Friday, April 12, 2013

Follow the Leader heads to ETSU

Our Southern Circuit tour started off at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. Arriving in town after spending the previous weekend getting into the Southern swing in Oak Ridge a couple hours away, the ETSU Pride signs were everywhere on arrival – this University where we'd be screening was clearly the focal point of the city, and a budding powerhouse educationally in the region. I was lucky enough to come across Cootie Brown's restaurant while driving along the highway (pictured), and when I asked the students what I should check out while in the area, they all agreed: “Go to ETSU!” That's not something I hear everywhere I go, I must say!

After checking-in at the Red Roof Inn – where the proprietor had charmingly matched his tie to both his watch and the monogrammed initials on his shift (all lime green) – I headed over to ETSU to meet our principal host Anita DeAngelis, Director of the Mary B. Martin School for the Arts. We were honored to find that we would be screening the film on what was in fact the 5th anniversary of the death of Mary B. Martin herself – who I understand was an early investors in both Microsoft and Lowes before becoming one of the most generous benefactors in the local region along with her husband, who continues to carry on their good works. Less fortunate in terms of our timing was that the screening was being held on the night of the NCAA Men's Basketball final game...while on campus, earlier in the evening there was a big meeting on campus to discuss bringing a football team to ETSU for the first time next year. I met one-on-one with students studying film production, and then enjoyed some great pizza and discussion with our local hosts at the Main Street Pizza Company in downtown Johnson City.

While sports seems to trump the arts most places most of the time, we nonetheless had a great screening with 50-60 loyal documentary fans coming out. I understand there were more students from the video production class in the audience than before, as their Professor was so kind to tell me. During the screening, I texted film participant D.J. to let him know that ETSU had included his face inside the “o” in “to” in their Spring events program, which carries the tagline “Dare to Imagine” (see pictured). The questions following the screening were all thoughtful and thought-provoking, and then an all-friendly group (see picture, photo credit Lise Cutshaw) stayed around to continue discussing the film over cheese, crackers, punch, and other assorted snacks – with enough extra fruit for me to take home for the following morning!

Everyone involved with FOLLOW THE LEADER is very grateful to our hosts Anita, Shara Lange, Heidi Ehle, Lise Cutshaw, Jeff & Joe in projection – and to everyone who came out to make it an engaging night...and a great way to start off our tour!

- Jonathan Goodman Levitt