In its second year, the Third Street Film Festival returns this weekend to the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center for the Arts. The small but growing grassroots festival concentrates on the work of Louisiana filmmakers.
Response to last year’s inaugural festival surprised and encouraged its 23-year-old founder, James Hebert. The festival sold out the 325-seat Manship Theatre.
“We just threw it out there and hoped people would show up,” Hebert said. “The day before the festival only about a third of the tickets were sold. But we got some press through The Advocate and a few other outlets. I showed up on festival day and we were sold out.”
This year’s Third Street Film Festival expands from one to two days. It will present two showcases each day, each culminating with, in another first for the festival, a feature-length film.
Submissions for the festival more than doubled from last year, to about 90 films. The quality of the entries grew as well, Hebert said.
Many of the festival’s films were submitted by students in UNO’s Department of Film, Theatre, and Communication Arts. Hebert hopes next year will see the first submissions from LSU’s expanding film studies program.
“We got in at a good time for the film industry in Baton Rouge and the downtown art scene,” he said. “I like to think we were a catalyst for the art scene here, because there have been other film events and festivals at the Shaw Center. It’s all good for downtown.”
Hebert has worked as an extra in films and as a production assistant for Viacom and VH1. He took a break from his studies at LSU to curate the second Third Street Film Festival. His goals for the festival include establishing formal boards and jury panels, opening an office in downtown Baton Rouge and staging year-round screenings and events.
“It has to grow beyond me and two other people,” he said.
Hebert also hopes the festival can help put Baton Rouge on the regional culture map.
“I’ve lived in other cities and seen a lot of the things that they have that we don’t have,” he said. “So I’m trying to build a festival that’s cool, that draws people from Austin and Dallas and Biloxi. One of our strategies for next year is to brand the Third Street Festival as the South’s Film Fest.”
Nonetheless, Hebert sees value in the Third Street Film Festival being dedicated to Louisiana filmmakers.
“That stands us apart from other festivals,” he said. “But we are exploring going national or international next year. We’ll have to see how this year goes and how much the organization can grow. By the third year we want to be established, have an organization that’s sustainable, volunteers and interns and merchandise.”
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