Hollywood in the Hill Country

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Full House by Phil Houseal

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This weekend, film aficionados from around the world will be drawn to the flickering screens of the Hill Country Film Festival.

The non-urban setting has grown to become one of the most appealing places for independent filmmakers to screen their work and for movie fans to see it, according to those involved at the very beginning.

When I interviewed director and founder Chad Mathews for the very first HCFF back in 2010, he speculated on what the event might become:

“This combination of some really interesting and special films, along with the city of Fredericksburg is just a win-win situation. We hope to grow into what we consider a destination film festival, and hopefully turn it into a really special Texas event.”

My question when I reached him this time was simple: Have you accomplished that?

“I think we have,” he said after what was only a short pause. “What I notice has changed from that first year is that we have grown to have a reputation that’s known throughout the film industry in Texas. That Hill Country hospitality has made it a lot of fun for out-of-town guests, so that people are putting it on their calendar as the one festival to attend.”

The growth in size over eight years is gratifying. From a two-day event using one screen, they now present more than a hundred films on two screens at Fritztown Cinema over four days.

Those 100 films are chosen from a mountain of submissions, according to programmer Matt Ward. He personally watched 270 films for this event, which is no big deal as he once watched a movie a day for a year.

“I personally look for films that play well to this community,” Ward said of his selection process. “I’m always looking for something that is family friendly. And there is a quality aspect — it can’t be terrible cinematography or bad acting. That’s a subjective thing, and that is why we have a team of programmers.”

Organizers know that while the content is important, followers don’t just come to sit in a dark room and watch movies. One reason Mathews chose the Hill Country is that he and his sister, Amy Miskovsky, spent many memorable summers here as children.

“We really work the hospitality angle,” said Miskovsky, who is now the Festival Director. “When you come to the theater, it’s like coming into our homes.”

 

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