Monday, April 22, 2013

'Nashville Film Festival' Shines Spotlight on Filmmakers


'Nashville Film Festival' Report #1

April 18-21, 2013

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

            The "Nashville Film Festival" is in full swing with filmmakers and fans converging on the Green Hills Regal Cinema for the Red Carpet, movie screenings, educational panels, and parties. Following are highlights of activities occurring during the period April 18 to 21.


            The festival spotlights various producers, directors, actors, screenwriters and composers every day. Artists arrive at various times from the lower level of the venue's parking deck. Channel 4's Demetria Kalodimos received a good bit of media attention when she arrived Thursday night for the showing of her highly acclaimed documentary, "Indelible". Others to grace the Red Carpet (so far) include director Richard Speights Jr. ("America 101"), actress Claire Bowen ("Dead Man's Burden"), musician Big Kenny ("Coco D. Nut"), director David Wilson ("We Always Lie to Strangers"), actor Joshua Burge ("Ape"), and actors Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette ("This is Martin Bonner").

(Photo: Channel 4's Terry Bolger on the Red Carpet)

            The Tuesday (April 23) screening of "For the Love of Music: the Story of Nashville" is expected to draw a number of celebrities... possibly The Black Keys, Emmy Lou Harris, Peter Frampton, Bruce Springsteen, and Kris Kristofferson.

            The Red Carpet also was the location for an opening night silent auction. Attendees walked along tables to bid on items such as Southwest Airlines concert getaways, a celebrity guitar, autographed books, and meals at area restaurants.


            Like the recent "Score-Com" and "Film-Com", The NaFF offers a wide range of film-related panels featuring some of the top professionals in the business.

            Sunday's "Master Class" presented by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (Joe Leydon, Tom Pollock, Sid Ganis, and Ellen Harrington) offered invaluable insights on the past, present and future (predicted) state of the film industry.

            All of the panelists agreed that digital technology (the ability to download movies anywhere at any time) has had a huge impact (positive and negative) on filmmaking. The blessing: New digital cameras make it possible for independents to shoot quality films. The curse: Some movie lovers are skipping the theaters for a living room or on-the-go experience.

            "We work hard to make movies look and sound great on the big screen," said Pollock, former chairman of Universal Pictures. "I hope we never lose that."

            Ganis agreed, citing the Oscar-winning "Life of Pi" as an example.

            "When I watched 'Life of Pi' on a big-screen TV, I thought it was pretty good," the former Academy president said. "But when I watched the 3D version in the theater with digital projection and sound, I considered it a cinematic miracle. There's just nothing like the movie theater experience."

            Pollock also spent a few minutes talking about the many challenges he faced after the release of Martin Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ". Trouble brewed after an evangelist led a rally protesting the showing of the film in a Mississippi theater.

            "This shows the impact that a film can have on society," he said. "Suddenly, we had 25,000 people protesting outside the gates of Universal. We received 4 million letters, mostly negative. Security guards even cornered a gun-toting intruder in the bathroom. My wife and kids had guards for years."

            Pollock was also at the studio when "Star Wars" was released. The film cost only $8 million to make.

            "I knew the world had changed when the spaceship crossed the entire screen on the opening shot," he added.

            As the director of exhibitions and special events, it's Harrington's job to break down cultural boundaries around the world. The academy faced a number of hurdles when representatives met with filmmakers in Iran.

            "The Iranian government condemned us," she said. "Some of the filmmakers there have been sent to jail. Despite this, they've found a way to get around government censorship. Our mission is to build a community of artists around the world. We all share the same passion."

            Other highlights from the discussion:

            * All of the panelists agreed that politics doesn't factor into the decisions Oscar voters make.

            * The Academy is a "group of individuals", not an "entity".

            * Agents are used for screenplay submissions for legal reasons.
            * The Academy's Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is an international screenwriting competition established to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters. The deadline for submissions is May 1. Learn more:

            * The Academy Museum in Hollywood will feature 290,000 square feet of state-of-the-art galleries, exhibition spaces, movie theaters, and educational areas.
            * Most of the most successful filmmakers started as independents.


            A host of films, including many made in Tennessee and across the South, are featured in this year's NaFF. You can see the entire list at .

            * "Indelible" -- Demetria Kalodimos' "Indelible: The Case Against Jeffrey Womack" uses interviews and footage from television news reports and interviews to show how "one man was blamed, charged, and ultimately disproved as the killer of Marcia Trimble. Kalodimos expertly merges old news footage with recent interviews to create a surreal, unforgettable experience.

(Photo: Channel 4's Demetria Kalodimos arrives on the Red Carpet)

            *  "Mud" -- A packed house was treated to the premiere of "Mud", a movie starring Matthew McConaughey (as Mud) and the now controversial Reese Witherspoon (as Mud's trouble-making girlfriend). The film is very moving, even prompting a few tears from the people seated around me. The storyline is fairly simple: Two boys find a man named Mud hiding out on a Mississippi River island in Arkansas. As the movie unfolds, the audience learns that Mud's unwavering love for the beautiful tramp Juniper has presented life-threatening problems, including a pursuing band of blood-thirsty bounty hunters. The cast is terrific, especially newcomers Tye Sheridan (Ellis) and Jacob Lofland (Neckbone). Young director Jeff Nichols (who greeted us using Skype) has done an outstanding job drawing out authentic "Southern drawls and mannerisms" in the snaky swamps of rural Arkansas. We'll see what happens after it premieres nationwide on April 26, but the hunch among the NaFF attendees is that "Mud" is sure to win an Oscar or two.

(Photo: Jeff Nichols greets moviegoers via Skype)

            * "This Is Martin Bonner" -- This movie had people talking (positively) after its showing on Sunday. Martin Bonner leaves his old life behind and moves to Reno, Nevada, where he finds work helping released prisoners transition to life on the outside. Meanwhile, Travis Holloway has just been released from prison. The two men form an unlikely friendship that offers them unspoken support and understanding. The verdict: What a surprisingly good independent film. Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette are simply terrific in their respective roles as Martin and Travis. Who knew that a low-budget film could elicit such emotion among moviegoers (during and afterwards)? The movie shows the "real" side of human experience, revealing how poor choices and suffering can lead to healing, understanding and friendship. How do we get back on the path of forgiveness? What do we do when we doubt our religious faith? How do we find the strength to rebuild a balanced life with purpose?


            Certain laminate holders, including NaFF members, sponsors and the press, have access to the VIP tent for the opening and closing parties, and just to hang out. Other laminate holders crowd the Red Carpet and surrounding areas to watch filmmakers arrive and network with the pros. It's a great way to compare notes, get to know your peers, and to encourage budding and professional filmmakers.

          All laminate holders can visit the Jenis stand for free ice cream. We try out a different flavor every time we wander the Red Carpet area.

Coming Up: Coverage for this week's "Nashville Film Festival", including Tuesday's panel "From Song to Sync: The Path to Placement". See all of our stories with photos at .

Other photos from NaFF:

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