Although there was plenty of drama behind the scenes at Fort Worth’s Lone Star Film Festival this year — with key staff members abruptly leaving in June and a new director taking over in July — don’t expect many radical changes at the next edition of the festival, which kicks off Nov. 5.
The ninth edition still runs four days, remains based in Sundance Square, and showcases a mix of big-star attractions and shoestring indies as well as shorts and documentaries.
“I don’t know that I really wanted to make it different,” said Chad Mathews, director of the Lone Star Film Festival and the Lone Star Film Society, the umbrella organization that puts on the event, who came to Fort Worth from the Hill Country Film Festival in Fredericksburg.
My objective wasn’t to come in and say, ‘I’m going to change everything’ but there’s going to be change naturally because I’m a different person. But I still think what we’re doing is along the foundations of what the former guys had built.
Chad Mathews, Lone Star Film Festival director
“I wanted to include the things that I thought really worked last year and previous years,” he continued. “For me, this festival was always programmed really well. … My objective wasn’t to come in and say, ‘I’m going to change everything,’ but there’s going to be change naturally because I’m a different person.
“But I still think what we’re doing is along the foundations of what the former guys had built.”
As usual, films run the gamut from the thrillers Mojave featuring Oscar Isaac and Mark Wahlberg and The Adderall Diaries with James Franco to such Oscar bait as the drama Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and the low-budget, North Texas-set Windsor, directed by Fort Worth’s Porter Farrell.
Like last year, when actress Candy Clark appeared for a screening of American Graffiti, there will be a showing of a classic along with one of its stars. This time it’s Malcolm McDowell and A Clockwork Orange.
Still, there are some differences from earlier incarnations.
This year, opening night on Nov. 5 will include a free outdoor screening of family-friendly shorts in Sundance Square Plaza, the first time the festival has used this space. Last year, Lone Star — which had merged with a separate festival held at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth — featured such big Hollywood titles as The Imitation Game and Wild as well as other movies that weren’t submitted by filmmakers but acquired.
“I wanted to include more of the films that were submitted films,” said Mathews, “and bring more of those indie filmmakers into the mix. Now, whether that pays off with the audience in Fort Worth, I don’t know. Maybe it will be a complete disaster, but I’m willing to try because I believe in those artists and I wanted to showcase them.”
Certainly, there are many notable, under-the-radar choices in the lineup. They include Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated Anomalisa, Matt Herron’s trippy, is-it-a-doc-or-not Audition, and the inspirational documentary Imba Means Sing, about impoverished Ugandan children who sing in the African Children’s Choir.
Speakers and panels
Another way in which Lone Star 2015 differs from its predecessors is that there will be a keynote speech from David Edelstein, film critic for New York magazine, NPR’s Fresh Air and CBS Sunday Morning.
Initially, Mathews hadn’t planned on having a keynote speaker. “The idea was offered to me from a professor I had at TCU who happened to know him,” he said. “I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.’ I didn’t think we would get him but I sent him a letter, persisted and he said yes, finally.”
Edelstein’s speech is just one of the nonfilm events taking place in the Pavilion building on Sundance Square Plaza. Other activities there include a Career Conversation with actors Malcolm McDowell, Bill Paxton and Joanna Kerns as well as panels on women in film, entertainment and social change, screenwriting, and the state of film.
Having all these activities take place in Sundance Square emphasizes the community feel.
“I really wanted to connect with the community,” Mathews said. “People in the community, even if they’re not going to the festival, will see [what’s happening] and have an opportunity to know that we’re here and we’re present.”
Saved from disaster
Mathews grew up in South Texas, went to TCU and worked in Los Angeles before joining the Hill Country Film Festival. But he made the move to Lone Star with just four months to get ready for this year’s event. That could have been a disaster, but he says he was saved by a couple of things.
“Lone Star has a really great reputation,” he says. “If you’re able to get someone on the phone and you use that name, that is an awesome and fantastic thing to walk into. [And] luckily, I was able to hire a really good programmer [Charles Rice] who’s based out of L.A. and he was able to work those relationships.
“It’s never easy but he’s good at what he does. … His history is that he’s a filmmaker, but he’s worked on the business side and he’s originally from Texas, from Houston, and graduated from TCU. That kind of helped because he has a passion for Fort Worth like I do. I was introduced to him by a friend from L.A. and it just seemed like a good fit.
“I lucked into a [good] situation. The house is already built. I’m just cleaning up a little bit.”
Lone Star Film Festival
- Nov. 5-8
- Various venues in Sundance Square, including AMC Palace and Four Day Weekend Theater
- $10 single tickets, $8 for Lone Star Film Society members; $150 all-access badge
Lone Star Film Festival Ball, Nov. 6 at the Fort Worth Club, honors Betty Buckley (the recipient of this year’s Stephen Burton Award), Malcolm McDowell (Achievement in Film Acting Award), and Sundance Square (Visionary Award). Tickets range from $600 to $15,000 for a table. Separately, there are parties that are open to the public at 9 p.m. Nov. 5 at Reata Rooftop Bar, 10 p.m. Nov. 6 and 10:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Flying Saucer. For tickets and more information, go to www.lonestarfilmfestival.com.