Festing Nash Vegas: Return of the Threshold Guardians, Part I

Follow RSMs Wayne Franklin and Kris Wheeler on their adventures as they take their film, Duke & The King, to the Nashville Film Festival.

Day three of our Nashville adventure was fairly uneventful. Family and friends rolled into town; Kris and I watched a number of other music docs; the growing sense of angst and trepidation churned in my stomach. If making a film is like having a baby, ours has emerged screaming from a six-year gestation. We think she’s a beaut, but there’s always that chance that when others see her, they’ll give a us a sigh and say, “bless your heart.” Nobody wants baby pity.

My lovely wife, Kelli, drove up from Birmingham to be with us for the weekend, hoping to take in the full festival experience. She and I co-founded Birmingham’s Sidewalk festival many moons ago, but we’ve never been on the filmmaker end of the equation. Not long after she left Birmingham, I got a text: “I think I’m getting sick.” Wonderful. The threshold guardians were back, and they weren’t only messing with our film experience, but they also seemed to take issue with my love life. So much for our plans of a kid-free plan to eat, drink and “be married.”

Kelli checked into the hotel and immediately went to bed, where she stayed for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, Kris and I kept working the room and seeing more films. We caught a film about a seminal Detroit rock venue known as the Grande Ballroom. Watching the film and hearing the tales of rebellion and debauchery that took place between those walls, I could only think: that story would’ve never happened in the South … okay, maybe in New Orleans, but nowhere else. What would their mamas think?.

We also caught a fascinating film about the hardcore fans of Rick Springfield. Yes, that Rick Springfield. Not only were the tales of these fans and the sight of a 60-something Noah Drake rocking out as if still in the prime of his 30s highly entertaining, but the film looked fantastic. It made me think about the long gestation period of our film, about the technical changes in filmmaking since we started. Most of our stuff is in SD, shot on prosumer cameras, whereas this film was shot on multiple high-end HD cameras. Our baby will never be as pretty as theirs. When the filmmakers took to the mic for their Q&A, I didn’t hear a word they said. I just imagined that they kept saying to Kris and me, “Well, bless your hearts.”

One highlight of the day was a panel discussion about the evolving roles of women behind the camera. On the panel were Nashville transplant Nicole Kidman, Famke Janssen, Tru Blood‘s Carrie Preston and Gadsden, Alabama native Beth Grant. Prior to the event, Ms. Janssen passed us in the lobby on the way to the restroom. We told Kris’ mother, Barbara, who she was. “Well, I think I need to go to the restroom,” she said. And off she went to size up the statuesque beauty.

If I were a fan of Kidman before the panel, I left a much bigger one. She was gracious, humble and far more beautiful in person than I’d ever seen her on film. She may have spoken with an Australian accent, but she was every bit the strong, Southern woman.

Speaking of strong, Southern women, Beth Grant may not be a name you recognize among the Hollywood pantheon, but if you look her up, you’ll probably discover you’re a fan. A brilliant character actress, Grant’s turn as the put-upon mother-in-law in No Country for Old Men stole the show for me. From the moment she groused in the taxi, “And I got the ‘caincer,” I forgot all about Brolin, Jones and Bardem.

Again, on a panel of younger beautiful women, she upstaged them all in the way that only self-effacing Southerners can do. When answering a question about balancing the demands placed upon a woman in the business, she answered by talking about the importance of family and spirituality. She talked about starting her day with prayers and meditation. Then the 62-year-old veteran actress added, “And I have to take care of my husband, too. Things go better for all of us if I do that.” No threshold guardians in their bedroom, I guess.

Day Four: Premiere Day!

Kris and I awoke early for a radio interview with a local jazz station. Maybe not the most ideal audience for our film, but hey, it’s the only media attention we had scored thus far. I shuffled down to the bacon buffet for a cup of coffee and back up to the room. We expect a call around 7:10 am. 7:15 comes and goes. No call. 7:30 comes and goes. Still no call. It’s official: we’ve been blown off. We returned to our respective beds and catch a few more defeated winks before our tech check later in the morning.

We arrived at the theater early for our tech check. The volunteer who had called us to reschedule left a message saying the we should arrive, as we heard it, “at ten-thorty.” Ten-thirty comes and goes, and the two of us and a young filmmaker from Queens are the only people in the theater. Ten-forty comes and goes. Still no techs to do the check. The night before, we had met an illusionist who touted himself as making people disappear. I started to suspect he’d done that to us.

The projectionists finally showed up at a time that was nowhere near a “thorty.” We step into the theatre, and for the first time see our film on one ginormous screen. We watch for a few minutes. It looks good and sounds good. It’s a little rough around the edges, but we finally allow ourselves to get excited.

Rather than taking in any films, I headed back to the hotel to hang out with Kelli. We ordered room service and took a little nap. Simple things.

That afternoon, with friends and family in tow, we hit the red carpet. For the first time this trip, we got the feeling someone actually knew who we were and what our film is. We all had a great time posing for the photographer. Then Kris and I did a quick video interview for the festival’s video blog. We took our party of fifteen or so over to Cheesecake Factory for a quick pre-film dinner.

Kris and I told everyone of our plans to do the Q&A as our redneck alter egos, Mud Puddle and T-Dub. I would start things off by asking, “Alright, any o’ y’all media from BassMasters?”

After dinner, we took the long, slow walk back to the theater. Time for the premiere!

One Response to “Festing Nash Vegas: Return of the Threshold Guardians, Part I”

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

    Days 3 & 4 of our Nashville experience:

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