Like any film festival, we love to see our screeners find success. All the films we exhibit are special, but occasionally there is one that hits close to home, making our investment in its success even greater. In April 2011, much of the area south and east of the Shoals was devastated by an E5 tornado, including the small town of Phil Campbell, Alabama. 27 people from Phil Campbell died that day, and many of our friends and colleagues suffered there. It just so happens there is an international group of folks named Phil Campbell, who had convened previously in the town, and Brooklyn Phil Campbell decided to have another convention there as a relief effort. UNA alum and filmmaker Andrew Reed documented the story, and in 2012 one the “Sweet Home Alabama” Award at the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival. “I’m with Phil” has gone on to other festivals to win other awards, and now there is a Kickstarter campaign to get the film distribution. The Lindsey Festival is with Andrew and “I’m with Phil.” We hope our followers will be too.
Every year at the Lindsey Film Festival is devoted to filmmakers, but this year we have decided to make that our mantra, so we are calling it “The Year of the Filmmaker.” If you are a regular at our event, you might notice that we haven’t made a major announcement about a celebrity event. But if you hop over to our screening schedule, you’ll see we have 18 films selected from many, many more submitted for the festival, and having been judged the best among their categories, each is a celebrity event. Most of those screenings will have the filmmaker in attendance – we will have a record number of filmmakers on hand this year – and those filmmakers will participate in Q&A’s after their films screen, and each Q&A is a celebrity event. On Friday evening, we will do something new at the festival; we have brought in a film to screen out of competition purely for the entertainment of our audiences. Director Aaron Wolf and star Mark Gessner will be here with their hilarious, award winning film “Guest House,” and that is a celebrity event. Our Friday table read of the winning screenplays will include notable actors Danny Vinson, Natalie Canerday, and Ethan Marten in various roles, joined by UNA student actors, and that is a celebrity event. So if have been waiting for the “big announcement” about what star the festival is bringing to this year’s event, here it is. You’re going to so overwhelmed by the number of celebrity events this year, you won’t know how to choose; we suggest you avoid the stress and just come to them all!
One of the morning news programs this week featured an interview with actor Bill Murray, and he talked about ditching his managers and publicists and taking control of his own schedule. Part of his scheduling now includes surprise “pop ins” at parties, events, etc. This got me to thinking about one of the things missing most from the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival since George’s passing almost three years ago – Humor. Sure, we find many occasions for laughter at the festival, but there hasn’t been a good Knock-Knock joke since our last festival with George. And I can’t think of a better comic actor to give us the funny back than Mr. Murray himself. So, the rest of this blog entry is addressed to Mr. Bill Murray, and the Lindsey Fest invites everyone who reads it to share on Facebook, Twitter, by old fashioned telephone if you have a direct line to Bill Murray, or any other creative force you can muster to pass our message along:
Dear Mr. Murray,
17 years ago, a very funny man named George Lindsey (you will remember him best, perhaps, from his role as “Goober” in The Andy Griffith Show) founded an international film festival at his alma mater so that students at the University of North Alabama would have better access to programs that would help them with their own aspirations as filmmakers, and also so folks in North Alabama would have better access to independent film. For the first 15 years the festival was full of humor, even if our special guests were very serious people; George would make sure even the most somber folk got the benefit of a good joke. We’ve tried pretty hard to carry the funny on our own – we’re screening an indie comedy called “Guest House” at this year’s fest, and our adopted funny lady, actress Natalie Canerday will be here - but to be honest, George often accused the festival director of being born without a funny bone, so we’re at a huge disadvantage. We hear you have taken your schedule into your own hands and that you occasionally pop in to interesting events or places that might need your particular gifts, and boy could we use them! We’re easy to find – we are in the Shoals, home of the famous Muscle Shoals sound and The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals, some of the best golfing to be found in the south. We have plenty of good people, good food, and great film to offer you – we’re just craving a little comedy. You can learn more about us at www.lindseyfilmfest.com; all our contact information is there as well as a schedule of events for this year’s festival, March 6-8.
We need you Bill Murray!
Urgently and Sincerely,
The George Lindsey UNA Film Festival organizing committee