Inaugural Round Top Film Festival Announced

Film fest in Texas' antiques capital accepting submissions now

Festival Hall at the the Round Top Festival Institute, the center of this year's inaugural Round Top Film Festival. The planned three-day event is intended to be a destination festival, much like Santa Barbara or Mill Valley. (Image Courtesy of Round Top Film Festival)

Round Top may be known as the antiques capital of Texas, but it's hoping to become famous as a center for cinema with the announcement today of the first ever Round Top Film Festival.

The new festival is scheduled for Nov. 7-10, with plans to screen 40 films, including narratives, documentaries, shorts, features, music videos, and a celebration of Lone Star State cinema in Texas Throwbacks. The organizers are taking submissions from filmmakers via now.

That November date places the inaugural RTFF in between the end of Austin Film Festival and the beginning of Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival – but also after the town's biggest tourist attractor of the season, the Fall Antiques Fair, has wrapped.

Mother and daughter festival founders Shanna and Skylar Schanen were keeping an eye on both the festival and city events calendars when considering their event. They were also very aware of Round Top’s rising reputation as a vacation destination (resulting in its nickname of the Aspen of Texas), making the drive from Austin, or Dallas, or Houston more than worth the effort.

Indeed, the location came first. “We were looking for something to do in Round Top,” Shanna said, “and then we were thinking, well, what is it that our family does, and Skylar’s in film.”

As an actor, writer, and director, the Texas native and Chapman University student has been through the festival wringer herself, and while she’s had “amazing experiences” at some, she also had some clear ideas about how she would like to see them change. “There’s been times where there are way too many films selected, and the filmmakers don’t get their time under the spotlight to have their stuff showcased and talk about it.”

With the idea of a film festival, and the desire to host an event in Round Top, “The town itself is so artistic,” Skylar said, “and in the past few years it’s expanded so much. We just thought it would be such a shame if we didn’t get to start this.”

They started reaching out to the community and immediately received positive responses (Skylar noted that even the waiters at her favorite restaurant were excited about the idea). After all, Round Top has already become a cultural destination, and the duo are keying into that legacy with their choice of venue, as the festival will be centered around a place more used to classical music than classic movies: the expansive campus of the Round Top Festival Institute. Shanna explained festival founder and Creative Director James Dick has quickly become one of the festival’s biggest supporters. “He told me, ‘I have always wanted to do a film festival. You are making my dreams come true. I just never knew how to do it.’”

As first-timers running a film festival the mother and daughter looked for experts and found one in Mickey Duzdevich. Currently the film festival specialist at Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, he's probably best known for his 15 years as senior programmer for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. However, they were also able to tap into Austin’s deep history of festivals and its incredible talent pool: so Brandy Fons of fest veterans Fons PR introduced them to other experts like former Fantastic Fest director Kristen Bell, and Dakota Milam, who for years was responsible for the Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow and therefore more than used to turning unusual venues like the Festival Hall into temporary cinemas. With experience like that to rely on, Shanna said, “it’s all gonna work.”

Shanna explained that she wanted the festival to have a “laid-back feel.” At the same time the mother and daughter want to accentuate Round Top’s history, as a first stop in the region for many settlers, and as a party destination to this day. “We always call it ‘the lawless land,’” Skylar said, “so with the film festival we want to tie in the rowdy roots of the Western and the town itself.”

After all, the idea was always to bring something new to Round Top, both culturally and economically. “We’re going to put heads in beds,” Shanna said.

And, as Skylar always envisioned, there will be an emphasis on forums for filmmakers to engage with one another. “We’re going to have podcasts and Q&As that will be informative and educational, not just that you show up, have a few drinks, watch your movie, maybe win an award. With this one I want people to be excited every year because not only will they get to watch their film, but they’ll also get to meet and learn from some people who have actually really made it in the industry.”

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Round Top Film Festival, Round Top Festival Institute, Skylar Schanen, Shanna Schanen, Mickey Duzdevich

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