If you type, “thin line” into a Google search bar, the first suggestion is “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” a 1996 film staring, written, directed and starring Martin Lawrence, but Texas Filmmaker Joshua Butler is doing what he can to help Denton overtake that spot from the drug-plagued comedian.
Butler, founder of Texas Filmmakers and director of The Thin Line Film Festival, took some time out of his quickly ramping schedule to talk to us about what’s playing at his festival this year, what the term “documentary” means, why hosting at the Campus Theatre is bittersweet and what he’s doing to “foster an active film community” in Denton.
What’s the deal with the name of the festival?
Joshua Butler: The first name was going to be the “All Real Film Festival,” but that is just the thing, are documentaries “all real?” Are we as audiences supposed to assume that everything we are told or shown in a documentary is real? The truth is there is a ‘thin line’ between what is real and what isn’t in documentary films. It is still a crafted piece of art. It requires an individual to make thousands of decisions such as what to show, who to interview, where to cut, in what order to place scenes, where to place music, etc. Filmmakers are storytellers and documentaries are no different.
What film are you most excited about showing this year? Why?
JB: It’s hard not to say ‘Troubadours’. I mean any film that world premieres at Sundance is a big film to have in Texas before anyone else. It’s a music doc and we really wanted to feature music in this year’s festival. Both the Director (Morgan Neville) and Producer (Eddie Schmidt) will be in attendance. Then there’s a party after featuring local musician Glen Farris... so its hard not to like.
What world premieres is the festival hosting this year?
JB: This year we have only one. It is a short film called “You Cannot Learn How To Be Honest.” The filmmaker is flying in from California to participate. This is a crazy film that will affect you.
Why use Denton as the location of the Thin Line Film Fest? Has the town’s reception of Thin Line been as you had imagined?
JB: I had developed three-year old relationships by the first Thin Line and many of the “power brokers” (both political and social) want to see you pay your dues. So its hard to just pick up and start that somewhere else. Plus, Denton didn’t have a film festival. This goes back to why I started Texas Filmmakers. I came to Denton expecting an active film community. Texas Filmmakers and Thin Line are my effort to help foster that in Denton.
My expectations were naive at the beginning. I had that “build it they will come” mentality. Its actually more like, “build it, and if they know about it they may come.” Advertising is really expensive. Each year we have been able to slowly increase our ad budget. This year we were granted Hotel Occupancy Tax Funds from the City of Denton to help us advertise to the DFW region. The reality is that each year our attendance has grown by 200-250% and we expect another strong increase this year.
Why does Thin Line show primarily documentaries?
JB: There are 40 film festivals in the State of Texas. 39 of them are for fictional films. Sure most of them also screen documentaries; but we are the only documentary film festival in Texas. Plus, Denton had already developed a reputation for documentaries. The UNT film department offers one MFA program - documentary film production. Its also run by a reputable documentary filmmaker, Melinda Levin.
What movie from last year went on to have the most success, win the most awards, etc...?
JB: This is an easy one... Gas Land. It is currently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. We had the Texas Premiere.
The campus theatre is primarily used for live theatre. Do you think the space would be better used as a movie theatre?
JB: I must claim I am biased in this regard. The Campus Theatre was a Grand Movie House that hosted big films such as the World Premiere of Bonnie and Clyde in 1967. A part of me does wish it had been renovated in the original design. Instead it was converted to a live theatre. The balcony was walled in and is now the prop storage. The local community theater groups do a great job and they deserve a space to perform.
The 2011 Thin Line Film Festival runs February 15th - 20th at Denton’s Campus Theatre. Tickets are available online at ThinLineFilmFestival.com or at the Campus Theatre box office starting Tuesday, Feb. 15th at 4pm.