It’s clear the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival is held in the best location possible. We’ve already sang the praises of Florence and the rest of the Shoals, but for those wanting to stretch their legs during the festival without straying too far, the University of North Alabama is a destination in its own right. Topping the list of favorite attractions is our lions. Yes, I said lions, live ones. UNA’s live mascots, Leo and UNA, live on campus and their habitat is a favorite stop for visitors. Just across from the lions is Collier Library, where the university’s archives and special collections are housed. In addition to a large collection of George Lindsey’s scripts and memorabilia, we are fortunate to have a collection of scripts and documents from such notable artists as Lucas Black and Ray Bradbury, as well as the very special collection of bound scripts gifted to the university by George’s great friend Ernest Borgnine. After leaving the library, you can stroll past Wesleyan Hall, where General Sherman housed his troops during the Civil War, and you may even run into one of the ghosts said to reside on campus. The Lindsey Festival is fortunate to call UNA home, and we are proud to share it with you.
We like to think people love the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival because we’re so darned good at what we do, but we know deep down that much of that love is because of just where we are located. The Shoals has long been a mecca for artists and art lovers. Those musicians that put the Shoals on the map came here for the outstanding work done by the producers and musicians at FAME and other studios, but they came for other reasons as well. There is that singing river to which much of the musical inspiration of the region is attributed, and we would argue that river sings to other types of artists as well, including filmmakers. There are the people, who are as hospitable as the south can produce. There is the food and entertainment on Florence’s Court Street that always comes as a pleasant surprise to our out of town guests. We know we cannot have a festival without filmmakers, and we work very hard to bring as many of them as possible to our community, but getting them here is only half the job. It is Florence and the larger Shoals community that makes our guests want to come back year after year, and for that – Thank you! If you are coming to the festival from out of town, make sure to spend some time taking in The Shoals, visit First Fridays on Florence’s downtown Court Street on March 2, and have fun!
We kick off our 21st annual George Lindsey UNA Film Festival next week, and since the festival has changed so much since its beginnings, now seems a good time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions about the festival for both old friends who have watched the changes and new friends who haven’t met us yet. So, here goes.
Why is your festival name so long?
If you’ve read any of our press releases or social media posts, you’ll know that even we struggle with our very long name. We often shorten it to Lindsey Film Festival or Lindsey Fest. But, we won’t be doing away with our full name any time soon. It reflects both the man who whose dream was to support independent filmmaking in North Alabama, a foreign concept 21 years ago, and the university that made that dream a reality. George Lindsey graduated from the University of North Alabama in 1952, and when he conceived of a festival that provide film education to students and the community, he approached folks at the university who quickly adopted his vision. Our name is long, but it carries 21 years worth of hard work and devotion to filmmaking.
How is today’s festival different from the early years?
For one, we no longer wear evening dresses and tuxedos to the Awards Show, although that might be a fun custom to revisit someday. Most of our changes have to do with programming. We are happy to feature any star or industry expert who would like to appear at the festival, but our focus has shifted away from tracking down big names to using our limited resources to support the independent filmmakers who come to the festival to exhibit their work. This year, our support will allow 17 of our 21 finalists and one of our winning screenwriters to attend the festival. Combine those visitors with the 30 or more filmmakers coming to represent the 44 Alabama films we will be screening, and we’ve brought three days of intense creative energy to UNA and the Shoals community (which is already pretty darned creative!).
What kinds of films do you show?
All of them. Our competitive categories range from Youth Filmmaker, which includes filmmakers from kindergarten through high school, to Professional categories. We have short film and feature length categories, and documentary and narrative categories. And our Vanguard category is there for films that that don’t fit traditional molds. We are not genre based, so a narrative winner might be a comedy, a tragedy, or a musical. Our goal is to find the best films we can regardless of category or genre.
What about Alabama films?
This is VERY important to us. We made a decision a few years ago that even if a film made in Alabama does not make it into the finalist group in its category, we are going to screen it. Our state has worked hard over the years to attract filmmakers with or without adequate incentives, and the Lindsey Festival knows that supporting providing an opportunity for these filmmakers to exhibit their work will encourage them to keep making films. We now have so many Alabama films at the festival that we may have to add an extra day to the event in the future.
What do winners get?
Each category winner receives a trophy as well as a cash prize. These are presented at the annual Awards Show, the least event of the festival each year. The cash prize is our way of contributing to the ongoing work of our winners. We also have a special prize ($2000!) awarded to the best film made (partially or in full) in Alabama. This award is made possible by the generosity of the family of Clyde “Sappo” Black, George Lindsey’s beloved childhood friend. We really are about family at the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival!
If you have any questions we haven’t covered, please give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you at the festival!
