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By Mark Bell | August 26, 2011

I’ve been wanting to attend the Sidewalk Film Festival for years. Friends would come back from the event every year with a new story about how amazing it was; Hell, former FT E-i-C Eric Campos had his entirely life change because of the festival. Every year I’d listen and secretly pine for my chance, so when the opportunity to be a juror for this year’s Sidewalk presented itself months ago, I went for it.

One long day at the airport (apparently airlines don’t want you to take-off or land in a thunderstorm) later, and I was finally at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. It didn’t take long to hop into the flow of things, as I arrived at the hotel just in time to see fellow juror and friend Skizz getting ready to head out to the Filmmaker Reception. He was nice enough to wait for me while I dropped my bag off in my room, and we limo-shuttled our way over to the reception.

Once there, Skizz gave a couple harrowing accounts of being stuck in the building’s elevator (an ominous sign stating that no more than 10 at a time should ride backed his tale up), and we both got our grub on while meeting up with many, many friendly and familiar faces. Seriously, it’s like a filmmaker reunion here at Sidewalk; I know you tend to see the same faces on the fest circuit, particularly in the 2-year fest run burst, but it was getting ridiculous. People were greeting ME by name!?!

After some jai-alai on the roof of the building (okay, it was bocce ball, and I didn’t actually play), and much drinking and conversation, a bunch of us moved to the second part of the evening’s festivities, the Block Party. Basically a bunch of Birmingham bars, all within blocks of each other, offering different drink or food specials for Sidewalk attendees.

Some of us went to the Rogue Tavern for some grub (and more alcohol, wink) and others hung outside on the sidewalk in front of Pale Eddie’s. Much fun and merriment was had and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel for sleep… kind of. A bunch of us went to the roof bar at the hotel and drank some more, but I actually did retire to the room prior to 2am so I could find the time to get up in the morning (now), shower and write this. I also had pictures to post, but they won’t upload for some annoying reason, so hopefully my words will suffice for now.

Things are looking a little insane, so I don’t know when or where I’ll find the time to do this again during the festival, but I’m going to try. Between the programming (200 films in 3 days), my jury duties, going to parties and, you know, MAYBE sleeping, the sked is tight. Plus, always adventures not accounted for to be experienced, so who knows. I just go with whatever the festival throws at me.

The fest really kicks off tonight with the opening night screening of Ti West’s The Innkeepers and then an opening night party, but I’m convinced the fest never really ends. Hell, wear your lanyard year-round; unless you’re me, I accidentally ripped my pass last night. Fixed it, but it was a sad start for this non-rookie.

When pics work, I’ll upload ’em. In the meantime, if you really want to know what’s happening at Sidewalk as it happens, follow the @filmthreat Twitter feed.

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  1. Don R. Lewis says:

    Have a great time! I went to Sidewalk a few years back and it remains a highlight for me of fests I’ve attended EVER. The people who put on the fest are amazing and accommodating and it really does feel like a gathering of friends and colleagues rather than some crazy, intense fest where you’re trying to sell yourself and your film. Just getting in to Sidewalk is awesome and the community shows up for screenings. You can’t ask for much more as a filmmaker.

    Hope you get to smelt something!

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