Film Festival Lesson No. 1: START MOVIES ON TIME
Six years ago, the Beaufort International Film Festival was about as grass-roots as it could get. Director Ron Tucker and his helpers didn't have much experience running a film festival -- a lot was just learning on the go.
The times got a bit off during that first year. At one point, Tucker decided to run a series of student films all in a row. He didn't realize a group from Asheville, N.C., had come to specifically see one movie. They missed it. As a consolation, Tucker gave them a copy of the film.
Film Festival Lesson No. 2: ALWAYS BE HOSPITABLE
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In part due to that hospitality, the Beaufort film festival has been a steady success over the past six years. Its audiences have gone from 500 in its inaugural year to 5,000 in 2011.
Organizers expect more this year. The festival has moved into a larger theater, the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts. The theater seats close to 500 people, almost tripling the capacity from the previous theater.
About 25 movies ranging from shorts to documentaries to feature films will be shown this year, culled from about 200 submissions.
The festival continues in the spirit of celebrating truly independent cinema, Tucker said.
The actors and directors might not be household names, but that doesn't mean they can't produce as good or even better work than mainstream Hollywood.
"Believe it or not, good movies can be made for under $20 million," Tucker said. "These are movies that will have an emotional impact. These are films with a message."
Lesson No. 3: KEEP THE DOWN-HOME FEEL
No matter how the festival has evolved over the years, Tucker has held tight to another lesson, this one specific to Beaufort: Keep that down-home feel.
The Beaufort festival doesn't have the glitz and glam of Sundance -- and maybe that's a good thing.
"The hospitality gets a lot of folks back," he said. "We get a lot of people who say, 'Don't lose that homey feel.' We'll keep that because that's what makes Beaufort special."