20 years. That’s how long the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival has been bringing independent film from across the globe to the Shoals, Alabama. It all began when some UNA folks and George Lindsey had a shared idea. According to a tribute read by Congressman Bud Cramer in the Alabama House of Representatives, April 26, 2001, “Along with Bobbie Hurt, Bill Jarnigan, Robert Potts, and Lisa Darnell of UNA, Lindsey had a vision for a festival that would provide aspiring artists, especially those from the state of Alabama, the opportunity to showcase their art while learning from professionals how to strengthen their work.” Over the years, those aspiring artists have come not just from Alabama, but from as far away as Poland and the UK. And those professionals have included and Oscar winning actor Ernest Borgnine, renowned film critic and Florence native Jonathan Rosenbaum, makeup-effects artist Robert Hall, music supervisors David and Juliette Jordan, and Thomas Golubic, screenwriter and producer Bob Gale, and many, many more from the film industry who have traveled to Florence, Alabama to share their craft with student and professional independent filmmakers. They have come happily each year because they, like those folks who conceived this festival, believed in nurturing the art that is film.
For this year’s 20th Anniversary, we’ll be doing a lot of reminiscing with old friends, many who will be on hand at the Awards Show to share some of their fondest memories of the festival and George Lindsey. But what is going on at the festival before our closing night festivities may be the biggest nod to George and Bobbie and Bill and Robert and Lisa and their vision for this festival. First, we will be screening EVERY film submission made in Alabama, even those that did not place as finalists in this year’s very stiff festival competition. We have also managed to get RECORD number of filmmakers to commit to coming to Florence to represent their films. 15 of the 21 finalists will be at the festival, including youth filmmakers from Australia and the UK, student filmmakers from Germany and Canada, and the rest from across the United States. And MOST of the 36 Alabama films will have their filmmakers in the audience to represent their work. All in all, we are expecting over 40 filmmakers to be in attendance for this 20th birthday of the Lindsey Festival.
As always, the Lindsey Festival is free and open to the public. Go on over to the schedule page and make your plans to help us celebrate. We look forward to seeing you there!
There is a ton of young talent at the festival this year, and Paige McCay and Bri Palmer are no exception. McCay is the director and Palmer is the writer of “Stay”, a student narrative. Both women are students at UNA. The film is set in Florence, and is about a young woman who wants to leave her hometown. She struggles to explain this desire to her boyfriend, who has no desire to leave.
“Stay” made me consider my own relationship with the town I grew up in. I did not want to ‘stay’ in my hometown, and I do not care to go back. So I found the film incredibly relatable, and I think everyone can relate to the love/hate relationship the main character has with her town.
I saw the film screen at the Mane Room on Friday, and after the screening the audience had time to ask McCay and Palmer questions. During the Q&A, they said they were both from small towns, coming to Florence was there escape from them.
Whether you love or hate your hometown, “Stay” is a wonderful escape from it.
Last night after the Kick-Off Party we screened “No. 2: Story of the Pencil” by director William Allen. It was a delightful account of the history of the No. 2 pencil, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The film questions the future of the pencil, and it made me think about all the ways in which I use this old writing utensil. I bubbled in my answers to the ACT with a pencil, my score got me into UNA. In a sense, the pencil got me into college. I used to play classical piano, when I was learning a new piece I would scribble all over it in pencil. The pencil helped me translate the great works of Beethoven and Bach. When I need to write something down in a hurry, if I have the choice between a pen or a pencil, I choose the latter. It is trusty and reliable; I don’t have to risk it running out of ink.
I spoke with the filmmaker before the screening at the Kick-Off Party. He told me, through this film, he discovered a whole underground community of pencil lovers. The film featured several of these pencil fans including the owner, Caroline Weaver, of the world’s only pencil store, C.W. Pencil Enterprise. After the screening, I went home and looked her store up online. I was pretty jazzed on “No. 2: Story of the Pencil” (and okay, maybe a little sleep deprived) I bought 20 bucks worth of pencils on her online store.
If a film can make a college kid part with 20 dollars, it must have a powerful story to tell.
As we’ve said before, filmmakers from all over the world will be attending the festival and Marnix Ruben is one such guest. Ruben is a filmmaker from the Netherlands. His film “Across” follows the story of Freek de Jonge, a young poet struggling with convention and morals while being seduced into adulthood. “Across” will be screened Saturday, March 5th at 1pm in UNA Communications Building 124. We are excited Ruben will be visiting and sharing his compelling film with us. Spend this Saturday afternoon experiencing a film from the other side of the world! In the meantime, Marnix stop during his travels to Florence to share a few things about work with us.
Are you excited to be traveling to the States to show “Across” at the George Lindsey Film Festival? If so, why?
I have just arrived at my gate at Amsterdam airport; it's 6.30 am over here so it was an early call. I'm very excited, first of all I've never left Europe before. Second I've never traveled like this all alone before. But most of all, I'm very excited my film will be shown at the other side of the world! 'Across' the ocean. It's great to see it doesn't only connect locally!
What was your inspiration for "Across"?
