If IMAGINATION is a real place to visit, then Louisiana North can help figure out how to get there. Pick up a few tips how to discover the essence of two cities on the Red River and use movies to guide you.
Twenty movies in one weekend is a fine idea if you go to Louisiana’s northwest corner in October.
That’s when the makers of short films vie for a $50,000 prize and moviegoers like you and me get a say about the top choice.
This is called the Louisiana Film Prize. An engaging duo of cities on the Red River is the setting: Shreveport-Bossier.
If you want to boost their interest in technology, especially considering creative careers in animation, movie-making, visual effects and all things digital, Louisiana North is the place to go with intention.
First, the Movies
Can you contemplate 20 movies in three days? Neither could I until I got there. None are longer than 20 minutes, and most are shorter. They’re shown in flights of 10.
Films run the gamut from lighthearted or silly, tense drama, engaging romance or simply pleasant and they’re made by first-time filmmakers and old pros.
Meet them. Chat with their crews and their families. Listen at formal Q & A sessions or simply bump into these independent filmmakers in eateries and artistic spaces all over Shreveport and Bossier.
“This is a weirdly wonderful community” says Gregory Kallenberg, founder and executive director of the Louisiana Film Prize, “and film makers feel that.
“There’s a spirit of appreciation in Shreveport,” Kallenberg notes and that tumbles over into experiences for the tourist too.
Invite Yourself Inside High-Tech
Artists and engineers are diving into new digital horizons in Shreveport-Bossier and looking over their shoulders might open new career ideas for the teens in your family.
Digital Media Institute is the place to invite yourself because they’re seeking bright new students.
“Changes are coming in cognitive content and platforms for delivering interactive content,” says the director John Miralles, “and we are training skilled professionals in animation, visual effects and video game content.”
Here’s the concept to add to your college visiting journeys: Digital Media Institute is a one-year intensive program, the only non-profit version in the nation. If your family marvels at special effects, you’ll like meeting Miralles who brings 15 years as a visual effects artist to the classroom.
“To be good at this,” he says, “you have to be a bit of an artist and a bit of a tech person and I believe everyone is on the spectrum of both.”
Wonder what 3-D printing really is, or what you would do with an Oculus Rift at your house? What do advertisers mean when they speak about augmented reality?
Peeking at the Digital Media Institute gave me some clues. Wandering the lobby of Moonbot Studios made me want more.
Telling stories and believing there is a place called Imagination reign supreme at Moonbot where artists of amazing talent create animation and interactive storytelling.
“All the mediums to tell stories are not yet invented,” says co-founder Brandon Oldenburg, “so we’re dabbling in both augmented and virtual reality.”
Starting to discover as I did that Shreveport-Bossier is way different from what you imagined?
Meet the Movie Maker Will Broyles
So what if Elvis “has left the building” was first uttered in Shreveport? Don’t lots of places applaud lots of famous moments?
Something’s different about the way local boy – as Southerners are prone to say – Broyles records moments of Louisiana North history.
He has an uncanny clear eye to see relationships of various “happened here first” moments and weaves them into documentaries. Short ones, just like the Louisiana Film Prize.
They’ll be available to download this spring, but do plan a visit for the next unveiling in his series of 20 documentaries called “The Shape of Shreveport.”
That will happen in a handsome theater named The Strand on Jan. 28 — a 1925 Baroque vaudeville and movie theater, now restored to the tune of $9 million as an elegant yet welcoming non-profit performance space.
The next four shorts are:
- Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) the musician
- Civil War in Shreveport
- Barksdale Air Force Base
- Baseball history in Shreveport
Considering the insight I gained from the first four, I know this movie-viewing gives real depth to visitor encounters.
Contemplating Broyles’ film “When 2 Kings Came to Town” armed me to really feel the energies in the Municipal Auditorium.
Who knew to get the order right? See short documentary, then visit places. Perhaps that should be the travel plan in cities with major movie industries like Shreveport.
Elvis is one of those kings in the film; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the other. Broyles serves up scholarly and friendly insight into the confluence in time.
Follow a Movie Trail
There’s a film trail you can follow in northwest Louisiana if your family likes to see the places in their real time where time was adjusted for the cameras.
Put the QR reader code in your phone to access extra information. I tried it in a cozy little town named Minden where The Guardian and Olympus Has Fallen and at least 10 other films have been filmed.
Never matter that you haven’t seen “Harold and Kumar,” the escape-from-Guantanamo Bay movie filmed here. Me either. But you’ll love overnighting in Minden at the Fitzgerald House where some of the scenes were filmed.
Grand history in this 113-year-old home. Reason enough to stay. Add in reality family stories as the proprietor — serving an elegant breakfast on the home’s original dining room table — tells about watching the real-deal filming with her teenage boys in their home.
Scandalous stuff. And that’s why my Louisiana North experience kept embracing just the opposite of movies – reality in the places the movies happen.
But here I could access the magic and the mystery and the fantasy – and the people at home, during the annual Louisiana Film Prize, and all year round.