The 9th Annual Real to Reel Film Festival just closed in my chosen hometown and it's worthy of an entry. Turnout for this event is always far lower than I think it should be - all too often, we don't pay attention to the goings-on in our own backyard. Further, since I live in such a small town, I think there's a certain amount of "well, if the films were any good, they'd be entered in bigger festivals, so these must be pretty lousy." Not so, cynics. Here are ten reasons to mark your calendar for next year.
1. Not-quite-discovered gems like CRAZY and THE FLYBOYS. The first was a biopic of Hank Garland (yeah, I'd never heard of him, either. More's the pity.) and the second was a fun family romp involving airplanes, the Mob, and two new friends who bond over a stowaway adventure. (By the way, if you're a Browncoat I defy you to see FLYBOYS and not note that the two boys are Li'l Mal and Li'l Wash.) And the technology is changing - nine years ago, films were on VHS. Now we're on DVD, and FLYBOYS was actually the first hi-def film shown.
2. Four straight nights that give you an excuse to dress up. You don't have to; I saw plenty of flip-flops and shorts, but I like dressing up and this is a great chance to pull out the little black dress and see if I remember how to walk in high heels. (Lead with the toe, ladies, not the heel!)
3. Documentaries about people, places, and events you knew nothing about. I now have a new favorite saint and did you know there was an all Puerto Rican infantry regiment? Me neither.
4. Silent auctions. Every year, this is used as a fundraiser for the Arts Council and the packages all somehow tie in to movies. (I donated a copy of SERENITY and a copy of my book - called it the "Serenity Prayer Pack.") My favorite was probably the white water rafting trip that came with a copy of DELIVERANCE. Seriously.
5. Eating popcorn while in a cocktail dress. Out of the red and white striped box. While humming the "let's go out to the lobby" jingle.
6. Snarking at the mongrels that made it through the screening process. There are always one or two absolute travesties of films that get into the festival; usually due to some local connection. Even those can be fun, especially if you're a fan of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 school of film criticism. One of these actually won for best amateur feature (I honestly think it was the only one in that category) and I'm sure it was accepted only because it was filmed in North Carolina. Dear God in heaven, it was awful. No, I won't provide the link. These people ought not to be encouraged.
7. Gala closing receptions. Nothing says "red carpet" like food served with toothpicks. I jest, but it is nice to have a chance to circulate and chat with other film-goers and some of the filmmakers.
8. The deal! Ticket prices are extremely low and one price will get you in all five sessions. (Four nights and a Saturday matinee.)
9. Freebies! There's always a "swag" table with promotional material and you never know - you might win a raffle prize. As proof, my "Space Chimps" T-shirt is whirling away in the dryer right now. Yeah, I know - what do I need a "Space Chimps" T-shirt for? But that's not really the point, is it?
10. Realizing that you're seeing things that commercial ticket-holders are going to miss. I wish more people would turn out for this event, but until then, I'm going to enjoy being one of the ones "in the know."
Mark your calendars now for next year! It'll be the 10th Annual, so there are bound to be some big surprises!