A reader for the Nashville Film Festival screenplay competition, Cheryl Laughlin gophers for indie sets throughout NorCal and performs grass roots marketing for micro-budget documentaries via 20KFilms. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @cheryllaughlin.
My first suggestion for your trip to Nashville? Find yourself a local... maybe you can borrow my friend Cat Stewart who shuttled me around and about with ease and graciousness. Barring that serendipity, hopefully these "Top 5 Nashville Nuances" will jump start your film-loving, creative wanderlust.
Oh, and be ready for friendly Southerners to show you their A-game on hospitality. As my friend reminds me, “People in the South put on their politeness before they put on their pants in the morning.” And I was nothing but extra charmed from the whole experience.
Reason #1: Nashville Film Fest for Big-Screen Movie Awesomeness
While this was my first time attending, I’ve been a script reader for the Nashville Film Festival’s script contest. Hence the brain tickle to attend this year’s 48th Annual Nashville Film Festival and its 10 days of indie film screenings. The fest has been spotlighting movies since 1969 and lays claim to being the South’s oldest running film festival – with Sundance lagging by almost 10 years and Tribeca by close to a quarter century.
So, if you’re heading to Nashville in mid April, be sure to swoop this film fest into your walkabout list. What to expect? An amazing cross section of feature films, documentaries, and shorts programs often not seen elsewhere – with screenings for more than 300 films at this year’s festival.
Some of this year’s fest favs to be on the lookout for wider release:
- California Typewriter: Director Doug Nichol gets you revved up for old school typewriters still used by the likes of Tom Hanks, John Mayer, Sam Shepherd, and even on-demand typewriter poet Silvi Alcivar. And, most importantly, the film focuses in on the Berkeley-based California Typewriter shop that keeps these inspired machines running for the Luddite lurking inside of all of us, longing to slow down a bit.
- SCORE: This documentary by three-time Emmy-award-winning Matt Schrader kicks it into musical hyperdrive from the get-go. Let the musical genius wash over you and kick back for the science, art, and evolution of scoring a film. Mind-blowing sound, best seen and heard on a big screen. Keep an eye out for the likes of Danny Elfman, Trent Reznor, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams.
- The Hero: Indie filmmaker Brett Haley pairs Sam Elliott’s vocal hypnosis with Laura Prepon’s nuanced performance. Seriously, Sam Elliott could say the alphabet for 90 minutes, and I’d be down with that. The Western-meets-reality plot is icing on the Sam Elliott experience.
- Short Film Gems: Stretch your film-going experience in Nashville with short programs like “OMG WTF” or “Frayed Shorts.” But if you’re a bit on the scaredy cat side (like me!), check out more chill options like:
- Young Filmmakers Showcase with the ‘80s-style, super-8 film homage Puget Sound by Jack Nordstrom and the world premiere of director Bret Elam and 8-year-old writer Aidan Wonderling’s Recess – a hilarious delight that will force you to rethink recess. *This short snagged a big win with the fest's Audience Award.
- Then the Family Showcase doubled up on fictional funny with CJ Pyles’ Lemonade Mafia, a fresh take on the underbelly of kids’ lemonade stands, and the quirky fun Dutch animated short Otto.
Reason #2: Corsair Distillery to Unwind with Artisan Spirits
Corsair Brewstillery Taproom & Distillery (1200 Clinton Street) is just a few minutes drive from the Nashville Film Festival. So if you need a place to unwind between films, meander up the ways to Corsair. And prepare to be greeted by an uber-friendly orange tabby who lures in visitors from his cat throne, a.k.a corner couch.
Embrace these artisan spirits with a tasting before deciding on a mixed drink. The vanilla vodka is oh-so-more-vanilla-y than any other vodka and ready to sweeten any mixed drink fabulously.
And the pumpkin spice moonshine is a drink to add to the bucket list. Perhaps even get your Hemingway on (Death In The Afternoon, anyone?) and try Corsair’s red absinthe. Be ready for a burst of black licorice to bum-rush your taste buds and snap you awake. (Then you’ll be ready for more films or Nashville creative hot spots, right?!)
Reason #3: Hatch Show Print for Inspo and Creative Jumpstart
In the way way back of 2008, I helped a friend at 20K Films with some outreach for a letterpress documentary called Proceed and Be Bold, which featured a spot about Nashville’s Hatch Show Print (224 5th Avenue South). So this must-see has been rattling about on the brain for awhile.
Be sure to peek in the window to the shop or take a tour. Or just start picking up every card and poster in the shop and feel the layered print only a letterpress can create. Become a part of this special printing vibe that has kept Hatch going since 1879.
Just be ready to start saying, “I don’t need anything except this card… and maybe this poster and this button… and maybe this lamp."
Bonus: You can walk from The Diner (see #4) to Hatch Show Print in five minutes.
Reason #4: The Diner in Downtown Nashville = True-Blue Southern Grits
I didn’t want to try grits until I could have for reals grits. (Just like I’m holding out until Dublin for my first Irish coffee.) And The Diner (200 3rd Avenue) delivered times ten. My Nashville friend told me grits are typically savory and super filling.
So maybe skip breakfast for brunch, to snarf some barbecue shrimp with white cheddar grits. Toss a fried egg on top and you seriously won’t be eating again until late dinner.
Slow and steady seems to be the right pace to enjoy grits. Besides, why would you want to rush the melting pot of flavors from your first (or tenth time!) eating authentic Southern grits?!
Reason #5: All Y’All and Other Delightful Nashville Word Wonderfulness
Traveling is all about the experience AND the unique local phrases that tap dance on the brain. And Nashville brings its own wonderful regionalisms to round-out the whole creative fest that is this capital city.
While some people are “fixin’ to dip” into your conversation, others are tossing about the uber awesome “all y’all.” As in “All y’all enjoying your stay in Nashville?”
Of course, order some iced tea but be ready for it to be sweetened unless you ask otherwise. And definitely find a good “meat and three” joint. This cafeteria-style eating features meat plus three sides. I only missed out because of a few pesky food allergies, but I did inhale extra deep and lament the wonky genetics that denied me such smoky delish Southern comfort food.
So easy peasy day- or week-tripping, right?! Enjoy films, food, and phrases with a heavy dash of cocktails and creativity – all brilliantly and uniquely Nashville. Totally worth a random slot on your Awesome Sh*t To Do This Lifetime List, don't you think?
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