By Gregory Crofton
Making 300 cold calls a day as a stockbroker drove Frank Nemecek out of the world of finance and into filmmaking and journalism. Today when he picks up the phone he’s not to try to sell something, it’s either to check a fact for his increasingly popular website, Warrendale (Detroit) Blog, or to organize the documentary he’s working on. After frying his nerves pushing stock, he moved on to selling life insurance before deciding that wasn’t a good fit either. So Nemecek went back to school. He earned a masters degree in film studies from Wayne State University (Detroit) in 2003. Nemecek wrote and directed the documentary “CHECKING IN: THE STORY OF BOOK-CADILLAC HOTEL,” about an abandoned building in downtown Detroit, once one of the finest luxury hotels in the country. In fact it was the tallest hotel in the world when it opened in 1924. You can learn about the Book Cadillac by watching Nemecek’s documentary below.
Westin Hotels eventually purchased the hotel and it reopened in 2008 after a $200 million renovation. Despite the city of Detroit’s decision to file for bankruptcy last month, the Book Cadillac has been accommodating plenty of guests. “It’s actually doing really well,” Nemecek said. “It’s one of the busiest hotels in town.”
The doc cost him $7,000 to produce and took about seven months to make – two months for the shoot, five months to edit. Nemecek said he didn’t see commercial success with the documentary, but it did lead to freelance video work for a historical preservation group and the History Channel.
Today Nemecek, 43, stays busy with other freelance projects and by posting daily reports about events and decisions related to Detroit and his Warrendale neighborhood, a blog from which he earns a steady stream of income. The bankruptcy filing for Detroit, has, from his perspective, meant more traffic and hence more ad revenue generated by his website.
And Nemecek is working on another documentary called “WORST MOVIE EVER.” It’s a mock “making-of” documentary about the production of a horror movie. “I’m putting together a team now, meeting with investors,” he said. “It should be in production this fall.”
His advice for people determined to make their own documentaries? “With documentaries in particular, there are fascinating stories all over the world,” Nemecek said. “The job of a documentary filmmaker is to uncover those stories. Abandon whatever preconceived notions you have and dive into your story and discover what makes it fascinating for you.”
Sounds like good advice. You can check out the Westin’s renovated Book Cadillac Detroit at the company’s website. You can learn more about the history of the hotel on Wikipedia.