Monday, February 19

It’s the day before the opening of the 18th annual Beaufort International Film Festival, hereafter referred to as “BIFF.”

As a media sponsor and giant BIFF fan girl, I’ll be working (and playing) on location at USCB Center for the Arts all week, and I’m determined not to let deadlines steal my bliss. I’m hoping if I make a short ‘journal entry’ every day, I might end up with something resembling a column by week’s end.

Apologies in advance if it doesn’t work out. 

Tuesday, February 20

First thing this morning, a “memory” appeared on my Facebook feed, from February 20, 2017, as we’d just wrapped up the 11th annual BIFF.  It read as follows:

“Four days of beautiful indie films and wonderful personal encounters . . .  and my faith in humanity is restored. Facebook is trying to mess with that faith, but I’m resisting with every ounce of my will. This place’ll trick you into believing people are mostly cruel and petty and self-righteous and humorless. They aren’t. Had a great discussion with a friend at the BIFF after-party last night: We decided social media is HUGELY responsible for the current divisions in our country. We also agreed that leaving social media is almost impossible when you have a business. And we ‘fessed up that we probably wouldn’t even if we could. But four days away has been bliss, and a girl can dream.”

Okay, that totally psyched me up for the week! Now I just have to figure out what I’m wearing to the opening reception tonight. For the first time in years, it’s outdoors, under a tent. And it’s February. Might be time to break out the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Wednesday, February 21 

Deadlines are stealing my bliss.

The party last night was magical. Saw people I only see once a year, Marlena Smalls absolutely killed, and, frankly, so did my Dreamcoat. (How often does a southern woman get to wear her only fancy cloak for an extended period of time? I reveled!) But now it’s morning. I’m tired, a wee bit hungover, and eager to be sitting in a dark theater, giving myself over to the power of film. But somebody’s gotta put the entire new issue of The Island News online, article by article, pic by pic. That somebody is me.

(Did y’all know that “Webmistress” is one of my professional titles? It’s not as sexy as it sounds. My neck hurts just thinking about the day ahead. BIFF will have to wait.)

Thursday, February 22

Today was beautiful. I hit my stride! Found my work/BIFF balance! Got up early, edited some articles for Lowcountry Weekly, then took myself on a four-mile walk. It was cold outside, but spring was dropping hints all over the place – azaleas, camellias, Jane Magnolias – and pretty soon, I noticed my neck felt better.

Made it to USCB for the 11 am block of screenings, a trio of short films. The first – about a couple of Japanese-American brothers who volunteered to fight in WWII – had me quietly weeping, as did the second, about a jaded radio shock jock who gets a late-night wake-up call from his young nephew. The third short, about a well-meaning couple and their intersex child, was simply fascinating, and sparked a great discussion afterwards. What an amazing and diverse array of films!

Later, Jeff and I participated in the BIFF Screenwriters Workshop – always a blast – then met up with some visiting filmmakers and local friends at Saltus for drinks, apps and fantastic conversation. We talked about movies and art and nature and pretty much everything else I love. It was exhilarating! Hope I can sleep tonight. I feel so alive!

Friday, February 23

Man, am I dead. It’s 7:20 AM and I already need a nap. Three more days to go. Must. Rally.

Okay, I rallied. Today was flat-out amazing! So many interesting people, so many great films. Again, the late-morning block of screenings was a standout. It started with Split Ticket, a short about young Jack Kennedy and Dick Nixon with a supernatural twist. Spray Away was hilarious – the lead actor was here for after-talk – and then came Not the Same Clarence, Brian Russell’s stirring film about a father, a son, and Alzheimer’s disease. Rounding out the block was Infraction, the fictionalized story of a man in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Very few dry eyes in the audience this morning.

Off to the green room – yes, BIFF has a green room! – for some nosh and movie talk. Lots of BIFF veterans in the house today – Anthony and Jeanine have arrived from New York, and John Schwab’s here from London – and it feels like old home week!

Tonight is The Final Run, loosely based on Operation Jackpot, the big drug bust that sent some of Beaufort’s finest to jail back in the 80s. It’s been sold out for weeks. Over at MCAS, Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band are playing a free concert for an estimated 6,000 people.

I’m running out of steam. Need to sleep and recharge. Staying home.

Saturday, February 24

Took the morning “off” to do some editing, walk five miles, and hit Publix. Made it to USCB in time for some green room chatter – and a great veggie wrap from Lowcountry Produce – then settled into the auditorium to watch The Martini Shot, a mystical fairy tale set in rural Ireland, starring Matthew Modine, John Cleese, and Derek Jacobi. This is the kind of film that washes over you like a dream. You should just let that happen – just experience it without trying too hard to understand it. I’m not good at that. Will be pondering for days.

This afternoon, the auditorium was packed as The Spirit of Beaufort: Remembering Forrest Gump unfolded before our eyes. Polish director Daniel Stanislawski has made his own “fairy tale,” of sorts, bringing beautiful Beaufort – and many of her residents – to the big screen in a way that can only be described as poetic. It’s full of people you know – Marlena Smalls, Irene Goodnight, Pat Green, Juan Singleton, Catherine Scarborough, to name a few – but here, they’re larger than life. Almost iconic. There’s the scenery you know, too – the shrimp boats and live oaks and antebellum houses – but that, too, has been transformed through Stanislawski’s loving lens. Much like Forrest Gump itself, this documentary has taken a simple story and turned it epic. Borderline mythic. The audience was dazzled.

We dashed off to Agave for a quick supper, and then, it was time for Gary Sinise to receive the Pat Conroy Lifetime Achievement Award.

I have been deeply fond of this actor for 30 years – to me, Lt. Dan is one of the most magnificent characters in movie history – but I don’t think I was prepared for the power of his presence on stage. I expected this small, gray-haired man – as well-known for his philanthropy, now, as for his acting career – to be humble and gracious, and he was. But what I wasn’t expecting – and I’m not sure why – was the humor, wit, and sheer charisma he radiated. The audience was captivated by his humanity, but also by that effortless magnetism that is the sole province of the movie star. What a combo. I think I swooned a little. Whatever that means.

Sunday, Feb 25

Coming into the home stretch now. It’s been an incredible week and I’m deep in my feels. But my deadline is upon me, and I need to get ready for church. (I can’t even remember what the choir’s singing this morning. And I’m in it!)

After church, it’s back to USCB – one more time – for the BIFF Awards Ceremony. I’m presenting the award for Best Ensemble Cast. I received an email Friday asking me to keep my presentation to 30 seconds or less.

Haha. Good one.