It's funny what a smidge of positive press, a little marketing gizmo, and a good reputation can do for a film festival. This year's Route 66 Film Festival — the 7th annual — received six times the usual number of submissions, says festival director Linda McElroy, including entries from every continent on the globe except Antarctica.
"Antarctica's just not in the film business, I guess," she quips.
The festival received such a bounty of marvelous movies, McElroy plans to show 49 films this year, up from 28 last year, and she could have shown 100 high-quality flicks if she'd had the time and space.
"We had some we had to turn down that any other
year we would've for sure played," she says. "I felt so
bad it almost made me ill to send rejections. Some of these people have
been in our festival in the past. But you can't turn down these
She attributes the massive increase to two developments: MovieMaker magazine and a marketing tool called Withoutabox.
MovieMaker publishes an annual list of 20 to 25 film festivals "worth the entry fee," and Route 66 made the cut for 2007. Some short films selected for the Route 66 Festival are screened not only at the festival but also on a local cable access TV show, which adds an interview with the filmmaker. The show then provides the filmmaker with a tape of the interview to include in his or her portfolio.
"It really helps their careers to get a film in a festival, and to have something to prove they were actually in it," McElroy says.
Withoutabox, Inc., is a worldwide network that eliminates the arduous paperwork of applying for festivals by handling the entire process online. The service also sends periodic reminder e-mails concerning upcoming entry deadlines to approximately 100,000 filmmakers in 200 countries. The Route 66 festival joined just this past year.
Membership included a pledge that someone would watch every single submission from beginning to end, and McElroy, reluctant to subject her volunteer judges to anything unworthy, fulfilled that promise herself. As much as she loves film, gorging herself on it wasn't always easy.
"One film that came from Ireland was 140
minutes long, and it would not play on my DVD player," she says.
"My laptop practically burned a hole through my lap by the time I
finished watching it."
That film didn't survive her preliminary cut.
"It wasn't a bad film," she says,
"but it wasn't worth 140 minutes of your time."
Watching so many movies raised her awareness of cinematic clichés, such as the "vast number" of films that begin with a sleeping subject being roused by the sound of an alarm clock.
"We could've had an entire festival of films that start with an alarm clock," she says. (Don't worry; the Route 66 judges chose to stick with the original festival theme of "journey.")
In an effort to give some films the broadest audience possible, festival organizers have scheduled several free screenings: A four-minute biography of Abraham Lincoln, made by 10-year-old Abraham Ward, of Eureka, Missouri; D.O.P.E. (Death or Prison Eventually), an ultimately-uplifting documentary following the foibles of four world champion skateboarders whose fame was followed by a descent into drugs and crime; and Stars and Their Guitars, another documentary, featuring famous slingers like Les Paul, B.B. King, Scotty Moore, Bo Diddley, Billy Gibbons, and Slash waxing poetic about their beloved axes.
The festival opens with a party on Friday, Sept. 19
at Capital City Bar and Grill, 3149 S. Dirksen Pkwy., where three 90-minute
features will be shown. The party is open to filmmakers and anyone who has
purchased a $50 pass to attend the entire festival. Screenings continue
Sept. 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to midnight at Hoogland Center for the Arts,
420 S. 6th St. Passes and single-show tickets are available at the
Hoogland, both in advance and on the day of the shows.
Capital City Bar and Grill, 3149 South Dirksen Pkwy.
6 p.m. Pre-festival party open to festival pass holders only
6:30 p.m.War Eagle, Arkansas Robert Milazzo, Little Rock, Ark.
In this film starring Brian Dennehy, Mare Winningham and Mary Kay Place, a gifted baseball player must choose between career and family during the summer of his senior year.
8:15 p.m. Yai Wanonabalewa: The Enemy God Christopher Bessette, Littleton, Colo.
A powerful Yanomamo shaman traces his tribe's history in Venezuela over 40 years as they cope with new ideas while trying to maintain their identity.
10 p.m.Thicker than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part 1
Phil Messerer, Hollywood, Calif.
