Flyover Film Festival highlights Kentucky movie industry, works of six women directors

Six women directors

Directors (l-r) Bethany Brooke Anderson, Ani Simon-Kennedy, Soozie Eastman, Urooj Yazdani, Ilana Rein and Kay Milam will participate in an indie directors panel discussion July 24 at Speed Cinema. | Courtesy of Flyover Film Fest

As Ilana Rein was trying to start two film projects in her home base of Los Angeles, she and her writing partner, Brian Smith, found getting independent features off the ground to be harder than many folks outside the industry might think.

“It just seemed that there were a lot of barriers that were being put up,” Rein told Insider.

So she began looking at other locations for her project. She found Kentucky’s film incentive program to be “very generous,” she said, and also heard the positive word of mouth from other filmmakers who have worked in the bluegrass.

Rein visited Louisville for three days and “really like the feeling on the ground,” and so decided to shoot her first narrative feature here.

The result is “Perception,” a psychological thriller and one of six films that will be making their Kentucky debut at this month’s Flyover Film Festival. Rein, Smith and many other filmmakers will be on hand to discuss their work, which will screen between July 21-26. Many of them also will attend a free kickoff party for the festival on Wednesday, July 10, at 21c Museum Hotel.

Flyover Film Fest poster

Artwork by Josh Patton Designs

All the films selected for Flyover have some ties to Kentucky, either being shot in the state or produced and directed by members of the local film community.

Four of this year’s films received some incentives via the state program, which has been a major factor in the Flyover Festival’s evolution over the last several years to focus exclusively on films with Kentucky connections, said Stu Pollard, a board member of the Louisville Film Society, which organizes the festival.

“That’s a byproduct of the film incentive, to a degree, and also just more films being made here and a natural evolution of the business of filmmaking in Kentucky,” said Pollard, who has been involved with the festival since its inception 11 years ago.

His company, Lunacy Productions, is based in Louisville, and he’s an executive producer on one of this year’s selections, “The Short History of the Long Road,” written and directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy.

Two festival selections also participated in the LFS fiscal sponsorship program, by which the organization administers monies raised by filmmakers as a nonprofit, according to Soozie Eastman, the society’s executive director.

This year’s festival lineup also has the distinction of being the first in Flyover history to be all be directed by women. Simon-Kennedy and Rein are joined by Kay Milam, Bethany Brooke Anderson, Urooj Yazdani and Eastman, whose documentary “Overload: America’s Toxic Love Story” will close the festival’s schedule.

All six filmmakers will participate in an indie director panel discussion on Wednesday, July 24, at 6 p.m. at Speed Cinema, where most of the festival’s screenings will take place.

Both Eastman and Pollard said the selection of each of this year’s films was based solely on production and story values — the five-member selection panel was not given any criteria other than the standard requirements that the films have ties to the local film industry and be making their Kentucky premieres at the festival.

The fact at all six films are directed by women is “just emblematic of how our business is evolving. There was no mandate there,” Pollard said. “It was simply a byproduct of the work that was submitted. In general, we just want films that our members and our community respond positively, too.”

(A recent study reports that about one-third of independent films are now helmed by women. The numbers for big-budget blockbusters are dramatically different — only about 4 percent of the top 100 grossing films for 2018 had female directors.)

Attendance trends at Flyover have been positive in recent years, Pollard said, in part because the local film community comes out to support its own.

“By picking films that have primarily local connections, we have filmmakers who are really involved in trying to make our screenings, in many cases, successful hometown premieres,” he said.

Eastman, who has been executive director of the LFS for five years, attributes moving Flyover to the summer and its independence from the now-defunct IdeaFestival as keys to its current health. She also points to a partnership with Speed Cinema since its opening three years ago as a windfall, both in terms of the Speed’s state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment and its connection with the broader arts community.

Scene from "Perception"

“Perception” stars Louisvillian Wes Ramsey and was shot on location around the city. | Courtesy of “Perception”

Rein said she’s eager to attend a screening of “Perception,” her first feature at the Speed, based on what Eastman has told her about the theater’s obsession with film presentation. She was delighted with the film’s world premiere last year at the DLTA Festival in Los Angeles, but she’s found that many regional film festivals aren’t as particular about the technical details.

She’s also looking forward to revisiting Louisville, she said. She lived in the Cherokee Triangle area while shooting and used locations in the Highlands and Germantown, with some night shots in La Grange.

All in all, her film called for a small-city setting, and she said Louisville fit the model. “It was an ideal place to film, for a number of reasons,” said Rein.

Tickets to film screenings are $9 for the general public, with special rates for students, LFS and Speed members. Screenings are held at Speed Cinema unless otherwise noted, and are followed by Q&A sessions with crew and cast. The six selected films are:

“Burning Kentucky”

Sunday, July 21, 8 p.m. & Monday, July 22, 6 p.m.

Scene from "Burning Kentucky"

“Burning Kentucky” is one of six films, all directed by women, that will screen during this month’s Flyover Film Festival. All six movies have ties to the film industry in the bluegrass and will be making their Kentucky premiere. | Courtesy of “Burning Kentucky”

A young woman searches for answers to a mysterious event that killed her family in eastern Kentucky. What she finds presents her with a choice between revenge and the love of a man.

Director Bethany Brooke Anderson is a native Kentuckian, and 80% of the film’s funding came from Kentucky.

“The Butterfly Trees”

Sunday, July 21, 6 p.m. & Thursday, July 25, 6 p.m.

This documentary feature tracks the transcontinental migration of the eastern monarch butterflies and features stunning visuals as well as profiles of the people who are obsessed with the migration.

Director and writer Kay Milam is a longtime Louisville resident, and the film is narrated by the local musician Will Oldham.


Monday, July 22, 8 p.m. & Tuesday, July 23, 6 p.m.

A small-time psychic senses the presence of a wealthy real-estate developer’s dead wife, and things just get more complicated from there. “I’m really into subject matters about reality not being as it appears,” director Rein told Insider. “The template of a psychological thriller allowed me to explore that.”

Native Louisvillian Wes Ramsey stars and the soundtrack includes a song by the local group The Pass.

“A Destruction”

Tuesday, July 23, 8 p.m.

This is a presentation of a work-in-progress. This documentary by Director/Producer Urooj Yazdani follows Humera, an 11-year-old Pakistani girl who dreams of becoming a doctor but is faced with intense pressure to forgo her education for an arranged marriage.

Yazdani grew up in Columbia, Ky., and is currently a resident in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

“The Short History of the Long Road”
Scene from "The Short History of the Long Road"

Sabrina Carpenter stars in “The Short History of the Long Road.” | Courtesy

Wednesday, July 24, 8 p.m.

Teenage Nola must confront the reality of life on the road alone after the death of her father. Pollard said his involvement in the film came mainly after principal photography in the editing process.

“Overload: America’s Toxic Love Story”

Friday, July 26, 7:30 p.m. at Kentucky Science Center

Eastman, the daughter of an industrial chemical distributor, decides to determine the levels of toxins in her own body before beginning a family, and through interviews with scientists, politicians and everyday Americans, uncovers how we got to be so overloaded with chemicals.

Eastman, a native Louisvillian, tells Insider that she did not personally submit her documentary for consideration for the festival, and the board elected to screen. “Overload” was produced using a local crew.