Festival Press

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Festival Press2018-07-24T16:46:10+00:00

2018 Press

Fortunately for moviegoers, the days of silent films are long gone. But sound in films, perhaps, doesn’t always get the credit it deserves.

“Movies without music would be like watching a PowerPoint,” filmmaker Michael Samstag said. “When you look at the best films made, the soundtrack is such a memorable part of it.”

That’s why Samstag is organizing the fourth Scruffy City Film & Music Festival, which will celebrate sound in film through screenings, panels and concerts Thursday through Sunday in Knoxville.


Cinema at its most incisive when it finds art imitating reality and leaves the audience with lessons learned in the process. Suffice it to say, “American Folk” is that kind of film. It stars real life folkies Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth as Elliot and Amber, two musicians who are left stranded in L.A. after their flight home to New York is grounded in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on New York City. Although the two start out as strangers, they decide to form a bond and embark on a cross-country journey in a rusted out, dilapidated 1972 Chevy Van hoping to somehow get across the country safely and securely. The journey is a memorable one, offering opportunity to rediscover a mutual love of music and with it, the healing and solace it provides.

For Rubarth in particular, the film resonated in a very real way.


You might say Michael Samstag knows a little something about film. The founder of the not-for-profit production company Rescue Doc Films with business partner Josh Gildrie, he’s focused on making movies with a strong social message.

The description on the Rescue Doc Films website describes the company’s goals: “Through the creation of media focused on the discovery and sharing of life-experiences that educate, inspire and entertain, our mission is to present — via documentaries and other forms of video — methods and practices aimed toward mitigating human and animal suffering. The result is an expanding series of films and videos of people making a difference and being the exemplars for a healthier world. In addition to documentary films, Rescue Docs also specializes in putting film to work for non-profits.”

Samstag is also a primary mover and shaker in the Scruffy City Film and Music Festival, an event which is now in its 8th year. It was the outgrowth of an organization called Knoxville Films, an organization which initially challenged filmmakers to make a movie in 9 hours which would then be screened immediately after. The concept was intriguing, but in 2010, the festival opted for a different approach in 2010, lessening the stress by opting for 24 hour filmmaking projects instead of the 9.


2017 Press

Anyone who has ever loved an old dog will love the idea behind filmmaker Melissa Dowler’s “Adele and Everything After,” though they may be given a moment’s pause by the film’s seemingly sad implications. The movie follows a Boston woman named Marty who suffers from a rare heart condition, and who receives a new lease on life courtesy of a big-eyed black Labrador service dog named Adele.

But with Adele entering her golden years, Marty faces the daunting twin challenges of finding a new canine companion possessed of Adele’s singular abilities, and of letting go of the relationship that has defined and transformed her life for nearly nine years.

But just what does “letting go” mean? Dowler doesn’t want to give away too much, but she acknowledges most dog lovers will probably need a little reassurance on the front end. “There is what you’d call a happy ending,” she says. “But it is a very emotional journey. We warn people to bring Kleenexes, but to know that in the end it will be okay.”


Scruffy City Film, Music Fest gets a soul party, courtesy of Alanna Royale

By Steve Wildsmith at The Daily Times

On stage, Alanna Quinn-Broadus is a shimmying, sassy show woman, a bandleader whose charisma and attitude make her — and her band, Alanna Royale — the life of the party.

These days, she told The Daily Times this week, the songs they create are drawing equal amounts of attention and admiration.

“People liked us as a bunch of showboats — ‘Look what we can play, look how I can sing, look at these breakbeats we can do, look at how mouthy Alanna is,’” she said. “People were like, ‘We love the show!,’ but nobody was saying, ‘I love the songs.’ It became apparent that the songs were not the first thing that grabbed people.


Festival Director, Michael Samstag on WATE

2016 Press

Scruffy City Film & Music Festival headliner Ben Sollee contemplates home

Written by KnoxvilleUrbanGuy

By Steve Wildsmith stevew@thedailytimes.com 

Cellist Ben Sollee is the sort of musician who’s constantly seeking insight through art — his own, and that of others.

One such “earth-shifting” moment, he told The Daily Times this week, came in 2012, when his fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry gave the annual Jefferson Lecture to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Titled “It All Turns on Affection,” Berry talked about the links people have to the land; for Sollee, who’s always identified proudly as a native of the Bluegrass State, it helped to clarify his musical mission.

