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Its been a busy winter. I’ve been attending some of the biggest film festivals in the country.

Sundance in January. South by Southwest in March.

I’m not going to lie, its a lot of fun. But, as I’ve discovered, its an important part of growing a festival like Hell’s Half Mile. Making connections with distributors, other film festival organizers, directors, producers, film journalists, actors and festival-goers alike has inspired countless ideas and should lead to one helluva fest in Bay City this Fall (and in the years to come).

The main reason for the trip to Austin, Texas; scouting films. I went to several film screenings, along with first-year programmer Inney Prakash, hoping to find some interesting films to bring back to our entire programming team.

We saw comedies about couples exploring their deepest and darkest fantasies, and one about a group of friends getting transported into an 80s horror film. There was a hilarious doc about a comedian on a road trip and one on how the ball taught us to play. Dramas. So many great dramas showing us the future with augmented reality, or unsupervised children, or  how life in a small town can sometimes be more complicated than life in the city.

How did we do? Success! We have several films lined up to view, rate and put into consideration with the many other films submitted. Trust me. It’s a true challenge to narrow the selection down to 18-20 feature length films in the end. There are so many great films out there.

The second goal of the trip brings long term benefits to the festival. Networking.

We met up with Filmwax Radio host Adam Schartoff who was a panel moderator and juror for Hell’s Half Mile in 2013. Adam was kind enough to introduce us to several filmmakers and some familiar faces, like Alex Dobrenko and Chris Doubek who starred in last year’s HHM opener “Arlo and Julie”. Festival friends like Adam not only introduce us to filmmakers in person, time and again he talks about our fest and references his visit to Bay City. It’s great to keep up with such fantastic HHM advocates.

Austin was a beautiful and exciting city. The weather was gorgeous (70s the entire time). There were fun events, some just consisting of free beer and playing with St. Bernard puppies. That’s right! Beer and puppies!

But, its time to look forward. The next destination is New York City and the Tribeca Film Festival, in just a couple weeks! The road to the 10th Annual Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival may seem long with lots of work to be done, but the next six months are going to speed by to my favorite festival in my hometown. There will be films, music, parties and if we’re lucky, puppies. I can’t wait.