In this dark comedy, a family must help feed their youngest when she becomes a vampire.
Saturday, Sept. 20
Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. 6th St.
10 a.m. Three short films about world travel
Beyond the Call Adrian Belic, Vallejo, Calif.
In this documentary, three modern-day knights travel the world delivering humanitarian aid to civilians in some of the most dangerous, yet beautiful, places on Earth.
e-Dump Michael Zhao, New York City
This documentary filmed in China contemplates what happens to recycled electronic gadgets.
Kivumvu: Basket Boy Christopher Redmond, Burundi Film Center
This short film was produced by Burundi youth in Africa in a project to teach them filmmaking with the goals to inspire, educate and entertain.
12 p.m. Free screening
Abe Lincoln's Life Abraham Ward, Eureka, Mo.
This 4-minute film presents the life of Abraham Lincoln through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy.
D.O.P.E. (Death or Prison Eventually) Brian Stewart, Mesa, Ariz.
This documentary looks at four legendary world champion skateboarders — Jay Adams from Dogtown's Z Boys, Christian Hosoi, Dennis Martinez and Bruce Logan — as they rose to the top, descended into drugs and crime, and climbed back to life. Danny Trejo narrates.
1:15 p.m. Audience favorite drama competition
My Dad Ralph Nicholas Wong, Ontario, Canada
Ralph has kept his profession a secret until his son's class has a Take-Your-Kid-to-Work Day.
Samara: "Jeff" Roshan Murthy and Sam Copeland, Peoria
The sun is dying and the world is ending, but hope is coming in less than 8 minutes.
Waking Up Alone Luke Ewing, Chicago
A would-be messiah is haunted by the need to prove his love for his departed wife.
The Un-Gone Simon Bovey, Worcester, England
Travel in the future is simple until the transporter's malfunction reveals the dark truth behind the corporate façade.
Final Prayers Dylan Narang, Orange, Ala.
A mother tries to convince her son not to commit suicide as his father did.
Crazy Old Woman Zhou "Joe" Fang,
Stewart's life is turned upside down when his wife's grandmother moves in and begins to talk to dead people on her old rotary phone.
Endless Journey Henry Warnakulasuriya, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka
A mother must leave her small son alone while she cares for a pampered child.
2:50 p.m. Audience favorite debut competition
The Lion's Tale Bunthivy Nou, Fredericton, New Brunswick
A mother confesses to killing the boy who bullied
First and Last Damien Patrik, Sedona, Ariz.
A landlord looks for the perfect tenant among many potential, wacky renters.
Square Pegs Ben Hicks, Downers Grove,Ill.
A childish mother and her two daughters find themselves in a surreal way station where their choices will bring them together or tear them apart.
Food for the Gods H. Scott Hughes, Brenham, Tex.
On a world light years away from Earth, a beautiful warrior must choose between her people's future and the life of her astronaut lover.
The Purrfect Girl Emily W., Chicago
A budding romance is threatened when a dog-lover learns the terrifying truth that his girl is a cat-lady.
The Bath Boris Wexler, Chicago
Stacy revisits her troubled relationship with her husband as she relaxes in the tub.
The Loneliest Place on Earth Cody Stokes, St. Louis
A dying man hails a taxi to take a tour of the city so that he won't spend his last night alone.
4:30 p.m. A little romance
Manny Kyoung "Kay" Park, Brooklyn, N.Y. and South Korea
Black-and-white, silent-film-style 3-D animation set in 1920s.
Break-up Date Collin Souter, Prospect Heights, Ill.
This documentary explores the modern scene of speed dating, online dating and too much choice.
6:15 p.m. Free screening
Stars and Their Guitars(best documentary)
Kent Hagen, Los Angeles
Four generations of guitar players talk about the instrument they love. Starring Les Paul, B.B. King, Scotty Moore, Bo Diddley, Billy Gibbons, Slash and others.
8 p.m. Double feature of winners and shorts
Raccoon and Crawfish Terrance Frederick,
Animation based on an Oneida Indian legend.
