Making movies can be a grind. Locking down a good script, enticing investors, landing the right cast, negotiating with agents, hiring crew, finding locations… and that ain’t the half of it.

Getting your movie actually seen? Also a grind. Finding success in the festival world? You guessed it. So when the opportunity to play a festival comes up—and I’m fortunate to say that has happened a few times for my film As Far as the Eye Can See—that is a victory in itself. You’ve achieved that rarified air of acceptance that is essential for your mental well being and the life of your film.

Even during the best of times it can be hard to just kick back and enjoy your victory lap. But just a few weeks removed from my experience at Lone Star, I can enthusiastically report that my team and I have maintained that bounce in our step that we had when we left the festival. Chad Mathews and his crew are running one hell of an operation in Fort Worth, Texas. From the get-go, the whole team was clear about what to expect but was always ready to adjust on the fly. They were attentive and kind, personable and fun, and the festival ran smoothly—a credit to the people in charge.

Like any good festival, there was always plenty going on. Films ran the gamut: Texan, American, North American, international; comedies, dramas, documentaries, shorts, features; Hollywood fare and small indies. It is a potpourri for any cineaste. Plus, workshops, tours, Q&As and daily activities at the filmmaker’s lounge (where local distillers shopped their wares and entertainers kept things lively) made the experience as educational as it was entertaining.

I chatted with the head of the Texas Film Commission, as well as established producers, gritty filmmakers and veteran filmmakers who have become advocates and friends. Whether LSFF intended to or not, they selected not only talented filmmakers, but friendly ones as well. And the backdrop of downtown Fort Worth was integrated into the festival seamlessly. Smack in the heart of the city, you’re in walking distance to many things this burgeoning scene has to offer. Sundance Square and Bass Hall are nearby; also plenty of bars and restaurants to commune at.

It’s hard to walk away from any experience in this business and feel that it was a complete win. Sure, you might be happy with how your screening went, but something else will stick in your craw. I’m searching for that little itch of disappointment from my experience at LSFF—the one thing that will drop my grade from an A to a B+. I got nothing. If that changes, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, submit your film and get yourself to next year’s festival. I’ll see you there. MM

Paden Fallis is the screenwriter of the feature As Far as the Eye Can See, directed by David Franklin.

Lone Star Film Festival 2016 took place November 2016. This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Winter 2017 issue. Photograph by Manny Pandya.