It's based on a short story written by (probably) Holland’s greatest and most influential comedian. When I read the original story it was fantastic to find out this great man had enjoyed my birthplace this much when he was young. He went to all the same places I did and acted and thought the same way, only it was at least 4 decades before me. It was as if my own youth was transported to the early sixties.
Why did you choose your birthplace, Terneuzen, the Netherlands, as the setting for “Across”?
I think that when you tell the most personal story possible it won't get any more universal!
How has film impacted your life?
A very great deal! I'm going across the world! People really react extremely good to it and yesterday in Amsterdam I've met with a great producer who wants to produce my first feature!
It raised me to be the person I am. I've learned so much about life through movies! Film has the power to enhance human insight, to understand why the most horrible acts happen. If everyone would understand each other’s actions there would be no more hate.
How would you like your films to impact others?
As if they have experienced something like they were there and want to go back to re-experience it because they had such a great time. It may be something that reminds them of their own experiences or may inspire them to live their own life! My ambitions reach further than that, but for this film that's about it. :)
Filmmakers and film lovers from across the world are coming together on Thursday March 3rd to celebrate the art of film and (very importantly) eat good food - Odette’s food! We’re starting the festival off right with a Kick-Off Party at 116 Mobile in downtown Florence at 6:00. Odette is catering the event so come out, watch great films, and eat great food.
Film is not just for the artsy critics. Film crosses all barriers and acts as a universal language. It brings people from all over the globe together, even uniting them in Florence, AL. We think George Lindsey would be proud to see people from all walks of life, globally and locally, uniting for a good time in the name of film.
We will be screening “Undeniably Donnie” by director Mark Slagle at 7pm at the Kick-Off Party. The film follows the story of Donnie Fritts, a local music legend and keyboardist for Kris Kristofferson. The film incudes narration by Kristofferson.
So stop by and treat your tummy to delicious food and your eyes to a wonderful film about a local music artist at our Kick-Off Part
Robert (Todd) Campbell is an Alabama filmmaker. Two of his films, “The Mourning Hills” and “Hollis Treasures” will be presented at the George Lindsey Film Festival. “The Mourning Hills” follows the story of two sisters who run away together and find themselves in the place where their father committed suicide. “Hollis Treasures” is a documentary about Tim Hollis, a Birmingham, Alabama historian and author who owns one of the most extraordinary toy collections in the world.
How does it feel to be revisiting your hometown to show two films selected for the George Lindsey Film Festival? It’s pretty special. I shot most of The Mourning Hills in the Shoals area, so being able to show it at my hometown festival feels right. I’m equally excited about showing Hollis Treasures because the subject of the film, Tim Hollis, was a panel guest at the Lindsey Film Fest in 2010, so I suppose it’s a bit of a homecoming for him and that film too.
What made you choose Japan’s Aokigahara or “The Suicide Forest” as the inspiration for the setting of “The Mourning Hills”? With a story as simple as The Mourning Hills, I felt that the environment needed to be as much of a character as the human characters. It’s such a fascinating, terrifying, and heartbreaking place, and I thought that fictionalizing it in the American South would give the movie a unique color.
What did you think about Tim Hollis’ museum the first time you saw it? I was overwhelmed when I first saw Tim Hollis’ museum. There were some things in his collection that I completely forgot I had, as well as things that reminded me of childhood trips to places that I forgot I had visited. It’s a nice place to visit if you want to tear up a little.
What is the creative process like for you? How to you become inspired to direct a film? Movies inspire me, so I try to watch as many possible. Real life is inspiring, so going out and experiencing things is quite important for the process. I wouldn’t say that it’s easy for me to just sit down and start writing. I usually come up with garbage that way. So, I suppose the creative process begins with some kind of experience, or hearing about someone else’s experience, and THEN I can sit down to write. As far as the process goes when directing, I keep things collaborative with my cast and creative department. We bounce ideas off of one another, and often times it’s during a take that a new idea will pop up. It’s a little loose, and sometimes chaotic, but it seems to work for me.
"The Mourning Hills" is screening at 8pm, Thursday, March 3, and "Hollis Treasures" is screening at 5:30pm, Friday, March 4. Both films are screening at The Mane Room.
Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is the focus of Even Owens’ film, “Tutwiler.” The film is based on true events and sheds light on the rampant sexual and physical abuse the female inmates of Tutwiler endured. The prison was under federal investigation for ongoing cases of sexual misconduct among staff members. In addition to at least thirty cases of employee-on-inmate sex crimes, the prison was understaffed and overpopulated. Recently, Governor Robert Bentley announced the closure of the prison. Alabama has finally taken a step in the right direction to reform our prison system.
In August 2015, the sixteen-minute film premiered at Carver Theatre in Birmingham and since then has been shown at the Atlanta Independent Film Festival. Owens is a Shelby County native and stars in the film herself. We are excited to show “Tutwiler” at the Mane Room, Friday March 4th and we hope to see you there! Come out and experience the talent that exists in our own state.