Yesterday Was a Lie(best film noir)
James Kerwin, Hollywood, Calif.
A girl with a sharp mind and a weakness for bourbon searches for an elusive genius with a sexy lounge singer and a loyal partner as her only allies.
Viola: The Traveling Rooms of a Little Giant Shih-Ting Hung, West Hollywood, Calif.
Viola steps outside her own world to search for the true meaning of loneliness. (Experimental)
The Art of Pain (best comedy feature)
Matt Brookens, Chicago
A starving artist working at a movie theater finds inspiration when an amateur ninja sets out to destroy his life.
Sunday, Sept. 21
Hoogland Center for the Arts
10 a.m. Audience favorite comedy competition
He's My Dad Mark and Heath Mensher, Orange, N.J.
A young girl tries to rehabilitate her dad, a former serial killer, who has just been released from prison.
Delivery Sandor Weiner, New York City
A man with an unusual delivery method has hungry customers who refuse to pay.
The Kindness of Neighbors Erik Gernand, Chicago
A couple who moves into a gentrifying neighborhood invites a new neighbor for tea.
Season of the Clown Brian Wimer, Charlottesville, Va.
A film crew captures rare footage of the endangered Mountain Clown at the opening of Clown Season.
Alan & Suja Todd Tinkham, Chapel Hill, N.C.
When hometown boy Alan meets the exotic Suja, his whole world turns upside down.
NPW (No Polo Widow) Blake Mycoskie, Santa Monica, Calif.
Alicia learns how to entice her polo-playing husband and avoid being a polo widow. (Filmed in Argentina)
Hard Boiled Brian Wimer, Charlottesville, Va.
Two small-time thugs break "the goods" and have to face the big boss, Mr. B.
Leo Joseph Reitman, Los Angeles
An African lion moves to LA to become a movie star, but the king of the jungle finds he's just another guy looking for a gig.
11:45 a.m. Un dimanche a Pripiat (A Sunday in Pripiat) Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk,
An invisible enemy has forced 50,000 people from their homes in this model city that has reverted to its natural state. (Documentary filmed in the Ukraine)
Left/Right (best debut feature) Matthew and Todd Wolfe, Fayetteville, Ark.
In this dark comedy, a big-city yuppie loses his job because of a bogus resume and must return home to face his childhood demons and find the true measure of his worth.
2 p.m. Magritte Moment (best experimental film) Ian Fischer, New York, NY
A frustrated painter searching for his muse gets some help from the surreal visions of Rene Magritte.
The Last Round (best suspense film) Dan Masucci, Scotia, NY
Six strangers meet in an abandoned house to play "the game for men with nothing to lose."
4 p.m. Mugs Ronnie Cramer, Denver, Colo.
A hundred of your favorite celebrity mug shots morph from one to another in this experimental film.
Minotauro (best foreign feature)
Alejandro Cano, Miami
A woman who can see the future gives birth to twins who fulfill their destiny in spite of her efforts to keep them apart.
6 p.m. Short film winners and awards
24 Frames (best animation) Brad Pattullo, Saegertown, Penn.
Black comedy mockumentary puppet film about making a puppet film.
The Transient (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Award) Chris Lukeman, Jacksonville, Ill.
A homeless vigilante must stop Vampire Abe Lincoln and his gang from kidnapping and sucking the blood of four score and seven virgins.
Berlin (best historical film) Norm Sanders, Camas, Wash.
In 1940 Berlin, a desperate American woman seeks the help of a former lover to save her husband who has been shot down behind enemy lines.
Boot Polish (best foreign short) Aneel Ahmad, Manchester, England
A shoe-shine boy becomes emotionall
y involved with a courtesan. (Filmed in Pakistan)
The Vaudevillian (best drama short) Bryan Nest,
A ventriloquist begins scamming farmers for money, much to his dummy's dismay.
First Bass (best comedy short) Jonah Ansell, Marina del Rey, Calif.
A 12-year-old bass prodigy whose true love is baseball discovers the truth about her father when she sneaks off to a Cubs game.