Through the years we’ve been a part of many film festivals. In addition, I follow as many festivals as I can, checking out their process from initial requests for submissions to the post festival coverage. After awhile, they start to blend in. However, a few stand out from the crowd. Mid Tenn Film Fest is one of those.

I had the privilege of serving on the filmmaker panel at their inaugural festival last year. I was impressed with the quality of films, the level of instruction , and the spirit of networking among the attendees.

This year we were excited to have Mid Tenn as our festival premiere. In fact, Mid Tenn was our world premiere, our first public screening. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer way to introduce Summer of ’67 to the world.

The festival kicked off Friday with some great films from around the world. I really wanted to see The Doctor’s Case and Ultra Low, but we weren’t able to make it Friday. From what I heard, though, they were both excellent, as were the short films showcased.

We got there Saturday early evening in time to catch a few shorts before Sgt. Stubby: An Unexpected Hero. We knew we’d like Sgt. Stubby. It’s a $25 million movie with an 82% tomato rating. We weren’t expecting, though, the shorts to be as amazing as they were. Popcorn and Chocolate was a sweet story about the parents of a fallen soldier. Checkpoint was a powerful story of what it’s like to be a young black man in America. Very poignant and emotional film that touched everyone in the audience. The Inescapable Arrival of Lazlo Petushk was an artsy film from Ireland. It was eccentric and bizarre and beautiful all at the same time.

Sgt. Stubby may very well be one of my new favorite movies. I’m not normally a big fan of animated movies, but this was not only brilliantly made, but was also emotional as well as educational. I fell in love with each of the characters and connected with them in a way that definitely surprised me. If you get a chance to watch this, you’ll want to take advantage of it. What’s really cool is that it’s actual history about a stray dog who became a war hero in World War I. Check it out!

Next on the schedule was Dear Mr. Eldridge, a period film produced by Crimson Rose and Colt Sugg, our crew members from Summer of ’67. They worked so hard on this piece, and it showed. Such a delightful film. It was followed byJoshua Messick: Hammered Dulcimer and A Pinprick of Light, both interesting films with beautiful cinematography.

The festival concluded with Summer of ’67. There’s nothing quite like observing an audience watching your movie for the first time. Will they laugh at the funny parts? Will they cry when they’re supposed to? I’m happy to report that yes, they laughed and they cried.

We could have gone home happy after that, but the night wasn’t quite over. Festival directors Mike Parker and Nathan Owen ended with announcing the festival winners. They stressed that stories matter, and that each film was deserving regardless of whether or not it won anything. And they were right. It was very nice, though, to be recognized with three awards. Rachel Schrey won “Best Lead Actress”. Sharonne Lanier won “Best Supporting Actress”. And we got “Best Soundtrack”, which was very special since Fred wrote many of the songs and several of our friends contributed music.

And then when it was all over we spent another hour or so just hanging out and getting to know all the other filmmakers there. Such a sweet spirit of encouragement and swapping of stories, seeing old friends, and making new ones.

Don’t forget! Summer of ’67 releases theatrically June 29 at Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 in Nashville. Fred and I along with many cast and crew members will be at the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening screenings. Hope to see you there!

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