Nashville Film Festival: A Retrospective

Since Chicago, you denizens of the blogosphere haven’t heard much from me. Fear not, though; things have been happening. Oh, and they’ve happened. And they will happen.

The largest thing of note is that the Nashville Film Festival just ended. Back in February, Preston (the guy from this video) told me that he had met the festival director and that he wanted Preston to do something with the festival, and that I, as his cinematographer, would be involved somehow. What exactly that something would be wasn’t clear, and it wasn’t really spoken of since then.

A week before the festival began, I thought I should be involved somehow, so I went to a volunteer orientation session. Three days after that, Preston called to tell me he’d spoken with the festival people and that they definitely wanted us to interview people on the red carpet and make a daily video blog. We would get VIP passes for doing it, so I decided against volunteering.

On opening night, we both showed up and just started talking to everyone. We had an awkward set up using my field recorder, which we ended up not even using for the edit, but it was a learning process and we did pretty well considering the incredible lack of light. I didn’t see any movies that night, and once we departed at around 11pm, we had about an hour of footage. An hour to cut down to a 1.5-2 minute video.

Preston kept joking that he would stay up until 5am editing, and that’s actually exactly what he did. He insisted on editing the footage, so in the end I didn’t actually have to do much aside from operate my camera. That combined with the VIP pass (which got me a ticket for anything and access to the food- and drink-laden VIP tent) made the whole thing a pretty sweet gig.

On Friday, I suddenly became sick (or at least as far as my job is concerned, I was) and decided to try to meet Andrew downtown for a networking breakfast, in conjunction with the screenwriting convention. We walked up only to be turned away (we weren’t on the special people list), and then we ate at Panera while plotting our revenge.

I went to a panel on low-budget filmmaking and how to steal money from unsuspecting women, and then went home and wrote some more of Nashville Death Party (the forthcoming Nashville-based slasher flick, one half of Andrew and my double feature Grindhouse extravaganza) before meeting Preston back at the festival.

Since cutting that hour of footage from night one ended up being such a disaster, we only got about 10 minutes of footage for Friday. We talked with the creators of Super Zeroes and this 18 year-old filmmaker from Chicago. The kid was super nervous, which was a funny dynamic when paired with Preston’s bubbliness, and the Super Zeroes guys were really swell.

I ended up seeing their movie that night, and even though they clearly seemed like they knew what they were doing when I talked with them, I was impressed with the finished product. It’s a really funny movie, despite its insistence on toilet jokes (the leads empty portapotties for a living. I mean, what did I expect?). Plus it was awesome seeing Yazoo beers on the big screen.

On Saturday I showed up around 3pm and saw Save the Date entirely on a whim. Actually, I saw it for the awesome Party Down-inspired casting of Lizzy Caplan and Martin Starr. What I didn’t realize, though, is that film festivals are badass and more times than not, the director/actors will be present for the showing.

So it was that, as I was waiting for the screening to start, I noticed Joe Lo Truglio walk in. He’s not even in Save the Date, but, being a gigantic Wet Hot American Summer fan, I was thrilled to see him in the flesh. Then I realized the gorgeous girl in front of him was none other than Lizzy Caplan, and then they both sat right behind me. I kept glancing back until Lizzy Caplan looked at me, probably wondering what was wrong with me and why I was smiling so eerily and drooling all over the seats.

The movie itself was pretty good, made especially interesting because of its realistic depiction of the deterioration of a relationship in which neither participant is necessary bad, they just don’t work together. They did a brief Q & A afterwards and the director seemed really genuine.

We did some more interviews and talked for a long time with the stars of the Oscar-nominated documentary Hell and Back Again. It’s about a veteran and his wife as they re-adjust to life in the States, altered by a grievous wound (it was a 24-inch long bullet wound, he told us). We spoke with them for about 30 minutes in the Gibson tour bus, and the whole thing was pretty great. They have a crazy story, and I hear the doc is fantastic (and on Netflix).

On this day they also had a panel of women in film, and people went nuts for it. They had Carrie Preston (True Blood), Beth Grant (Donnie Darko), Famke Janssen (X-Men), and Nicole Kidman. Most of the people waiting in line were there for Nicole Kidman, and after waiting on the red carpet for a while, Preston spoke with her briefly. Here’s the conversation:

Preston: Hey!

Nicole: Hello!

Preston: I love your work!

Nicole: Oh, thank you!

Preston left, I ate and drank a lot in the tent, and Andrew and Brit joined me for V/H/S. It’s a horror movie comprised of several shorts of found footage, one of which is directed by Ti West, of whom I’m a fan. The movie overall was really enjoyable with some good scares, and surprisingly the last segment, made by a YouTube group unaccustomed to horror, was the best.

