Why should you go to the Tallgrass Film Festival if you haven't heard of any of the films?
Well, that's exactly the point.
Tallgrass' goal — like many other film festivals around the world — is to present films that you might not otherwise get to see.
These films are made outside the Hollywood studio system, by filmmakers who have sometimes put themselves on the line to get their projects made — and spent years doing it.
These independently made films don't come with big-budget distribution deals or studio-backed promotion campaigns. That's where film festivals come in.
There are tons of festivals around the world, and big ones, such as Sundance or Cannes, get thousands of film submissions each year. Like Tallgrass, they weed their submissions down to a select few to form their program (the process and criteria vary).
What's great about Tallgrass in recent years is the inclusion of more Kansas-made films, proving that there are filmmakers working hard right here in our own state to make movies.
This year, Tallgrass' opening night film will be University of Kansas professor Kevin Willmott's " The Only Good Indian," which had its world premiere earlier this year at Sundance. It screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Orpheum Theatre; a $25 ticket includes after-party with food and drink.
"The Only Good Indian" stars Wes Studi, who has appeared in more than 50 films, including "Geronimo," "Mystery Men" and the recent TV series "Kings," as a Cherokee bounty hunter who hunts down a young boy who escapes from a government-run Indian boarding school. Several of the film's scenes were shot at Old Cowtown Museum, and several Wichitans were used as extras and crew. Willmott, Studi and producer Scott Richardson will attend and participate in a Q&A after the screening.
Willmott's drama " The Battle for Bunker Hill," which was shot in the Lawrence area, is also in this year's program, and stars James McDaniel ("NYPD Blue") as a former Wall Street executive who leaves prison and heads to his small-town home only to find it under terrorist attack. It's at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at the Garvey Center; Willmott, producer Scott Richardson and co-writer Greg Hurd will attend.
Wamego filmmaker Steve Balderson's documentary " Underbelly" will be the Saturday night centerpiece screening. Balderson and star Princess Farhana will attend.
And many other Kansans past and present will be showcased in the Timothy Gruver Spotlight on Kansas Filmmakers shorts program at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Orpheum Theatre.
Plus there are parties, events, presentations and filmmaker forums, all celebrating the love of movies.
That's the real point of the festival.
Insider tips AND ETIQUETTE
* Get to screenings early. Prepare to wait — but that's part of the fun, hanging out, soaking up the vibe and discussing films.
* Stay through the end credits —especially if a filmmaker is in attendance.
* Applaud at the end of a film.
* Ask questions. The best part of the festival is interaction with filmmakers during the Q&As.
* Turn off cell phones. No texting. No talking.
* Go to www.tallgrassfilmfest.com for ticket information and a complete schedule.
* See Friday's GO! section for a special pullout guide to the Tallgrass Film Festival.