In its fourth year, The Belcourt's annual fundraiser/celebration of independent film, fashion and music received a bit of a makeover, much like the historic Hillsboro Village theater it benefits. But when you look back at the nD — now known as the iNDie — Festival's amorphous growth, any alterations applied to the original design have been executed thoughtfully and strategically, and in a way that's reflective of what's happening in our creative community.
In 2010, the first nD Festival nodded to the influential and integral role of fashion in film with a stylish film retrospective, events at area boutiques and a runway show at the theater featuring locally headquartered denim gods Imogene + Willie and Florence, Ala.'s Billy Reid and Alabama Chanin. The 2011 fest featured emerging design duo and O'More College of Design graduates Hannah Jones and Jamie Frazier of Jamie + the Jones in a runway show alongside national brands Steven Alan and Bodkin. The runway show included film shorts by Kristin Barlowe, James Clauer and David McClister, and live musical performances from Nikki Lane, Holly Williams and Gabriel Kelley.
By 2012, the fashion element migrated away from the traditional runway and focused on Nashville's unique style in a street-style runway show. The catwalkers were not professional models, but familiar faces from the community — Arnold Myint as Suzy Wong, Denice Hicks, Alice Randall — and longtime Belcourt supporters like H.G. Webb, who received a standing ovation from the packed house. Loney John Hutchins, Courtney Jaye, Jack Lawrence, Sam Smith and William Tyler served as the all-star house band for the evening.
This year, the ever-evolving festival continues to celebrate all things local and independent, but through a series of four events showcasing Nashville's makers — which the festival committee defines as the people and businesses in our community who create things that are uniquely Nashville. That committee, led by Belcourt board member Marcia Masulla, also decided to significantly lower the price of the patrons pass to $150 (or $125 for Belcourt members), which gets you into all four events. (Individual tickets are also available.)
While the previous three nD Festivals packed dense schedules into a short block of consecutive days, this year's fest offers four distinct events stretched out across 10 days to better accommodate attendees' schedules and avoid overburdening The Belcourt staff and volunteers. Another big change executed by the committee was the name, which has morphed from "nD" to "iNDie."
"The name was confusing to people; we had to explain it too much," Masulla explains, joking that the name change was akin to the fictional band changing their name from "The Oneders" to "The Wonders" in That Thing You Do! "We wanted to pay respect to its roots, so that's why we highlight 'ND' in the font. The messaging is the same, that we support independence and we support our community."
Similarly, the iNDie Festival will continue to fund The Belcourt's community engagement and educational outreach programs. While the inaugural nD Fest brought the final wave of funding needed to replace the seats, carpets and drapes in The Belcourt's 1966 Hall, proceeds raised since then have directly funded education and engagement director Allison Inman's role at the theatre.
Inman had worked part time for years, and funds from the festival made her full-time position at the theater possible. Because of the iNDie Festival, she's been able to expand her role in creating and executing panels, interviews with guest speakers, Skype sessions and performances at the theater. Inman also spearheaded an educational outreach program, further connecting The Belcourt with area nonprofits and schools that can use film as an educational tool.
"Over the last three years, the iNDie fest has given us a way to both seed the funding and talk to our audiences and the community about The Belcourt's education and engagement work," says Stephanie Silverman, The Belcourt's executive director. "While conversation around film has always been a critical piece of The Belcourt's programming, iNDie, paired with other funding sources, has allowed us to add the remarkable Allison Inman to our staff as the full-time director of education and engagement, launch the Mobile Movie Theatre that allows us to take film programs to kids and adults at partner sites like the Martha O'Bryan Center, plus expand the film education offerings in the theatre."
And with this year's focus on makers, the event is moving decidedly away from — though not entirely eliminating — the fashion component.