Sunday was the day that I lived at the festival. I showed up around noon and caught four movies throughout the day. Brit was there and I used the powers of my laminate to get us both some movies, but unfortunately I picked the wrong one for the 12:45 showing. Between a documentary (Beauty is Embarrassing) and a movie called Sassy Pants, I picked Sassy Pants. It was mainly due to my curiosity about the inexperienced director, but, man, that movie sucked.

Like, I almost couldn’t sit through it all. Just cringe-worthy. It was obvious in direction, seemed written by teenage girls, and had Haley Joel Osment (yeah, him) as a gay guy. The most oddly flamboyant gay guy ever. Don’t watch it. If you’re smart and think for a moment or two about what a movie called Sassy Pants would be like, you would never even want to watch it. I did not do that, though.

So I left that, gritted my teeth while Brit told me how awesome Beauty is Embarrassing was, and then saw Tales of the Night 3D. That’s right, a 3D movie at a film festival. 2012, man. Crazy times. It was a French animated movie comprised of a bunch of fairy tales without much of a linking piece, and while it looked great, it was a tad boring.

Hours later I caught How The Fire Fell, which is a really low-budget film about a religious cult in Oregon. It was black and white, pretty experimental, and about 75% silent. Interesting, but not my favorite style. The director did a Q & A after, and he was exactly the kind of guy I would expect to make that kind of movie (I don’t mean that in a bad way; he seemed cool).

A few more VIP tent hours passed and then I saw Alps, the latest from the director of Dogtooth. Dogtooth is definitely one of the more insane movies I’ve ever seen, and Alps was certainly not a normal film either, but the director’s crazy style of slow dialogue and long takes worked better in the enclosed locations of Dogtooth than it did in the open atmosphere of Alps. It was still enjoyable, especially when you consider the genius of the premise: a group is hired by grieving families to temporarily stand in as their deceased loved ones.

Monday morning came and I had to go back to work. In the morning I thought, “I’ll take a break from the festival and not go tonight,” and by lunch I had plotted two movies I’d see. I headed over right after work and caught the Russian film Elena, which won awards for its cinematography and boasts a score by Philip Glass. Give me good cinematography and a good score and I’m in (I’m looking at you, Jesse James). It was relatively slow but fascinating in how deftly all of the parts came together. It’s perhaps the best-made film that I saw at the festival.

Not long after that I saw my second stinker of the fest, the Thai hitman movie Headshot. It was kind of goofy, one of those action movies that tosses a ton of elements in there and hopes that some stick. The main character gets shot and suddenly sees the world upside down. Literally. After basically ignoring his vision problems for the whole second act, they fumbled through some philosophical metaphor for his new vision. Pass.

After work on Tuesday I headed over and Preston and I interviewed lots of people. We caught the creators of a Rick Springfield documentary (surprise: they love Rick!), and this guy that made a Nashville music doc. We tried to catch Butch Walker as he left the screening of his doc, but he evaded us. More on him later.

That night I saw a block of short films called OMG WTF. They lived up to their name, ranging from a guy surprising his girlfriend with a bear costume only to inadvertently scare her off of a cliff, to a Hungarian gangster ladies man. It was fun.

Wednesday brought with it a big music doc about the late Hank Cochran. We had met the director earlier on and he was a nice guy, so we hung out the red carpet trying to snag interviews with famous people. The problem is that they were all famous for country music and Preston and I don’t know country music. At one point he asked a woman if she knew Hank and she said, no, but my friend here did. Then he asked how her friend knew him and she replied, “Uh, she was married to him,” and we felt dumb.

Preston had to jet and I ended up seeing another movie I knew nothing about, Supporting Characters. This ended up being a really good time. It won the best screenplay award from the festival, and the main characters pulled off a really good comedic tone.

Afterwards I met up with a few people from the festival over at 12th and Porter for the Butch Walker show (aha! I said he’d be back!). They wanted footage of the show and I had a camera, so me and three other videographers captured the whole gig. I didn’t know of him before the festival, but Butch Walker’s a cool guy and puts on a pretty good show. My equipment gave me all kinds of hell and I stupidly left old files on my field recorder, limiting my recording to only 3 songs. It’s a learning process.

Thursday was the last day of the festival and I didn’t see any movies, but I did go to the closing night party, which was held at a School of Music downtown. After parking in the grass, I ate and drank and hung out with Preston and Andrew and talked with a lot of people. We ended up chatting with Jason Marsden and his wife. If you don’t know who he is, your childhood does. He was on Boy Meets World and Full House and a lot of other stuff, and he’s pretty good with names.

After the party, we went to a bar next to Belmont and talked about taking over the world one movie at a time. The night ended pretty late and I paid for it today, but it was all worth it.

The final count was 10 movies, only 2 of which were painful. The videos I did with Preston can be seen here. If you could and didn’t check out the festival, you missed out, because it was a great time.

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~ by Jon C. Forisha on April 27, 2012.

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