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!