Dallas — As summer works its way to fall, we go back to school, buzzed for football season and the Dallas VideoFest will have its first fall season. (When I was offered this column, I was told I have the freedom to do some shameless promotion so this is that column.)
Before we get into Dallas Videofest Fall Season, I should tell you about Frame of Mind, the show I produce for KERA TV. This is the 25th anniversary season, and we have some great programs coming up. The first episode up on Sept. 7 will be a look back at 25 years of the show, with clips from 42 films plus interviews with Marlis Schmidt and Suzanne Dooley, who founded the show in 1992. The series features great animation, new documentaries and dramas. But there is a bit of looking back, including documentaries from the program Newsroom, including some that have not been seen since they originally aired. The second episode on Sept. 14 is a retrospective of the work from Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell, who founded the production company Media Projects 40 years ago.
Here is an audio interview about the series. Frame of Mind airs Thursday nights from Sept. 7 until Thanksgiving at 10 p.m. (except for shows three and four, which are at 11 p.m.). For a look at the schedule go here.
As for VideoFest, we are coming into our 30th year and have decided to shake up what we do. For years (29 to be exact) we have run many films over many days at our festival, where we have shown an average of 150 films over the course of the event. This is a lot of media. Somehow, every year we think we can do more and more. Most other festivals do what we have been doing, keep adding screenings. “Oh let’s have a virtual reality sidebar, and a sidebar on this and that.” This has been my instinct in programming: “Hey come here let me show you this and this and you can’t believe this.” I know from going to so many festivals that this can get frustrating. Festivalgoers are saying to themselves, “What do I want to see? I don’t want to miss something important.” There is always this worry that the film in the next theater is where you should be. And no matter what, there is no way to see everything.
This year we are breaking up the festival into three events and dramatically reducing the number of programs. On Oct. 5-8 we have the DVF DocuFest, on Oct. 13 is the Ernie Kovacs Award, and Nov. 2-5 we have DVF Alternative Fictions. DocuFest and Alternative Fictions will each have about 15 programs and will only be in one theater.
We will start the season with Dallas’ first documentary festival—yes, I do know that Denton has the fine Thin Line Fest, which now has music and photography. The idea of having just 15 films means each can be an event, we can hopefully promote it better, but from a personal perspective I will have to say no to more filmmakers this year than I have before. In programing a festival, I must be the go-between from the maker to the audience. Can I find an audience for this? Is this something I must show even if there is no built-in audience? Is this too similar to other films we have? What makes a good balance?
Programming a festival is a lot like editing a film; each film is like a shot and you need to find a way to make it all work. Is this shot too much like the last one? What do you we need at this moment? How do we start and how to do we end? I would tell you if I had the schedule locked, but that is what I am working on right now.
This year’s Ernie Kovacs Award is going to Kids in the Hall co-founders Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald, with the coveted Ernie Kovacs Award on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Alamo Drafthouse (100 S. Central Expressway at Belt Line in Richardson). We will have a ceremony, show some Kovacs video and several members of Kids in the Hall in a Q&A, as well as show their film Brain Candy. (See video above for a classic Kids in the Hall bit.)
If you have not seen the work of Ernie check out this and this. To me, Kovacs, is the first artist to work in the medium of television, and everything you see on late night comedy is derivative of his work. Every year we bring in someone who has followed in his footsteps.
On another note, Tobe Hooper died last week. He is best known for his influential, low-budget horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). This created a new sub-genre of horror film that had a clear Texas bent to it.
To be honest it is not my kind of film but I do appreciate it, and with each screening it seems to play better in my head. This made people scared of rural Texas in the same way Deliverance made people afraid of Appalachia. Does this give a negative portrayal of the Texas countryside?
I don’t think so. But did you know that Hooper also directed Billy Idol’s video for “Dancing with Myself” (above)? You can see his influence on the art direction.
And finally, if you haven’t discovered it yet, drop by Top Ten Records on Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff. It’s the oldest record store in Dallas, and has been reinvented as a non-profit with a terrific collection of vinyl records, VHS tapes and DVDs.
» Bart Weiss is an award-winning independent film and video producer, director, editor, and educator who has lived in Dallas since 1981. Mr. Weiss has taught film and video production at Texas A&M’s Visualization Lab, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Austin and Arlington, Dallas Community College District and West Virginia State College. He currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, serves on the Board of Directors of the University Film and Video Association, is a past Vice President of the Texas Association of Film and Tape Professionals, founder and past president of the West Virginia Filmmakers’ Guild, and co-founder of VideoFest and the Video Association of Dallas. He has been a video columnist for The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Times Herald, United Features Syndicate and KERA 90.1 FM Radio in Dallas. Mr. Weiss received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University in 1978 and a B.A. from Temple University in 1975. Bart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
» Film Notes with Bart Weiss runs on the first Monday of the month.
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