Standing outside of Frisco’s Ford Center, a ball whizzed past my face, narrowly missing the bulky camera I carried on a sling over my shoulder. I turned and glanced down at a rosy-cheeked little boy who paused and gave me a sheepish look, before quickly moving on.
I raised my camera and grinned, thinking that was all the dodging I needed to do for that day.
Another ball zipped past me, and I ducked. An adult woman’s voice came right behind me; “Sorry about that.” I turned around and saw her as she ran past. “It’s okay!” I waved her off. She must have been the boy’s mom.
Someone else yelled: “Watch out!” and I quickly got out of the way as a man breezed through, clutching a football.
I couldn’t help but smile as I realized that this interaction would probably set the tone for my photo walk experience at the inaugural North Texas Film Festival (NTXFF).
Films for the Fans
Although sunny, it was a mild day, somewhat unusual for early fall in Texas. In addition to the NTXFF host theater, Cinemark West Plano, host Dallas Film had partnered with The Star in Frisco for “Movie Night” on the lawn of Tostitos Championship Plaza.
Eager cinematic viewers sat on lawn chairs in front of the 2,270-foot video screen overlooking the busy football field. Other participants lay on soft blankets staring up in rapt attention at the screen as the stunning larger-than-life features of Sandra Bullock’s face beamed from high above.
It was a treat for many film and sports-lovers alike to view the 2009 fan-favorite football drama, “The Blind Side”, part of the “NTXFF Movie Night at The Star” lineup.
Those who didn’t want to cease playing football or soccer on the field could continue to do so even as everyone else watched the movie. There was something for everyone on this pleasant Saturday afternoon.
Much to my surprise, I didn’t see anyone get hit by wayward balls during the time that I was there. I suppose I wasn’t the only one at the film festival who had learned how to skillfully dodge flying objects within a short amount of time.
As the movie wrapped, event organizers announced the presence of a special guest. Kids and adults alike were overjoyed when the actor who played Michael Oher, the lead character in the film, showed up to do a brief Q&A session.
Quinton Aaron was approachable, funny, relaxed, and looked sincerely happy to talk to the fans. He told the audience the story of what it was like to work on “The Blind Side” and, of course, gushed about his experience working with Ms. Bullock.
It could have been a great way to close the evening, but the fun was just getting started.
2004’s “Friday Night Lights”, another football drama and part of the NTXFF roster of films, was due to hit the screen that evening.
As the golden hour approached and the temperature cooled down for the onset of nightfall, the family-friendly atmosphere at the festival only seemed to grow. The movie-watching crowd grew and sports-lovers continued to play as families and friends alike joined in on the festivities.
As the night continued, the grounds of the Ford Center hummed with activity, as did the surrounding dining and shopping options in The Star District.
Despite the nonstop activity and crowds during my photo walk at NTXFF, nothing ever felt chaotic or like it was out of place. It felt like exactly the right place for a memorable, outdoor film festival.
A Red Carpet Moment
The next day, I continued my coverage of the North Texas Film Festival, this time to attend the red carpet events, interviews, and film screenings at Cinemark West Plano.
As a Frisco ISD photography student with far more than a passing interest in cinema, including the art and business of motion pictures, this was a remarkable opportunity. I found myself inspired as I listened to filmmakers, their cast, and crew talk about their respective passions for storytelling. They described the nuts and bolts of their craft in an intimate setting, almost as though sharing insider secrets of their business.
I took photos of the cast and crew of the film, “This World Won’t Break”, an excellent film shot and produced locally in Dallas. I also connected with the producers of “The Tony Alva Story”, a stirring documentary about the oldest professional skateboarder in the world.
To bring the experience full circle, I had the opportunity to shoot a red carpet photo of Johnathan Brownlee, the CEO of Dallas Film and Executive Director of NTXFF.
It was the final day of The Festival. It was late in the afternoon and everything was drawing to a close. As I began to pack up my photography equipment, I noticed a flash of movement whip past me, narrowly missing my camera.
I turned around to see the smiling face of a young skateboarder who pointed emphatically at my camera. There were several of these athletic fellows doing their thing on the Cinemark grounds throughout the day, special guests of the filmmakers of the Tony Alva Story.)
“Hey,” he said, “Where can I see these pictures that you took?”
I smiled and thought about all the times I learned how to be quick on my feet and dodge fast-moving objects during my time covering the inaugural North Texas Film Festival. Maybe these skills will come in handy. Maybe this won’t be the last time I’ll do this…
Luckily, it won’t take long for me to find out. Dallas Film has confirmed that there will be another NTXFF next year and organizers are nailing down the dates as we speak.
It sounds like the event was a success for everyone.