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Inside the mind of a Film Fest Fan

January 31, 2010

Oxford Film Festival has a series of fan clubs from around the region, Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham. The clubs travel every year to the festival and are an integral part of the fest experience each year. I recently asked one of them, ok, the only one willing to respond to my inane questions, just why they are so infatuated with the fest. Meet Sam Frazier, a semi-retired filmmaker and Birmingham resident that joined the fan club started by Shannon and Kelly Johnson (unrelated friends).

OFF: Why did you start a B-Ham fan club for the Oxford Film Fest?

SF: Actually I’m not a founding member, so you’d have to ask Kelly and Shannon. I’m joining them this year because it’s clearly the cool thing to do and I am a follower by nature.

OFF: How long has the fan club been active?

SF: This is our glorious third year. Apparently, this makes it our leather anniversary. Kinda kinky, huh?

OFF: Tell me a little bit about you and your own involvement and/or love of films?

SF: I’m a semi-retired filmmaker/production and post-production lackey who has had films at Oxford, Sidewalk Film Festival, Bend, Newport Beach, IndieMemphis, and others. I still serve as a screener for Sidewalk and in the past have been a judge at a couple of festivals as well as a reviewer for Currently, I’m thinking about coming out of retirement to make a documentary, but that could cut into my drinking time, so it’s iffy at best.

OFF: What have been some of your favorite films in past Oxford film fests?

SF: There was a serious lapse in judgment or clerical mistake when Oxford decided to screen my films. But, other than that, they’ve always had excellent taste and brought in great films. Last year was a bumper crop. “The Wednesdays” was probably the best short film I’ve seen in years and “Good Dick” launched the careers of two immense talents. Of course “Sunshine Cleaning” and “America Unchained” also stick out. There are so many, I lose track.

OFF: What are you looking forward to this year?

SF: I haven’t been able to completely plan my weekend yet, but “For The Love Of Movies: The Story Of American Film Criticism,” “The Scenesters,” and “A Quiet Little Marriage” are already on my list. I’m always interested in Joe Swanberg’s work so I’ll have to check out “The Mountain, The River and The Road.” I’ve already seen “The Vicious Kind” and cannot recommend it highly enough. Adam Scott’s performance in it is Oscar-worthy.

On a personal level, I think not ending up in the emergency room is a reasonable and attainable goal for me this year.

OFF: You have experience with other festivals, what is different or unique about Oxford Film Fest?

SF: There are a nearly endless number of film festivals out there these days. Of them, only a very small handful don’t have an agenda, program quality films, attend to filmmakers, make it accessible and enjoyable for the public, and are organized enough to pull it all off. Believe me, I’ve been to many fests lacking in one or more of these qualities. Oxford is one of these rare festivals that has it all. That is the reason they have such strong support.

OFF: What is your film fest strategy to keep going nonstop for 4 days?

SF: This really is a serious problem as there are many movies you may not have another chance to see, great parties, and not much time for sleep. With that in mind, here are my keys to keep going:

1- Get up at a reasonable time, eat something, then head out for the day. Naps seem like a good idea, but are ill advised at best.

2- Drink as much cold water as possible during the day. This keeps you alert and hydrated—which helps with the inevitable hangover from the party the night before.

3- Plan out and schedule the films you want to see that weekend. However, don’t be too disappointed if one of your must-see movies gets sold out. I was very excited about “Prom Night in Mississippi” last year, but the line was so long it was clear I wasn’t getting in. Another theater was opened to show it, but that looked like it was going to sell out as well. It was then announced that there would be an additional screening later that weekend, so I relaxed and took in another feature that sounded interesting. It turned out to be one of my favorite films of the festival and I still got to see “Prom Night” as well. This is where a devoted, organized, and intelligent festival staff really pays off. So don’t panic if your favorite film is sold out. If it’s that popular, then there will be additional screenings and there’s always another film worth watching.

4- Peppermint oil. I know this sounds odd, but a few drops of peppermint oil rubbed on your forehead and the back of your neck really helps with the headache you’ll experience from the aforementioned parties. It smells nice, too, so it might help you make friends.

OFF: Advice for people who have not been to a fest before?

SF: Whatever else you think you have planned for the weekend, forget it. This is a time for total immersion. Your housework, the gym, time with your spouse, your thesis, CPR accreditation—there’s plenty of time for these things when the festival is over. Besides, you might miss your next favorite movie if you’re not careful.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Shannon permalink
    February 1, 2010 11:46 pm

    As a cohort in crime of Sam’s, you can understand why I have not had the nerve to answer after his great responses…wait, is the emergency room trip still in here, Mel? Cheers 🙂

  2. Sarah Brueggemann permalink
    February 1, 2010 12:44 pm

    Thank you so much for your insightful comments. With all of the hustle and excitement of a film festival, it’s fantastic to get insider advice. I’d also love to learn more about the judging process.

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