Festing Nash Vegas: Chunky Glasses, Tiny Fedoras and the F-word

For the next week RSMs Wayne Franklin and Kris Wheeler will be blogging their experiences as they take their film to the Nashville Film Festival.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell, in his seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, says that the hero of any good story must vanquish forces known as Threshold Guardians who seek to keep him from completing his quest.

On our little quest to complete our film and premiere it at this year’s Nashville Film Fest, our threshold guardians look like software glitches, shipping mishaps, lost hotel reservations and, most notably, a 1997 Ford Expedition with a bad timing chain and a 2002 Chevy TrailBlazer with a bad case of the engine coolant gurgles.

After one rental car, a pit stop atop Mount Eagle and much dang strummin’ (that’s my Twanglish version of the German phrase sturm und drang), we finally made it to our hotel in Nashville. We had been the first filmmakers to reserve a room, which of course meant we were the only filmmakers without one. The manager rectified the situation – whch surely means some other poor sap of a filmmaker slept in the streets last night … at least in my mind he did.

÷Venturing over to the Green Hills Cinema, where the entire event is held, we were pleased to find that our one-sheet was featured prominently in the lobby. We had hoped this implied a certain level of excitement about our film. That hope was quickly dashed as we checked in for our lanyards. “Duke & The King, huh?” the volunteer said with a perplexed look on her face. Okay, she’s just a volunteer. Maybe she’s not aware of all the films in competition. However, it does cause us to pause and contemplate our choices.

Over the years, Kris and I have poked fun at certain trends in independent film, saying, “if we want our film to really succeed in festivals, we need a gay love story … or zombies … preferably both.” Yes, it’s a stereotype, but as they say, stereotypes exist for a reason.

With some time to kill before we took in our first screening, we grabbed a beverage and a snack at a nearby restaurant. At the next table over, a few older boisterous couples were whooping it up.Their accents belied a life in the “old money” South. I half expected someone to scream out “Ya-Ya!” at any moment. (Yes, I have watched a chick flick or two … but always with my wife, of course.)

The Ya-Yas at the next table over start screaming, “The filmmakers are here!” In walks the daughter of one of the couples along with her Italian filmmaker boyfriend, looking every bit the part of an Italian filmmaker. They notice our lanyards and the typical exchange of pleasantries/sizing up of the competition begins.

Duke & The King?” says the Italian filmmaker with a perplexed tone. It’s okay, I rationalize, they’re in the dramatic feature competition. They probably haven’t paid attention to the documentaries. Surely all the doc filmmakers know who we are.

They are preparing for the premiere of their film within an hour or so. We ask them to tell us about their film. “It’s about a girl who is forced by her grandmother to attend her cousin’s lesbian wedding.” There it is.

After dinner, we attend a screening of a documentary entitled Beauty is Embarrassing. The film is a biography of artist/puppeteer Wayne White, who hails from East Tennessee and made a name for himself as an art director and puppeteer for projects like Pee Wee’s Playhouse and the Smashing Pumpkins’ video for “Tonight, Tonight.” The film was a hoot, and I plan to offer a full review of it later. One word of caution for anyone who seeks it out: you’d better have a high tolerance for the F-word. I didn’t count, but the number uttered or shown in White’s work would have to be in the high hundreds.

After the film, I introduced myself to the White and the film’s director, Neil Berkley. White and I consoled each other on our unfortunate common name, but chose to celebrate the fact that, desired being named Wayne, we aren’t currently in prison. There’s still time…

Duke & The King?” Berkley pondered the name without a hint of recognition.

“It’s okay,” I think, “He’s not a music documentarian. He probably didn’t pay attention to our category. Surely all the other music documentary filmmakers know who we are.”

We headed over to the VIP tent for our first of many rounds of free food and drink. Whole Foods did a fine job of putting a foodie spin on Southern classics like shrimp and grits, smoked trout and grilled cheese sammiches. There was, however, a shocking lack of bacon.

Rather than force our way into the conversations of others, we chose to lie low and observe. By our count. At least one in ten filmmakers sported tiny fedoras. (I can’t talk; I have one back at the hotel.) One in three wore chunky horn-rimmed glasses. One dude went full-on ironic with a poofy trucker hat, thick mutton chops and Elvis-esque sunglasses. Then there was a rat tail – probably the first such hairstyle I had seen since about ’94. If one were to profile the crowd for who was the most “creative,” Kris and I would rank somewhere around the level of “guys who wandered in from the local pub for free beer.”

The party wound down, and we called it a night. Back at the hotel, we met a Detroit filmmaker named Tony, whose rock doc screens Saturday night. We had heard of his film. He asked us about ours. Here he was: one of our peers, someone who would surely know what we were bring to the table.

Duke & The King?”


Over the years, Kris and I have poked fun at certain trends in independent film, saying, “if we want our film to really succeed in festivals, we need a gay love story … or zombies … preferably both.” Yes, it’s a stereotype, but as they say, stereotypes exist for a reason.


2 Responses to “Festing Nash Vegas: Chunky Glasses, Tiny Fedoras and the F-word”

  1. Reblogged this on Duke & The King and commented:

    We’re blogging our way through the Nashville FIlm Festival. Check out Wayne’s first post over on Real Southern Men.


  1. Festing Nash Vegas: Used Film Salesmen | Real Southern Men - April 21, 2012

    […] Read along as RSMs Wayne Franklin and Kris Wheeler take their film, Duke & The King, to its premiere at the Nashville Film Festival. If you missed day one of their journey, you can catch up here. […]

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