By Thomas Stubbs, Contributor
Ken Seay is a perceptive person. I can feel it from my head to my toes as we regard one another from across a little table. I’m looking to learn more about him. He already knows all he needs to about me. We are downtown, inside a chain coffee shop talking about the most recent product of Mr. Seay’s perceptiveness: the Reedy Reels Film Festival.
“Two and a half years ago, I was vacationing in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. One night, the whole town was overrun — sold out. I asked my friends who lived there what was happening. They replied that is was the town film festival,” Seay said. “I thought to myself: ‘why doesn’t Greenville have something like this?’”
Seay, a lifelong film buff and former professor of film at Clemson University, immediately set about making the idea of a Greenville film festival a reality. He enlisted three of his former students, Brooke Smith, Mike Jordano and Matt Foster, to help him forge the new festival’s identity.
“We went out to other local festivals to see how they worked and what kind of events they hosted,” Foster said. “And we were particularly impressed by the Beaufort Film Festival up in North Carolina. After each film was shown, they hosted a Q & A with the filmmakers. We knew we had to have that at our festival. The idea of directly engaging with the creative minds behind the films was and is very exciting.”
The first annual Reedy Reels Film Festival was held last fall at Clemson’s International Center for Automobile Research. This year’s edition will be held in the very heart of Greenville, at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theater, Nov. 4 and 5. Over the course of the weekend, the festival will showcase dozens of films. They range from short subjects crafted by local amateurs to feature-length productions helmed by professional filmmakers. One such professional is director Chris White, whose collection of short films, collectively entitled “Unbecoming,” is one of the festival’s big attractions this year.
“Film festivals are valuable because they allow people with all different ambitions to showcase their work. For hobbyists, getting to present their work on a big stage might motivate them to pursue their talents further. Or it might terrify them. For pro filmmakers, it gives them the chance to do something more creative than their corporate jobs,” White said.
The inherent cultural value of cinema notwithstanding, what does Reedy Reels bring to the greater Greenville community? According to Seay, “Reedy Reels offers the Greenville community a top-notch cultural event, at which they can see fascinating films, engage with the talented filmmakers and learn about the local filmmaking community.”
For White, Reedy Reel’s greatest potential lies in getting so many filmmakers in the same room together. However, he is quick to point out that in the midst of the creative synergy fostered by the film festival environment, the line between artist and audience is not so hard and fast.
“For me, it’s like a magnet for potential collaborators. For people who come to festival, it’ll give them the opportunity to expand their palate, to see the kinds of films they would never see at Cherrydale, for example,” White said. “Thing is, though, that’s true for me as well. I’ll be in the audience, too.”
After our interview, Seay invited me to come with him to the Gunter Theater, where he and rest the festival’s creative team would be shooting promotional videos for the festival. With the camera rolling, someone asked Seay where he was going to be Nov. 4 and 5.
“Right here, at the Gunter Theater, for the Reedy Reels Film Festival,” he replied.
The Reedy Reels Film Festival will be held at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theater Nov. 4 and 5. Tickets may be purchased at reedyreels.com/tickets.