If you’ve ever been to a film festival and forgotten you were at a film festival, it might have been Indie Memphis.
The event is a unique blend of quality, truly independent films, cultural identity and a Memphis-centric curated experience. Emphasis on the latter; because when you visit the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, there’s a requisite number of bucket list scratch-offs to attend to.
My earliest memories of Indie Memphis were in 2009 and 2010—both years I unfortunately could not attend. Respectively, my films, St. Nick and Audrey the Trainwreck, screened; when the latter received a $25,000 post-production award (you heard that right), I was determined to visit the following year. During my first Indie Memphis I served on the jury- but most of this is a blur. Highlights included attending a deafening Skrillex concert with Dan Waters (he wrote Heathers, Batman Returns and Hudson Hawk) and drinking Macallan 25s with Chris Parnell (yeah, that dude from SNL). When I wasn’t stargazing, I made several potentially lifelong friendships and met collaborators I would work with in the future.
Indie Memphis has also become an off-the-beaten-path destination for savvy film critics seeking sleepers amongst the breakout films of the larger fests. The forward-thinking programming and Memphis culture have attracted freelance writers and indie heavyweights. Last year, I attended with a film I produced entitled Bob Birdnow’s Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self. Not only was the film well-received, but we got shout-outs from several press outlets and the greatest pull quote ever from Filmmaker‘s Brandon Harris: “way more compelling than a TED talk.”
The festival also ups its street cred by involving the local film industry. Memphis’ own celebrity director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) is omnipresent over the festival weekend- on panels, at parties, watching movies- and he’s incredibly approachable. With the support of Brewer and the city of Memphis at large, moviemakers get a real sense of connectivity between the local community, the visiting artists and the film festival environment.
Indie Memphis has earned itself a regular spot on my personal festival itinerary. It’s the only festival at which I can see a barrage of amazing films and hang out with incredible filmmakers—all while touring Elvis Presley’s mansion (plus ogle an unparalleled amount of Elvis paraphernalia at Paul McLeod’s Graceland Too in Holly Springs, Mississippi), party at an allegedly-haunted former bordello, gorge myself on buckets and buckets of Gus’ Fried Chicken, and catch a Huskies game courtesy of some really rad volunteers. Indie Memphis is more than just a film festival; it’s a complete history of Memphis over a long weekend. MM
Photographs by Breezy Torres.
Adam Donaghey is a Dallas-based independent film producer, partner at the historic Texas Theatre, and co-founder of the Oak Cliff Film Festival. He is in development on a narrative feature on the unsolved death of freelance journalist Danny Casolaro.
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