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Characters and Detroit aligned in film

August 01, 2013
All Peter Skorupskas wanted to do was make movies.

Following his 2004 graduation from Grosse Pointe South High School, Skorupskas became a production assistant on the movie, “Oceans of Pearl.”

“It’s like a gofer,” he said in a phone conversation.

His first major movie as a production assistant was “Transformers.” Since then, he has continued to be a production assistant, but with added responsibilities on “Gran Torino,” “The Dark Knight,” “Up in the Air,” “Semi Pro” and the 2012 “Cut/Print,” among others.

Now he and fiancee, Natalie Fedirko, also a native Grosse Pointer, and his brother, Adam, a writer, have formed Tugboat Studios. The filmmaker, who lives in Royal Oak, is working from an original script filming “Tiny Ocean.” It is based on the short story included in an anthology, “Burnt Tongues.” The feature-length film is being shot locally using a Detroit crew of 15, Skorupskas said.

Skorupskas uses the same crew on his films because “we learn how to work with each other. We have the most professional (team) in Michigan. I’m lucky to have them.”

The film combines literature and cinema about a struggling painter, Luchi, and a graphic artist, Sembene, an African stuck in Detroit.

The plot follows the two as they overcome life’s obstacles. Michigan actress Jackie Strez plays Luchi and Langston Fishburne of New York is Sembene.

Skorupskas said the story line of the two characters aligns with Detroit’s history. The film will be shot in Detroit and Hamtramck, or “anything that feels real,” he said. “This is a great place to shoot.”

Skorupskas plans five days of shooting in August using the outside of a liquor store and tugboat.

He proclaimed the movie will be filled with colorful characters, including a salty sea captain.

“One thing to take away is it’s not a comedy or drama. It’s about two characters,” he said. “Luchi will help anyone. It’s a movie (with) hope in it. Those two characters are knocked around, but there is hope, relating to the city of Detroit.”

Though this film is shot in Detroit, his previous short, “Valhalla Blues,” was shot in the Grosse Pointes. It was entered in the Mitten Project, a monthly screening of Michigan’s independent movies.

“I don’t know what is next,” he said. “I expect opportunities to pop up.”

Skorupskas said “Tiny Ocean” will probably be entered in the Mitten Project and the Traverse City Film Festival.

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