“As Wendell Berry points out, we don’t protect the places that we don’t love, and you love the places you know well,” Sollee said. “It’s almost a spiritual act to live in a place and be in a place, and that really helped me as a musician to see a path forward with music as a technology. It’s a really good technology for building affection for people who can’t get to a place.”

Driving through the impoverished regions of his home state, he began to see things in a new light — the migration of life from the center of towns and communities where church steeples were once the tallest landmarks for miles around to nearby bypasses and highways, where garish billboards and modern strip malls beckon. Such expansion, he said, is mirrored by American society at large — and ruminations on those things drive his latest series of works, EPs titled “Steeples,” the most recent of which was released last month.


Filmmaker Ethan Warren discusses his debut feature “West of Her”

Filmmaker Ethan Warren discuss his debut feature “West of Her.” Warren’s film will premiere Saturday, April 30 at Scruffy City Hall in Knoxville, TN during the Scruffy City Film & Music Festival.


2016 Scruffy City Film & Music Festival Expands Programming, Looks to the Future

In Program Notes by Coury TurczynLeave a Comment

With its most high-profile feature film selections yet—including Ethan Hawke’s much-buzzed-about Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue—this year’s Scruffy City Film & Music Festival promises to fulfill its unique mission of celebrating “the musical heart and soul of film.” But the April 26-May 1 event is also facing a crossroads, according to longtime festival director Michael Samstag.


2015 Press

With ‘Danny Says’, Documentary Filmmaker Brendan Toller Reveals One of Rock’s Essential Trendsetters

KNOXVILLE MERCURY | by Coury Turczyn | 

Danny Fields has probably had a more lasting influence on contemporary rock ’n’ roll than most record-label executives, producers, critics, and, for that matter, rock stars. Yet he’s probably one of the least-known figures in modern music history, and it’s highly doubtful he’ll ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He didn’t so much try to shape the industry through force of will as through his taste for truly rebellious music—and by being in the right place at the right time.


Sussing out Scruffy City Music Festival


If you were as excited as we were last year at the settling of Knoxville Film and Music Festival over in Scruffy City Hall, all I can say is: Prepare to change your shorts, Jake. Because the festival is back, bigger and better than ever. And with a new name, no less—Scruffy City Film and Music Festival, in honor of both the city and the venue which are now its permanent home.

That’s right, from the opening-night party, 6 p.m. April 28 at Scruffy City Hall through the closing night awards gala May 3, the festival will encompass six days of movies, music, mayhem, and libational over-indulgence for local cineastes and music lovers alike.
Highlights include band and singer-songwriter competitions; a composer’s challenge, for film score artistes; and a host of themed film-short nights, for dramatic shorts and sci-fi shorts and animated shorts and music shorts and Cargo shorts…
Okay, no. We were just kidding about that last one. There will be absolutely no Cargo shorts allowed on the premises, on pain of death and public humiliation.


If you were as excited as we were last year at the settling of Knoxville Film and Music Festival over in Scruffy City Hall, all I can say is: Prepare to change your shorts, Jake.
Mike Gibson, Scruffington Post

History in the Making


…Samstag decided it was time for a new kind of competition that emphasizes the craft of composition. He created FILM SCORE, which celebrates the music that drives the film, and the composers and artists that make films come alive. The concept is bold and is broken down to three primary elements: Films in Competition, Music Composer Challenge, and the Music Video Challenge.

“All Films in Competition must have a musical theme or an outstanding score or soundtrack to be considered,” says Samstag. “The feature film with the best score will be given a headline screening.”

To ensure objectivity, 30 programmers were assembled to grade the films, which was a daunting task for the team.

“We had over 380 submissions and programmed a little over 70 films,” says Samstag. “We had to turn away some truly incredible films; what’s left is truly the best of the best.”

“Our Film Programmer, James McNally also did a tremendous job soliciting top films like Danny Says, which premiered at SXSW,” says Samstag.



2014 PRESS

Now Playing: “South Park” producers Eric Stough and Frank Agnone, appearing at Knoxville Film and Music Festival

Black Friday


As a kid growing up in Evergreen, Col., obsessed with movies and TV, Eric Stough’s dream job was to work on the Muppet Show. What he got instead was sort of the stoner-funhouse version of the that childhood dream, landing a gig as co-producer of South Park, everyone’s favorite absurdist black-comic animated hit about foul-mouthed little kids living in a sleepy mountain town.

