Detroit Free Press

John Kerfoot loves Michigan. He just has a funny way of showing it.

The 34-year-old St. Clair Shores resident, who’s quick to clarify that he “clearly acts like a 12-year-old,” grew up in Grosse Pointe Park. He hangs out in Royal Oak. He spent last weekend at Mackinac Island.

But, yes, that’s his chill Tim Allen-inspired voiceover work and his video direction behind several buzz-worthy parodies of the award-winning Pure Michigan campaign. (See links at right.)

The original Pure Michigan advertisements were commissioned by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as a way to draw tourism to the state. Kerfoot’s send-ups? Maybe not.

Posted to the Web nearly four weeks ago, his first clip was “Pure Michigan: Lake St. Clair,” a serene series of sunny images of happy couples and carefree animals that quickly devolves into a hysterical and profane rant against fish flies.

Shortly thereafter, Kerfoot unveiled more of his sarcastic work, including jabs at coffee-chain-filled Grosse Pointe, obnoxious party people in Royal Oak, and the horse excrement-filled streets of Mackinac Island. The first four parodies have quickly gone viral, netting nearly 100,000 YouTube views.

“I genuinely love Michigan and where I live. I won’t even leave here for a weekend,” says Kerfoot, who shoots weddings and teaches video editing courses at Wayne State. Kerfoot, who runs Tri-Foot Productions, says he’s spent years writing and working with video, including the no-budget feature length-film “Biker Zombies from Detroit.”

Kerfoot says he’s hoping to put the Pure Michigan spoofs behind him, and that their instant popularity has surprised him, especially considering they were initially posted to his Facebook profile, which has about 300 friends.

“I keep talking about doing another feature film, maybe a horror movie, but I have a feeling I’ll have to do a couple more encores of these or I might” disappoint people, he says.

Anthony Garth, a 38-year-old Detroit-based director who does commercial work out of Royal Oak-based Avalon Films, shot all of the original Pure Michigan spots. He says Kerfoot’s work is “very funny stuff.”

“When I open up Facebook, one out of every 10 people are posting to his videos,” Garth says, adding that humorous spots that go viral are a great calling card for young filmmakers looking to make names for themselves.

George Zimmerman, president of Travel Michigan, the branch of the MEDC that oversees the campaign, says he and other state officials are well aware of the spoofs, but aren’t too concerned.

“Frankly, it just shows how successful our campaign has been,” Zimmerman says.

Others however, aren’t laughing. Kerfoot doesn’t use any actors; all the films feature real people going out about their everyday lives. And he has received calls from Grosse Pointe city officials asking to make some minor edits — as well as a complaint from someone unhappy their face was featured in the Royal Oak clip.

“Most people get it’s a joke,” Kerfoot says, insisting that he doesn’t want anyone upset and will blur out faces if he must. “Don’t bother suing me; you’re not going to get anything. I’m too broke.”

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