Thriving at five: OUT at the Movies film festival celebrates a milestone
October marks LGBTQ+ History Month, and the OUT at the Movies International LGBT Film Festival is making some history of its own, as it kicks off its fifth annual event on Oct. 5 in Winston-Salem. With 24 films, this is the biggest and most star-studded OUT at the Movies festival to date.
For Rex Welton, who co-founded the OUT at the Movies screening series and is now director of both the series and the festival, this is as much the culmination of hard work as it is a dream come true. “It is very gratifying to me that what started as a ‘one-off’ screening of Latter Days in 2003 became a thriving series, [then] a festival,” Welton said. “Now we are about to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the series and the fifth of our festival.”
Screenings will take place at A/perture Cinemas (311 W. Fourth St.) and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking (1533 S. Main St.) in the Babcock, Gold and Main Theatres at the ACE Exhibition Complex. There will be parties and receptions at various downtown hotspots.
The festival caps off what has been one of the most successful years in the screening series’ history. Screenings of The Fabulous Allan Carr, Rebels on Pointe, The Cakemaker, Tucked, and A Million Happy Nows proved extremely popular with audiences.
This year’s OUT at the Movies will welcome back some festival favorites including award-winning playwright and filmmaker Del Shores (Sordid Lives), who will perform his one-man show Six Characters in Search of a Play at 2 p.m. on Oct. 7 at Theatre Alliance (1047 Northwest Blvd.). Actor Wes Ramsay (“CSI: Miami,” “Charmed,” “General Hospital”), who made his screen debut in Latter Days will receive the festival’s very first “INSPIRE” Award following an encore screening of the film at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 in the UNCSA Main Theatre.
The festival will open with a 7:30 p.m. screening of You Should Meet My Son 2!, the follow-up to the award-winning 2010 comedy, at the UNCSA Main Theatre. Filmmaker Keith Hartman and actors Emory Duncan and Tyler Richmeier are scheduled to attend, followed by the opening-night reception at Jeffrey Adams on Fourth (321 W. Fourth St.).
Welton admitted he knew going in that building a festival from the ground up would take considerable time and work, and he wasn’t necessarily 100 percent certain it would be a success.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure,” he said. “Our film series, OUT at the Movies, was about to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2013 when I began to consider a festival to commemorate 10 years. It was a huge jump going from a monthly series to a three-day festival.”
Yet even from the get-go, there were very encouraging signs. Welton said the support of UNCSA, RiverRun International Film Festival and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County was the key to the first year’s success.
“The biggest hurdle was securing sponsors the very first year,” Welton said. “RiverRun sponsored OUT at the Movies for an Arts Council Innovative Project Grant. We applied and received it. The next year, BB&T stepped up to the plate as our presenting sponsor, and I knew that our festival’s future was bright. This year, our newest sponsors include American Airlines, PepsiCo and Twin City Hive.”
Both the series and the festival have proven popular beyond the borders of the Piedmont Triad and North Carolina, attracting filmmakers and audiences from far and wide.
“This year – including the actors, directors, producers, and documentary subjects joining us in Winston-Salem – the festival will generate over 100 hotel nights,” Welton said. “Already, I know of audience members from Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Los Angeles, and Louisville coming to enjoy our screenings, the Q&As, Del Shores’s one-man show, and parties.”
That kind of success does not go unnoticed. Welton said OUT at the Movies has a reputation industry-wide for its hospitality, quality, programming and customer service.
“Several years ago, we were screening Baby Steps on opening night – the same night it was screening at a larger and longer-running festival in Cincinnati,” Welton said. “The lead actor and director, Barney Cheng, and his co-star Michael Adam Hamilton chose to accept the invitation to join us in Winston-Salem. I told them how happy we were to have them in Winston-Salem and asked Barney why he chose to come to our festival instead of the larger one. He had been told by his friend, writer/producer/director J.C. Calciano (The 10 Year Plan), that if he ever got a chance to attend the OUT at the Movies International LGBT Film Fest that he should jump at the opportunity.”
For Welton and the OUT team, that did not go unnoticed either. “We always have had an incredible hands-on board and a dedicated, talented group of volunteers,” he said. “We have enjoyed widespread support from the city, our sponsors and donors, and our audience members.”
Following the opening-night screening, the festival will announce the formation of an OUT at the Movies scholarship for a deserving student at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, exemplifying its dedication to the filmmakers of tomorrow and the art of cinema.
“We want to continue offering our filmmakers, sponsors, and audience members one of the best experiences of any festival in the country,” Welton said.
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The fifth annual “Out at the Movies” International LGBT Film Festival runs Oct. 5 -7. All screenings are $10, a five-screening flex pass is available for $40, and a festival pass (good for one admission to as many films as you can see) is $75. For a complete schedule of events, advance tickets, or additional information, call 336.918.0902, e-mail email@example.com, or visit the official festival website.