosaic Youth Theatre, the event is not deemed appropriate for children under 12.
Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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