Celluloid Zealots on the March

IFC's 'Ultimate Film Fanatic' gets Austinized

It began last fall with a group of self-confessed film geeks – über-geeks, to be fair, the kind of rabid film fanatics who might as well have their names legally changed to IMDb, except that those particular letters are already a registered trademark. Three Austinites, Reel Women founder Sherry Mills, Brad Baylor, and Charles Stewart, along with San Antonio's Kevin Cacy, Dallas' Amy Polk, and Grand Prairie's James Wright, scored so well in the initial rounds of the Independent Film Channel's Ultimate Film Fanatic game show that they soon found themselves flown out to Los Angeles to participate in a mind-boggling television trivia match hosted by Film Threat founder Chris Gore and judged by no less than former Black Flagger Henry Rollins, former Paper Moonie Tatum O'Neal, and once-upon-a-Clocker Keith David.

"The Austin people had to be probably the best group that we had," notes Gore, adding, "I don't need to tell you that Austin audiences are huge film fanatics. I mean, it's a film town, so they ended up being our best group and, also, I think it was the only group we had where we actually had a contestant cry! But it's tough, you know? You have these people who have spent a lifetime in pursuit of their passion, which is movies, and here they get their one shot to shine. This is the show that celebrates film geeks, of which I've been one since I saw Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was 5! But here on this show is their one shot, and if you get a bad question, or the judges don't like what they've heard ... then you're off, and that's it. It's rough."

Local film guru Charles Stewart describes UFF as a three-part game show, with the first part composed of trivia questions; a second, "Ultimate Debate," where contestants debate the merits of film; followed by a "grown-up version of show and tell using film memorabilia that the contestants brought themselves."

Those film freaks and former hardcore punk rockers (the two groups tend to overlap quite a bit, especially in Austin) who have yet to catch IFC's new season might not realize that muscle-bound poet-cum-pop-culture icon Rollins also has his own film program on the pay cable network, aptly enough titled Henry's Film Corner – you can check out the hilarious promo spot at www.ifctv.com/henry if you're so inclined.

"We were only there for two days," adds an excitable Stewart, who nonetheless calls the experience "the bomb."

"We got to do everything you'd want to do: We went to [L.A. landmark] In-N-Out Burger, we got to hang out with Jason Mewes at Kevin Smith's View Askew – it was a blast."

Lips are sealed as to who, exactly, walked off with the title of Ultimate Film Fanatic (those pesky NDAs, natch), but the smart money's on the Austin crew for the obvious reasons. Ladies and gentleman, Team Geek are go!

An Ultimate Film Fanatic Party and screening will take place Friday, Feb. 18, 8pm, at Ringers Sports Lounge, 415 Colorado. The show airs at 9:30pm and again at 12:30am on 22 hi-def plasma televisions and "two really big screens." Prizes, yet more trivia, and libations galore to boot. More info? Call Sherry Mills at 971-1663.

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