Louisville’s homegrown film festival returns this weekend, July 24-29, after a two-year absence. The Flyover Film Fest will bring several area premieres, an evening of short films and live performance, one internationally acclaimed comedy with Louisville ties, and a portrait of one of Kentucky’s most beloved poets.
After five successful years, Flyover took a break, and the Louisville Film Society (LFS) — the nonprofit organization responsible for the festival — focused on IF Film, a mini festival that coincided with IdeaFestival. But after being under the umbrella of IdeaFest for a few years, LFS decided to strike back out on their own.
“We need a stand-alone event that is going to be able to garner its own attention,” says Soozie Eastman, the current executive director of the LFS.
Eastman originally connected with LFS as a hired hand running IF Film. She was taking a brief break from L.A. back in 2014, but the burgeoning film scene in Louisville convinced Eastman to stick around. At the time, the industry had just gotten a huge shot in the arm in the form of a tax-incentives package aimed at bringing more films to shoot in Kentucky. In 2015, Eastman took the reign of LFS from George Parker Jr., the original president and one of the founders of LFS.
Eastman tells Insider the reinstated Flyover Film Festival is focusing on Kentucky-based films and films with Kentucky connections.
“I think there is so much that comes out of New York and L.A., great content, but I really want to shine a light on the film that is being made in what is considered flyover cities and flyover states,” she says.
This year’s festival is eschewing the jam-packed action of some traditional film festivals and spreading the screenings out over several days and venues.
“Louisville has so much culture and so many things going on, we’re not a small town (where) everybody is going to be clamoring to go to the film festival because it’s the only event of the year,” says Eastman. “We are a culture-rich city.” Working to be a part of the thriving city is part of LFS’s responsibility.
This year, the festival kicks off with a highly anticipated documentary about poet Wendell Berry. “The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry” has won awards at several film festivals already, including SXSW. It’s got some impressive names attached — executive producers Robert Redford and Terrence Malick bring some serious artistic credibility.
The film also has local cred, with co-production from Gil Holland and Owsley Brown. “The Seer” will screen at the Kentucky Center on Sunday, July 24, at 5:30 p.m.
Speed Cinema also plays host on Monday, July 25, a new venue filmmakers appreciate.
“There’s no other place that projects with the superior quality or sound of Speed Cinema,” says Eastman. “It’s amazing.”
It is indeed a beautiful space and screen, and the LFS’s ongoing partnership with the Speed Art Museum since it re-opened in the spring has been a hot topic among film aficionados.
Speed Cinema will host the world premiere of “Harry Caudill: A Man of Courage” on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Caudill was an activist and author from Whitesburg, Ky., and Eastman say LFS is particularly excited about this film because it represents a unique partnership between filmakers and LFS.
LFS acted as a fiscal sponsor for the film, meaning the filmmakers were able to raise funds as a nonprofit without setting up an entire nonprofit company. It’s an arrangement that allows donors to get tax write-offs for donating to the film instead of offering funding solely in hopes of recouping the cash. For small-budget films, this kind of relationship is likely to make or break getting a film financed and finished.
“There are a lot of great local donors who supported the Harry Caudill film,” says Eastman.
On Tuesday, July 26, the festival pulls into Baxter Avenue Theatres and neighborhood bar The Back Door at the Mid-City Mall. Eastman calls Baxter “the top indie theater in our city,” and adds The Back Door hosts regular LFS industry meet-ups, where professional and aspiring filmmakers get together and talk. The Back Door also is co-sponsoring Tuesday night’s film, so a ticket to “Bear With Us,” a satirical horror film, gets you a free drink at the Louisville-famous watering hole.
“Bear With Us” features a performance from Louisville native and Walden Theatre (now Commonwealth Theatre Center) alumnus Colin Smith. The actor took a couple of minutes by phone to introduce himself to Insider Louisville and talk about the movie and his upcoming projects.
“I met (‘Bear with Us’ director William J. Stribling) while I was doing a play with his girlfriend in 2012,” says Smith. “He was at NYU and he put me in his student film. I thought he was really smart and talented and had a great eye, and the short film went on to win a bunch of awards, and it got into like 40 film festivals.”
Stribling has used Smith in several projects since then and is currently writing another script for him to star in, a script they hope to shoot in Louisville.
“When I heard Flyover was coming back, I told him he should submit,” says Smith, and adds that Stribling hopes bringing the award-winning “Bear With Us” to Louisville will help get locals excited about that next script, which Smith describes as “a sci-fi, young-adult ‘Stepford Wives.’”
If you want to see more of Smith, check him out this fall in “The Young Pope,” a new HBO series staring Jude Law.
Flyover will take a break on Wednesday, purposefully scheduled to not compete with the free riverfront entertainment of WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday.
On Thursday, July 28, Flyover heads to Copper & Kings for an outdoor screening of “Stripes.” The film is celebrating its 35th anniversary and was shot in a variety of locations around Kentucky.
Flyover finishes up on Friday, July 29, with “Sound in Motion: Louisville Music on Stage & Screen.” The evening will include live performances from local musicians and screenings of short mini-documentaries on local musicians created by the Louisville Orchestra and WFPK.
To get a full rundown of the screenings and their times and costs, check out LFS’s website.