To mark the 25th anniversary of Dallas VideoFest, festival veterans are sharing their memories. The series continues with Kirk Lohse.
OK, first up: The website for Oliver Stone’s 1999 film, Any Given Sunday. For me, this site really captures the essence of what VideoFest is all about – a video that’s really NOT a video. It was a “zig”, to everyone else’s “zag”. Keep in mind the year was 1999- and the web was not the rich-media rich place it is today. This site was innovative, radical and truly outside the box. A quasi-experimental piece of interactive flash (shockwave) animation that engages, informs and entertains the viewer.
Next: ROSLYNa short film by director Will Canon, that won accolades from festivals all over the US, including VideoFest and Texarkana’s own inaugural film and video festival fest•EYE•ful 2001- but more on that in a moment. [Editors note: This video contains language, situations that some might find objectionable.)
Another well-lauded short, Cat Food & Bean Dip, from director Dusty Culbertson, was a winner of DVF’s Texas Show, and also awarded the Charles Mazer Best of Festival Prize at fest•EYE•ful in 2005.
Finally, The Dark Knight Rises Prologue, which I drove my family 2 hours to see as it screened in IMAX before Mission Impossible IV – although we DIDN’T stay for Mission Impossible, because, just like Katie, I don’t do Tom Cruise! Now, I’m as HUGE a Batman geek as they come, but after director Joel Schumacher practically ruined the franchise for Warner Bros. (nipples on the Batsuit –REALLY?!?!), even yours truly was looking for a new superhero.
Then, when I heard that Christopher Nolan would be rebooting Batman in 2005, I got excited.
You see, thanks to the Video Association of Dallas, Texarkana was included on the tour stops for The Texas Show in 2003, and we were fortunate to have as a special treat that evening, a screening of Nolan’s directorial debut, Following – an excellent modern-day film-noir. So with Nolan at the helm for a Batman re-boot, I felt certain the franchise had a chance to be really great. And, well…you know the rest.
As different as they are one from another, all of the above pieces have in common the fact that they remind me in some way of the Dallas Video Festival, as well how wonderfully eclectic, imaginative and entertaining are the many works which are screened at the Festival each year.
My fondest Fest memory
Having only had the pleasure of attending a few times over the last decade, I suppose my fondest memory of the Dallas VideoFest was getting to go “backstage” the year I was honored to serve as a jurist for the Texas Show. It was truly amazing to see just how MUCH was done with and by so FEW individuals.
A little back-story…
My passion for filmmaking was awakened with the dawn of the DV revolution in the late ’90s and while working as Director for Public Relations at Texarkana College, I became involved with a group of educators teaching production work to students running a local cable access channel. We hit upon the idea to create a festival so they could showcase their work, and decide to expand it to any artist who wished to contribute. Texarkana, for those who don’t know, sits right on the border between Texas and Arkansas. That fact, along with our close proximity to the Oklahoma and Louisiana state lines, is the reason that Texarkana is known as the “Four States” area.
As we searched for a model event after which to pattern our event, our very good fortune led us to VideoFEST and the inimitable Bart Weiss.
Bart did not know me from Adam, yet he graciously returned my phone calls, accepted an invitation to come to Texarkana to serve as keynote speaker, and proved immeasurably helpful in helping us get our festival off the ground. Bart (and Laura Neitzel) also made numerous trips to back to Texarkana to help foster the growth of our event.
Now, back to my fondest memory… as I said, what was – and continues to be – so VERY amazing to me, were the HUGE results and success that DVF enjoyed, with such a small crew of staff and volunteers. The Herculean efforts put forth by my good friend, and “mentor-from-a-distance”, Bart Weiss and his compatriots on behalf of this event were truly awe inspiring.
In addition to the wonderful experience I had with my fellow jurists deciding upon the finalists for The Texas Show, my family and I all found numerous screenings of interest at the festival, which ran the gamut from the very moving and sublime story of holocaust survivor Eva Kor in Forgiving Dr. Mengele, to the side splittingly ridiculous antics of Keith Alcorn’s Nana & Little Puss Puss. We all had a great time, and were indeed impressed by how Bart & Co. had “spun straw into gold” in order to create spaces for the screening of so much work, and we found each and every festival staff member to be genuinely welcoming and helpful. I left energized and inspired to go back to Texarkana and lay the foundation for an equally fun and inspiring event to showcase the works of independent film and video artists from across the Four States area.
Thanks to Bart’s help, fest•EYE•ful was a success from its inaugural year in 2001, and continued to grow and attract a variety of very entertaining and well-produced works, until alas, I could no longer keep up the pace necessary to organize fest•EYE•ful and do justice to my “real” job. So, in 2006, I folded the tent on fest•EYE•ful. During its run however, Bart Weiss and Laura Neitzel were great friends and advocates for the video artists of NE Texas, and made regular trips to Texarkana to sponsor screenings of important work that would not have ordinarily been seen in our area, help with workshops, and other fest•EYE•ful related events.
I’ve attended VideoFEST as often as possible over the past 10 years, and am always amazed and inspired by the incredible works that this event attracts every year. Interns and assistants have come and gone. But the rock, the foundation, the one constant upon which this event now sits proudly and celebrates an amazing 25th Anniversary, is Bart Weiss. For most, the many thousands of hours that must be dedicated and the dozens of hats that need wearing in order to plan and organize such a successful event each year, would have long since burned out even the most passionate maven of the art. I know. As they say, I’ve “been there, done that, and got the t-shirt”.
Lucky for VAD and VideoFEST, you have Bart -the “Energizer Bunny” of festival organizers.
I could write pages on how very inspirational the tireless work of my good friend, and “mentor-from-a-distance”, Bart Weiss has been to me, but I feel that I really should draw this epistle to a close.
But to those who attend VideoFEST this year, be it your first time or your 25th – be certain to say “thank you” to all of the tireless volunteers who give so much of their time and talent to make this event possible. And if you’re lucky enough to catch sight of Bart as he zooms from one place to the next during the festival, be sure to stop him, and thank him for his 25 years of dedication, vision and passion.
Oh… and give him a big hug too – he deserves it!