Third Street Film Festival: Director’s Cut
Inside the inaugural Third Street Film Festival
By Chris DiBenedettoPosted Dec 21, 2011
It’s no secret that Louisiana has become one of the most popular places for film making in the country. Baton Rouge is leading the way in this new rise in our entertainment industry, and with so much new growth, the city looks to have a bright future.
“Our Baton Rouge Film Commission has done a tremendous job selling our city as a great place for production,” said Mayor-President Kip Holden in a press conference earlier this year.
However, with money flowing in, production studios being built, and our own state quickly gaining fame as “Hollywood South,” many still feel that more needs to be done to highlight talented local filmmakers.
The Third Street Film Festival plans to do just that by selecting eight to 15 independent Louisiana films to premiere at the Manship Theatre on December 30.
Hosted by a group of local young entrepreneurs, the event plans to give filmmakers from across the state a notorious venue for showing their work.
Putting it all together
When 22-year-old James Hebert, executive director of Third Street Film Festival, first dreamed of putting on a festival in support of local artists, he never knew it would grow into something so spectacular. Nurturing his interest in film by directing some projects in high school, he later started a website that shared news about film in Louisiana, ranging from casting calls to film reviews. Then, one day Hebert had a vision.
“I was thinking of what film festivals they had in Louisiana,” said Hebert. “The only one that comes to mind is the New Orleans Film Festival, which is already established and takes films from all over the world. So I thought, what if I did films only made here?”
That was back in February. Since then, his idea started to snowball. Hebert teamed up with other local enthusiasts he had met throughout his time in the film scene, including Mary Legendre (head of public relations for the film festival) whose enthusiasm for the idea came from a shared feeling that Baton Rouge simply needed more.
They weren’t the only ones who thought that. The support they gained from friends, and later from Scene Magazine, would soon turn this event into the film festival for the Capital City. Dozens of directors from around the state, including renowned Louisiana native Zack Godshall – who has had several appearances at Sundance Film Festival – sent in their films in hopes of gaining recognition for their work.
No admission fees meant that anyone could send in their film to be scored by the panel of judges that was put together by the team. Each film was scored based on a 20-point system for each category, followed by an overall vote on the film. Categories consisted of acting, cinematography, audio quality, musical selections, dialogue, and creativity. This led to a well-varied final selection of films that will be shown the night of the festival.
Third Street Film Festival plans on having two segments, one and a half hours each, of film viewings that will include a plethora of skillfully sequenced genres ranging from three to 32 minute flicks.
But there is much more going on with this event besides just getting some popcorn and watching a movie.
The event will cover the entire first floor of the Shaw Center, and will host a variety of other entertainment when the film viewings are not in session. Guests are asked to arrive at 6:00 p.m. for a social period where local musicians will entertain and local cuisines can be enjoyed. There will be six to eight restaurants serving limited menus, along with a cash bar in the lobby serving up a variety of drinks and tasty cocktails. A backdrop, provided by the festival sponsors, will also be available for guest photo shoots and special celebrity appearances, such as the cast of Breakout Kings (rumored to attend).
After the film viewings, audience members will have the chance to vote on their favorite films, which will receive an Audience Award. The award will be presented the following night, at the official Third Street Film Festival New Year’s Eve party.
The party, hosted by both the festival organizers and Scene Magazine, will be held on top of the Shaw Center from 8 p.m. until 1a.m. It will comprise of an award ceremony as well as a classic New Year’s Eve party – with a variety of attendees involved in the film industry. Although the party is invite-only, all festival ticket holders are invited to join in the fun for free.
Seeing the scenery
Independent filmmakers in Louisiana have a great variety of locations to choose from, including big cities, pine wood forests, and vast swampland.
Baton Rouge filmmaker Jesse Seidule, creator of the film Lights, shot in a variety of locations around the city in order to realistically conjure a post-apocalyptic Baton Rouge.
“I wanted to show differences in Baton Rouge that people wouldn’t used to be seeing,” Seidule said. One of which is the Mississippi Bridge shot from across the river completely bare of cars, a sight rarely seen in real life. Seidule shoots many films downtown due to its emptiness on weekends, and having the freedom to walk around instead of being denied a certain location by a business owner.
“For any no-budget filmmakers, it is a great place to shoot a film…It is like being at a back lot in Universal; just a big empty city,” says Seidule.
Director KD Amond used similar strategies for locations in New Orleans to shoot his film Compacted, but also said that it is people he knows who really help him with specific locations. Both directors use local actors as well as production teams to get the job done. Without the support of the local community, it would be difficult for them to be proud artisans in the Louisiana independent film scene.
Locals heart industry
Both Hebert and Legendre developed a great appreciation for film by getting involved in different productions throughout the years, which are now being shared by many of the directors who will be considered at the event.
“Louisiana is a homey state. We’re just trying to make all the filmmakers feel at home and provide them an avenue to send in their films when they film in Louisiana,” said Legendre, a New Orleans native looking to bridge the gap between Baton Rouge and the crescent city.
And she’s not alone. Many directors feel that having prominent film festivals across the state will only positively affect their own careers. Ashley Charbonnet, director of the entry film The Price of Flowers, has been involved in the New Orleans Film Festival but is excited to have another elegant venue to display her work.
The organizers hope to throw more events similar to this in the months to come, to expand this progressive idea in the following years. In any case, as all organizers, sponsors, directors, and participants in the Third Street Film Festival will tell you, this event was made from passion and a belief that, for Baton Rouge, this is only the beginning.
The Third Street Film Festival will be held Dec. 30 at the Manship Theatre, 6:30 to 11:00 p.m. Tickets are $25, and include a New Year’s Eve party the night after the festival, hosted by Scene Magazine. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.LaFilmSpot.com.