The last few hours before the festival kicks off are always the hardest. It doesn't matter how many times you check and double check the to-do list, there is always the certainty that something has been forgotten; you just hope it isn't something vital! That's where we are right now as we prepare for the official start of the festival, just 90 minutes from now at FloBama. Once the first guest is welcomed, however, the fear of what's forgotten will lift and be replaced by three days of the satisfaction that comes with seeing a filmmaker watch his or her film on screen, or the satisfaction of watching an audience member see his or her very first independent film and realize a whole new world of art is waiting to be enjoyed. Those are the moments we work for all year, and we're excited they will be happening in just a few hours now. We'll be stopping here frequently during the festival to share with you folks who won't be able to join us. Stay tuned.
Those of you who attended our festival kick-off party last year know we have a particular fondness for cake, especially when it is made and decorated by the very talented Harley Williams, owner of Sugar on Top in Downtown Florence, Alabama.
If you aren’t from around here, you might still be familiar with Harley’s talent from her appearance last fall on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The Walking Dead cake Harley made for last year’s festival clearly shows why she was picked to compete in the television competition – she has major cake skills!
The Walking Dead cake took on a life of its own. Michael Rooker was so impressed that he took the severed sugar-art hand from the cake and carried it around in a cooler for months. From the looks of the picture with Michael and his sugar hand, he eventually found some very entertaining way to make use of it.
Harley will be surprising us with another cake for this year’s kick-off party, which begins at 5pm this Thursday, February 28, at FloBama in Downtown Florence. Be there for your slice of the sugar!
If you’ve checked out our news page, and we hope you have, you might wonder about the picture of the very lovely Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, the one where she is beaming from ear to ear and holding what appears to be a large, round, pointed stick.
For a select group of scholars that “stick” represents a very significant accomplishment. Mary Ellen is a member of the Whedon Studies Association, an international group of scholars studying the works of writer/producer/director Joss Whedon, who brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and The Avengers, to name a few. At last summer’s biennial conference of the Whedon Studies Association, Mary Ellen was awarded top prize for best academic paper, which looked at the disabilities of various Whedon characters. The picture of Mary Ellen was taken shortly after receiving the honor, which is awarded in the form of a very large vampire stake.
The joy shown in her smile is actually very typical for Mary Ellen, who works for the Children’s Media Project in New York, where she is the director of education. It only takes a few minutes with her to know she has brings a passionate joy to her work and her life, and the Lindsey Festival is very excited to share this with the Florence Middle schoolers who Mary Ellen will lead in a filmmaking workshop this Friday. If you see Mary Ellen during the festival, take a few moments to chat with her; it’s a good bet some of that happiness will rub off on you!
Yes, our festival is located in a small to mid-sized town in North Alabama. Yes, we are hosted by a regional university (Go Lions!). And yes, we are indeed a truly international film festival.
That is sometimes surprising for folks, although we aren’t sure why. As a competitive film festival, we open submissions to filmmakers from across the world because we know there is excellent film being made in many places outside the U.S., and we want our audiences to have the opportunity to see it. According to our mission statement, we also want to do what we can to promote independent filmmaking wherever it is being made.
We have been fortunate over the years to screen some notable, memorable, highly acclaimed international film. One of our favorites was the Spanish-directed, UNICEF-produced short, “Binta and the Great Idea,” which garnered an Oscar nomination.
This year we are adding to our international library with six very excellent films (seven if we are counting Canada). There are student narrative films from the UK and Thailand, a professional narrative from Poland, a student documentary from the UK, and vanguard films from Israel, Germany, and Canada. We are very pleased that at least one of these international films will have its filmmaker on hand to represent it; Afarin Eghbal is traveling from the UK to introduce her film, “Abuelas (Grandmothers)” to Lindsey Festival audiences.
Film is one of those artistic mediums that knows no boundaries, and we are happy to do our small part in bringing the world together through film. We hope our audiences enjoy their trip around the world at the Lindsey Festival this year!
The Lindsey Festival has been very lucky to make some amazing friends over the years, and we must be doing something right because they keep coming back for more! One of our dear friends, she’s really more like family now, is Ms. Natalie Canerday, star of stage and screen and, as she will proudly tell you, a native of “God’s Country (a.k.a. Russellville, Arkansas). Natalie will be making her way to Florence from “God’s Country’ to join us for the festival where she will MC this year’s awards show on Saturday, March 2.
Natalie kind of proves those theories about how small the world actually is. She was first introduced to the festival by one of our organizers, with whom she had worked as a production assistant in their very early days in the business. But Natalie had other ties to our area as well; she played Linda Wheatley, the mother of Lucas Black’s character in Sling Blade. She met up with the North Alabama actor again in 2008 when the Lindsey Festival staged a Sling Blade Reunion with guest Billy Bob Thornton. Natalie played another mother in another film with North Alabama connections, October Sky, the story of “Rocket Boy” Homer Hickam.
