6 questions with Jason Padgitt and Lauren Ponto of the Nashville Film Festival

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This is a part of our Q+A series. Know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

Following a virtual event last year, the 52nd Nashville Film Festival is returning in a new format with films begin screened at Belmont University, Rocketown, Marathon Music Works, and the Belcourt on Sept. 30-Oct. 6.

We recently caught up with Executive Director Jason Padgitt + Director of Programming Lauren Ponto to discuss the festival’s new format, films you can’t miss, and the types of programming that make the Nashville festival so unique.

Pro Tip: This year’s hybrid program will feature a virtual platform for at-home viewing.

Q: What can festival attendees expect with the new format?

Jason: In the past, we’ve housed the festival in the multiplex environment, which sort of underserved our community, our audience, and our out-of-town filmmakers because it really didn’t showcase Nashville the way that we would like. This year, we’re absolutely doing that with this mix of venues throughout downtown and Midtown. This is the first year that we’ve applied this approach, and it’s likely a blueprint for the future.

Q: Could you tell us about some of the films with a Tennessee, or even just Nashville, connection? 

Lauren: I’m really excited for “Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival,” and we have John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas coming to talk about that film. I’m also looking forward to “The Fable of a Song” directed by Andy Stroll playing at Rocketown. It’s about local singer-songwriters in Nashville, and there’s going to be an acoustic performance with that by the band called The Young Fables. “Old Henry” was entirely shot here in Tennessee and stars Tim Blake Nelson, who will be here for a Q+A. 

Q: Is there a type of programming at the festival that might be overlooked but shouldn’t be missed?

Jason: Something that gets a little overlooked is our graveyard programming, which is in the horror genre and usually are the last showings every night. We’re going to have our VR presentation back again this year, and it’s the kind of thing you just have to experience to understand. And even with that, they’re all uniquely different, so one VR experience may not be anything like the next, which is what’s so incredible about that format.

Q: The festival’s closing night presentation will be held at the Belcourt, and it got us thinking about memorable experiences at the theater. Are there any that stand out for you?

Jason: The Nashville premiere of “Selena” before the theater was remodeled was my first experience at the Belcourt, and I remember walking in the door and feeling the history. I’ve been many times since, but I would say the other one that just jumps out at me as memorable is the MTSU student showcase a couple years ago. I was just so impressed with the quality of work, and I walked out of there just being so thrilled with what the future of filmmaking holds for Tennessee.

Q: In addition to music-centric films, the festival also creates many opportunities for live performances. What can people look forward to on that side of the festival?

Jason: One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Nashville Film Festival that’s different from most festivals is that we have such strong music-centric programming, including a competition category for music documentaries. What’s interesting about being in these multiple venues is we now have the ability to include and embrace live music performances that are attached to these films. Some of those will happen literally on the stage either before or after a screening, and some will happen at the after parties.

Q: What 3 people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?

Jason: Orson Welles, Johnny Cash, and Charlie Chaplin.
Lauren: Fran Drescher, Sidney Poitier, and Jack Nicholson.