published Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Chattanooga Film Fest debuts with attitude that 'getting people drunk on movies is fun'

Kristin Wiig stars in "Hateship Loveship," set to screen at the Chattanooga Film Festival Sunday, April 6.
Kristin Wiig stars in "Hateship Loveship," set to screen at the Chattanooga Film Festival Sunday, April 6.

ONLINE

For a schedule of events and to see video clips of the schedule films, visit chattanoogafilmfest.com

ABOUT THE FILMS

"A Life in the Death of Joe Meek" is a documentary about the man who preferred to record music in London his own way. Director Howard Berger will be on hand to discuss the movie, which is making its North American premiere at the Chattanooga Film Festival. It features musicians Jimmy Page, Steve Howe, Franz Ferdinand and Richard Routledge, who will also be in attendance.

"Father-Like Son" is the story of Dan (Andrew Megison), a 24-year-old whose new stepdad (Mac Alsfeld), who is his same age and insists on "raising" the boy as his own child.

"Hateship Loveship" is about a daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) who uses technology to create a psuedo romance between Kristen Wiig, left, and her father, Guy Pearce.

• In "The Raid 2," an extremely violent martial arts film, Officer Rama is back and is being pressured to join an anticorruption task force to protect his wife and child while he tries to catch a mob boss.

"The Sacrament" stars A.J. Bowen and Kate Forbes, who will be a part of an actors' panel during the festival. It is the story of two correspondents who set out to document their friend's search for his missing sister.

• Filmmaker Kori Feener will be on hand following the screening of "Hard Way Home" to answer questions about her experiences through hiking the Appalachian Trail.

  • photo
    "Father-Like Son" is one if the featured films at the Chattanooga Film Festival.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Filmmaker Kori Feener will be on hand following the screening of "Hard Way Home."
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Both Chris Dortch II and Grey Watson readily admit to having purely selfish motivations for staging this weekend's Chattanooga Film Festival, and it is not because they wanted an excuse to watch the films on the schedule.

In fact, Dortch will have seen each of the 51 films about a half dozen times before the first opening credits roll on Thursday.

"What I get out of doing this is the conversations I'm going to get out of it," Dortch says. "I can't wait to talk to people about each film."

Watson's motivation is a little more long-term and far-reaching. A film buff, he says he had to move to Los Angeles to be around like-minded people and to find work in the industry. He hopes staging an annual film festival in Chattanooga, a city he loves, will make it easier for someone in the future to stay here and learn the craft.

"My involvement really is that I want people in my situation -- if they want to do film or TV -- to have an opportunity to talk to people who have directed or acted or even done hair and makeup and to be able to [talk to them] right there [in Chattanooga]. Education has been a big part of my involvement," Watson says.

The films -- 21 feature-length movies and 30 shorts -- will be shown in two theaters at the Majestic 12 downtown, the larger seating 214 people and the smaller seating 115. Advanced tickets are $10 per feature film, with standby tickets available at $12. All the shorts can be watched for $10, and VIP badges, which allow you to see as many films as you can plus attend special events, are available for $210.

The festival also will feature panel discussions and workshops on things like acting, how to use tools like fundraising site Kickstarter for your film and "The Importance of Genre Cinema." The last one, for example, will feature panelists Rodney Perkins, lead programmer for Fantastic Fest (a horror festival in Austin, Texas); Jeff Burr, director of "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III," "The Offspring" and "Eddie Presley"; actor A.J. Bowen ("The Sacrament," "The Signal"), Peter Phok, producer of "The Sacrament"; and Dortch.

"A Chattanooga film festival means we are finally filling the missing link in the local arts scene," says Dave Porfiri, local filmmaker and founder of the now mothballed Chattanooga Film Society. "For years we've had the other art forms represented, and this is long overdue. From a cultural arts perspective, I think it means Chattanooga has finally arrived."

Dortch says the selection process for the films, which have come from all over the world, including Uganda, was pretty straightforward.

"I watched every feature six times at least and some of the shorts more. There literally is something for everyone from American comedy to documentary to horror and even sub genres of horror. That's one of the things I want people to experience is that there are so many different types of films out there and not just what is readily available.

"That's the magic of movies. Getting people drunk on movies is fun."

Watson, 27, is employed at Warner Bros. in the worldwide marketing division. He is the Chattanooga Film Festival chairman and has been working on lining up guests and helping spread the word from LA.

Dortch, 32, who works at Woople, a web-based e-learning platform that allows clients to create their own videos, is the founder and executive director of the festival, which he conceived after watching audiences and members grow in his local indie-film club Mise En Scenesters.

Mise En Scenesters has hosted film screenings in random places for the last 21/2 years. The first few screenings were in Dortch's living room but, as crowds grew, they moved to borrowed warehouse spaces and anywhere else they could until finally settling in at Barking Legs Theater, where Dortch has put whatever profits he makes from screenings into better equipment and film rentals for the next one.

Membership now sits at around 300, a number which gave Dortch, who has the infectious energy of Robin Williams on a Red Bull bender and looks a bit like "The Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, the confidence that Chattanooga was ready for a full-blown film festival.

"We were told it would take five years and we've been able to put one on in two," Dortch says. Two weeks prior to the festival's debut, it already had broken even financially, he says.

Among the festival's special events are an opening night cocktail party at the Hunter Museum of American Art, an opening night after-party at the Flying Squirrel. Other events are planned at Alleia, the DoubleTree, Loose Cannon and the Waterhouse Pavilion.

The festival will begin on Thursday night at the Hunter Museum of American Art with an opening reception. Patrons will then head over to the Majestic 12 for the 8 p.m. North American premiere of "A Life in the Death of Joe Meek" and a screening of "The Congress." There will also be a Mise En Scenesters after-hours showing of "Manos Hands of Fate: The Restoration."

On hand for the premiere of the Meek film will be director Howard S. Berger and musician Richard Routledge, who worked with Meek as a member of the UK band the Cryin' Shames. Film historian Jeff Burr will be on hand for the Manos film as will Chattanoogan and film restorationist Ben Solovey.

The Meek film is significant to Dortch because it is a documentary about a man who became one of the United Kingdom's top recording engineers because of, and perhaps in spite of, his do-it-yourself attitude.

"That is what we are trying to do here," Dortch says.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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