“It really is a dream come true to work with people of that level of creativity,” Stough says, in a recent phone interview. “Going to work every day is like hanging out with your friends.”

It probably seems that way because Stough truly is “hanging out with friends” when he arrives at the South Park studio every day. SP co-creator Trey Parker is a childhood pal, dating back to junior high school days in Evergreen. And he met SP’s other creator, Matt Stone, a few years later, in college; Stone appeared in Stough’s senior thesis film.


Hollywood culture visits the Scruffy City

Published: Wed Jun 11, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 8.31.47 AMCelebrating its fifth year, the Knoxville 24 Hour Film Festival has expanded into a two-week celebration of not only film, but music and production.

Now the Knoxville Film and Music Festival, the exhibition draws large crowds to Scruffy City Hall from all corners of the country and beyond to celebrate artistic ingenuity from an array of genres.

The festivities coalesced into a jubilant froth this past weekend, filling Scruffy City Hall to capacity Saturday evening for the Band Eat Band competition and offering an abundant variety of local film and musical options.

The fun has only just begun, said festival director Michael Samstag.


‘Papaya’ Brings the Party to Knoxville

Words by Brittany Norvell | The Waster

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 8.58.06 AMThe world premiere of “Papaya: Make Some Noise!” will debut June 12th at this year’s Knoxville Film & Music Festival. The documentary covers the wildly fun summer long beach party, affectionately knows as Papaya. Nestled next to the Adriatic Sea on the beautiful Zrće Beach on the island of Pag, Croatia, Papaya brings together some of the worlds greatest EDM DJ’s. The yearly event now boasts crowds of more than 500,000 music lovers each season coming from all over the world for a one of a kind concert experience.


Now Playing: “Led Zeppelin Played Here”, screening at Scruffy City Hall w/ the Knoxville Film and Music Festival


Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 8.00.59 PMMaryland native Jeff Krulik is a former Discovery Channel producer, and he has a long history as an independent filmmaker, with a vast oeuvre of movies exploring the weird fringes of subculture in the United States.

But the Krulik film that most people will recognize is the 1986 underground phenomenon Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a documentary about teenage tailgaters outside of a Judas Priest concert at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. That may change soon, though, because Kulik’s latest full-length feature, Led Zeppelin Played Here, has the makings of a new cult classic.

LZPH is, at once, a documentary, a mystery, and a meditation on how the cultural institution known as the Rock Concert became ascendant. Through a combination of found footage and interviews, the movie looks to uncover the truth behind a local legend, following the cold trail of a decades-old rumor that the infamous heavy rock juggernaut Led Zeppelin played one of its earliest shows at a tiny Wheaton, Md. community center, a few miles north of Washington, D.C.


Live and Breathing team showcases music videos at Knoxville Film & Music Fest

By Steve Wildsmith | The Daily Times

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.20.05 PMOne thing Justin Glanville noticed about music, as an off-and-on musician himself and a fan of it — the energy a band gives off during intimate practice sessions was a different thing altogether than the showmanship exuded on stage.

In front of a live audience, bands don’t just play songs; they banter with the crowd, gently direct fans to the merchandise table, take requests, deal with hecklers and try to build and maintain a level of energy that will propel the show to heights of greatness. Take away the audience, and the focus shifts entirely to the song, and that fascinated Glanville.


Q&A: Documentary Filmmaker Scott Colthorp

By Coury Turczyn | Metro Pulse

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 8.36.16 AMFor many years, director Scott Colthorp’s Atmosphere Pictures created beautiful images out of its Old City offices for national clients such as HGTV, A&E, Discovery Channel, Lifetime, History Channel, and more. These days, his base of operations is mostly in Brooklyn, where he can be found working 16-hour days, but he still spends time in Knoxville. (“My drive from NYC to Knoxville is where I often find my peace,” he says.) Much of his professional production work has been for hire, but in 2011 he made his first documentary, Trek Nation, an examination of how Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek has affected people’s lives.

For his newest personal project, Blackout: On Swan Pond, he returned to East Tennessee—but worlds away from pop culture. Blackout looks at the impact of TVA’s 2008 ash spill in Kingston, both environmentally and on residents in the Swan Pond community. One aspect that made the project both easier and more complicated is that TVA is also a client of Colthorp’s—so, while he was able to gain access to the utility company, he had to overcome skepticism from residents in order to document a full picture of the crisis.