"With the fashion show, we hit a plateau, but it might come back," says Masulla, who is also co-founder and managing partner of Nashville Fashion Week and has worked on past nD fashion shows. "In Nashville, there's a big awareness of where things come from. People are really curious about the process; we want to meet the makers and know how things are made. And this ties in with The Belcourt, being independent and supporting your community, and telling a story, which is what film does."
The celebration of makers is exemplified on the fest's kickoff event tonight, iNDie Made at Marathon Village, in which attendees can wander the halls of the historic structure at their own pace, art-crawl style, and stop in at participating vendors, hitting food and drink stations in between.
"We're featuring Imogene + Willie and Otis James, but we're also going to The Old Time Pickin' Parlor, Garage Coffee, William Collier's and Corsair," Masulla explains. "You can go in and find out the life of denim at Imogene + Willie, or pop in to meet Barry [Walker, owner of Marathon Village], who is such a character and has all of these rich stories, and then you can go have a Belle Meade Bourbon cocktail at William Collier's, which is actually named after the guy who created the first vehicle at Marathon."
On Sunday, Oct. 6, the iNDie Fest goes back to The Belcourt for a preview screening of the highly anticipated music documentary Muscle Shoals. The screening includes cocktails and food by Josh Habiger (The Catbird Seat, Patterson House, the forthcoming Pinewood Social) and dessert by Lisa Donovan (Husk Nashville, City House, Buttermilk Road Sunday Suppers). Rick Hall, proprietor of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals and principal subject of the documentary, will participate in a Q&A session led by Craig Havighurst following the screening.
"Muscle Shoals is a very important story, not just for the music industry, but for culture, period," Masulla says. "And the fact that we're premiering it [here] is very on trend; Billy Reid just did an event premiering the movie, and he brought a lot of our makers down there. Both Lisa and Josh were down there, and Carrie and Matt [Eddmenson of Imogene + Willie]." Reid's Nashville outpost in the Hill Center will host an informal, Shoals-inspired in-store event from 3-6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6, with plenty of Bulleit Bourbon. A portion of sales will be donated to The Belcourt.
Tuesday, Oct. 8, marks the sole patrons-only event of the week, in which Gruhn Guitars will open its doors for a behind-the-scenes tour of their new facility on Eighth Avenue. Expect lots of food, drinks and live music — and if you've ever wanted to talk to a luthier about his craft or chat with Mr. Gruhn himself, this is your chance.
For the closing event on Saturday, Oct. 12, the fest moves to Third Man Records for a performance by three-man mad scientist percussion ensemble Alloy Orchestra, which will play a live score to accompany the 1929 silent Russian film Man With a Movie Camera. In addition to drinks and food by Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, the night will see the creation of a vinyl acetate master of the show, with copies later available for purchase. Third Man co-founder Ben Swank, a spirited supporter of The Belcourt's educational and outreach initiatives, is an integral part of the continually growing relationship between Third Man and The Belcourt.
"We've expanded our capabilities here for different kind of recording methods, specifically the direct-to-acetate method that we're going to use for Alloy Orchestra," Swank explains. "So the idea developed from, 'Let's just have them in for a performance' to, 'Let's have them in and cut it direct to acetate.' So it made sense to have it here for iNDie fest, showing people our continuing relationship. It's always good to have something cool here that can benefit The Belcourt."
Swank says that ensuring the sustainability of The Belcourt's mission of engaging, enriching and educating through innovative film programming in the historic theater and in the community falls in line with Third Man Record's philosophy.
"Education is constantly being devalued in this country," Swank says. "Anything artistic or cultural or austere — or something you're not getting in a textbook in this part of the regimented curriculum — is difficult to get directly into kids' hands. A big part of Third Man's kind of credo has always been that it's up to the adults of the world to teach their children about the romance of tangible things, and the romance of getting out of their homes and seeing things, discussing things.
"The romance of film is something that I think people should be educated on early on," he continues. "In this country, we don't really give children enough credit for their imaginations and their intelligence to process what they're seeing. Film is a really brilliant way to directly communicate with children, and for them to communicate with each other."