Never having been to a festival before, I only knew as much about indie movies as the local Blockbuster would rent me.
As strictly an enthusiast of movies, I have to admit a certain naiveté about the art form of filmmaking. I can’t speak much for technique, nor for technicality. I only know who and what I like. With that in mind, I attended the 30th annual USA Film Festival with great anticipation. A festival based in Dallas in the 70s, it’s grown to be a nationally followed event for independent film.
(Don’t let this year’s banner scare you. I think the director of the festival was going for shock value, as none of the films carried this rating.)
Never having been to a festival before, I only knew as much about “indie” (independent) movies as the local Blockbuster would rent me, what I could watch on the Independent Film Channel, or read on FilmThreat.com. So for me, attending theUSAFF was both a great experience and wonderful exposure to the underground of filmmaking. What I learned is that the underground is actually a lifeblood for the bigger movie venues. We simply couldn’t have the crowd-pleasing Jurassic Parks without the terrifyingly original Blair Witch Projects.
To most, indie films come across as esoteric, if not downright pretentious. As I discovered, the atmosphere at the millennial USAFF was anything but. After each film’s screening, various filmmakers (producers, directors, screenwriters, actors) were on hand to discuss in open forum their work.
From left to right are directors Hector Galan (The Forgotten Americans) and Marcy Garriott (Split Decision). Both documentaries centered around the Latin American condition.
Here is director Robert Greenwald (left) answering audience questions for his film Steal This Movie.
The experience was like entering a different world. Not necessarily higher class, although there were plenty of three-piece suits and glamorous evening gowns milling about. Neither was the festival entirely made up of nerdy film fanatics, although there were a handful of stereotypical eccentrics in attendance (the people you might expect from online movie sites like Aint-It-Cool-News.com).
No, it was all very unique. Most of the attendees were right in the middle of those two extremes. I got a chance to discuss filmmaking with Daniel Yoon, director of Post Concussion. As it turns out, Daniel has no film school training. In fact, he too was an engineer! Maybe there’s hope for me yet.
Here is Yoon (left) in a question and answer period after the screening of his semi-autobiographical film Post Concussion, which very imaginatively looks at fulfillment in life after near-death experiences. His is a fantastic first feature.
Then I met the guys from a now-defunct ShortFilmNetwork.com, which was a short-lived (no pun intended) online venue for filmmakers and their short films. They had some great short films on their site, including Film Club (a parody of Fight Club) and 82,309 Feet. It’s a shame they didn’t survive the dot-com bust.
>Here, I’m posing with Brooke Langton, costar of Playing Mona Lisa.
Here is the gang from Broke Even. From left is director David Feldman, actor Michael Lowry, and writer Carl Dupre. Their film was a real triumph in the true independent sense — micro budget, small highly talented cast, and extremely involving story.
Here I am with Kevin Von Erich, the eldest surviving son of the Von Erich professional wrestling dynasty. On my left is Rusty Baker, the director of Kevin’s autobiographical documentary Faded Glory. In the middle is me in the most awkward pose yet. Moments after this shot was taken, Kevin body slammed me!
Here is Chris Wilcha, director of the brilliant documentary The Target Shoots First. His personal story of his tenure at Columbia House Music is unlike any documentary films I’ve seen. It’s a long sprawling story that probably had the likeness (to him) of a simple diary, but turned into a powerful statement of Western marketing strategies and the relationships between corporate management and popular culture. Truly fascinating.
Here is director Norman Jewison being mobbed by fans for autographs outside the AMC Glen Lakes Theater, host of the 2000 USAFF.
Indeed, indie films represent a wealth of raw talent. I certainly enjoyed these films. Of the many screening at 2000’s USAFF, I saw quite a few. Fourteen Films in Seven Days:
Friday, April 28th
Saturday, April 29th
- The Passing & Nic Nicosia Movies (short films)
- The Target Shoots First (documentary)
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye (documentary)
Sunday, April 30th
Monday, May 1st
- Steal This Movie (drama)
- The Forgotten Americans (documentary)
Tuesday, May 2nd
- Poor White Trash (comedy)
Wednesday, May 3rd
Thursday, May 4th
- Committed (romantic comedy)
- Faded Glory (documentary)