When Natalie arrives at the festival next week, it really will feel like a family reunion, only a little different because it’s open to everyone! The reunion kicks off Thursday, March 1, 5 p.m. at FloBama Music Hall on Court Street in downtown Florence. We hope it’s a big one!
Eight days and counting down to Lindsey Film Fest #16. Every year we try to improve the festival for our filmmakers and audiences, and this year’s no different, but some days it’s just harder than others. Today the internet went down through much of North Alabama, just as we were in the home stretch of preparing our festival program for tomorrow’s print deadline. Our amazing program designer is in St. Louis, and the internet is vital to the back and forth last-minute editing. The local grapevine reported that the McDonalds just across the river in Sheffield, Alabama had working wi-fi, so off we went with computers in tow for a three hour visit to the golden arches.
A year ago, the moment we shared this adventure with George Lindsey, he would have had a joke or a song to make our escapades even more memorable. None of us is as quick with a joke as George, and the thought of singing to each other is just weird, so we’ll have to make do with our memories. Unless, of course, we can find us a man like Goober, an idea immortalized in song by George’s good friends, and ours, Moore & Moore (Debbie Moore and Carrie Moore-Reed). Click on the picture and enjoy!
People sometimes wonder what the relationship between UNA and the film festival is. First, UNA is the festival's parent organization, and the film festival is just one of the cultural opportunities the University provides for its students, employees, and the wider community. The festival is also an extension of our film students' education; among other experiences, the festival gives them many opportunities to interact with other filmmakers, both student and professional.
UNA's film program has grown significantly over the past few years, as have the roles students have taken on with the film festival. The film program was recently named #1 among film schools by Reelshow International. We like to think all that work with the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival had something to do with that recognition, even though we're pretty sure it was the result of excellent students learning from top notch faculty. Either way, the film students will be seen working throughout the festival, and we hope folks take a few moments to congratulate them on their achievements. And remember those names; we are going to be seeing a lot of them on the big screen in the future!
Over the years the Lindsey Film Festival has screened its share of films that went on to garner international acclaim. Shane Acker's short student thesis "9" became a full length theatrical release directed by Acker and produced by Tim Burton. A few years later the delightful film "Binta and the Great Idea," produced by UNICEF, was nominated for an Academy Award. Both of these films were submitted by their filmmakers to the Lindsey Film Fest and were seen by our audiences before making it to the bigger time.
Experience has taught us to expect that any of our screeners might be picked up for distribution to theaters or even earn an Oscar. That is just one of the reasons we work to bring audiences to our screenings. We'd love for you to be able to say, "I saw it first at the Lindsey Fest!"
In 2010, the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival was hosting a 25th Anniversary "Back to the Future" Reunion. Writer/producer Bob Gale, actors Claudia Wells and James Tolkan, and designer Michael Scheffé were the special guests, and Terry and Oliver Holler brought their replica Delorean Time Machine to help raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. One of BTTF's biggest fans is a gentleman in Ireland named CIan, and he REALLY wanted to come to the festival and celebrate his favorite film, so he challenged all of his Facebook friends to donate a small amount each to pay for his airfare. Once we learned about his campaign on this side of the Atlantic, we used our social media lists to spread the word, and Cian reached his goal and got on a plane to Florence, Alabama.
Cian was picked up at Muscle Shoals Regional Airport and expected to be taken directly to his hotel, but instead he was taken to where all our celebrity guests were enjoying dinner. It was a great meeting of a super fan and the subjects of his adoration. The weekend held many more opportunities for our new friend from Ireland, including a drive across town in a time machine. And we all really hated to see him get on that plane once the festival was over.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the million little things it takes to put this event on, but then we meet someone like Cian and remember that neither filmmakers nor film festivals would have much reason to do their thing if it weren't for film fans and super fans!
Around these parts, these parts being North Alabama, we assume everyone knows the significance of Muscle Shoals to the music world. After all, long before there was an internet or cell phones, major musical stars like The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett, and others on a list too long to reproduce here were able to locate the spot on the map where what became known as the Muscle Shoals Sound was created. But you know what they say about assuming! So we thought we should spend a few words telling you what all the hub-bub about our Alabama premiere of the documentary “Muscle Shoals” is about.
Once upon a time, there was a Muscle Shoals recording studio, FAME, and a group of studio musicians who originated a funky sound that brought musicians from across the globe to record at that studio with that sound. And there is something about the Shoals itself that added magic to the music. As Mick Jagger says in the film’s trailer, "Being there does inspire you to do it slightly different. It was really funky; you know, that was the whole idea of it."
There is much more to the story, of course, and some pretty amazing people involved: Rick Hall; David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Spooner Oldham, the rest of the Swampers (yes, those Swampers, who’ve “been known to pick a song or two.”); the musicians who traveled to Muscle Shoals and found their funk. And the story is still being written, with the Shoals continuing to produce award winning musical talent like John Paul White of the Civil Wars, Jason Isbell, Patterson Hood, and another list too long to reproduce here. But you really need to see and hear the story for yourself. Jump over to our home page to find out how. In the meantime, click on the picture for a little tease of the film.