News Article | 3/16/2007

Lights! Camera! Festival!

Growing up in Oklahoma, movies were an introduction to the world for Leiner Temerlin.

“I was born in a very small town,” says Temerlin, who hails from Ardmore. “The way we got wind of the world was through movies.”

Temerlin, the advertising luminary who helped start the Dallas-based Temerlin McClain ad agency, still watches from five to eight movies a week with his wife, Karla, for the “sheer joy of it.”

Now Temerlin — who left the agency, now called TM, in 2004 — has poured his passion for movies and his gratitude to a city that has “been good to the Temerlins” into establishing a film festival here: the AFI Dallas International Film Festival.

It’s a pioneering event he hopes will raise Dallas’ profile in the film industry and, ultimately, attract more film production to the area.

The festival’s roughly 200 film screenings and related events will be held at Victory Park and various venues around town from March 22 to April 1.

The decision by the Los Angeles-based American Film Institute to license its name for the first time is due to Temerlin’s efforts. He has committed to chairing AFI Dallas International for the next three years.

The nonprofit AFI is dedicated to the art of film, television and digital media, hosting the AFI Los Angeles Film Festival every year. The L.A. festival, which presents about 150 films, attracts around 65,000 attendees over the course of 10 days.

But AFI is perhaps best known for its concept called “100 Years, 100 Movies.” That idea, which was Temerlin’s brainchild, has turned into an annual TV show recognizing the 100 best American films as selected by a panel of artists, critics, historians and scholars.

Under its agreement with AFI, the Dallas group has rights to the AFI name and will receive AFI consulting for the next three years.

During an interview with Temerlin at the bustling AFI offices nearby Victory Park — offices that are “on loan” from Hillwood — it’s clear that his goals for the festival are big.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be small by choice, and certainly not in this Texas environment,” he said.

Target, Victory Park, American Airlines, Blockbuster, Bank of America, Jones Day, Neiman Marcus and other corporations have signed on as festival sponsors.

In all, Temerlin says he’s raised about $4.4 million for AFI Dallas in cash and in-kind donations.

Of that, about $2.7 million in cash will be spent to cover festival production costs including transportation, administration, building maintenance and film expenses.

Asked about the potential economic impact of the inaugural AFI Dallas festival, Temerlin said it’s still unclear. “It’s difficult to tell the first time out of the park,” he said.

However, applying a general rule of thumb, an event can generate as much as 10 times the original investment, he said. By that measure, the festival’s investment of $2.7 million could yield an economic impact of about $27 million, Temerlin said.

AFI Dallas declined to project attendance figures, saying only that the festival’s ultimate success will depend on whether movie enthusiasts in Dallas and outlying suburbs will make multiple treks to various venues during the 11-day event.

The festival is attracting about 200 film-industry professionals, including some highly recognizable Hollywood names, some of whom will receive the festival’s so-called Star Award.

The Star Award — sponsored by Neiman Marcus — will be presented to actress Lauren Bacall, lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, film industry veteran Jack Valenti, director David Lynch and composer Marvin Hamlisch. Actresses Laura Dern and actress/director Sarah Polley will also receive a Star. Gregory Peck will be honored posthumously on the 45th anniversary of the film “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in which he starred.

The Hollywood glitterati also will serve as “ultimate movie guides” on various panel discussions.

“You will hear what the artists are trying to achieve,” Temerlin said. “There are going to be various docents, from actors and director to composers, telling us what they were trying to achieve and what the film was about.”

Actor/director “Sydney Pollack (who directed “Tootsie”), the Bergmans and Marvin Hamlisch are three of those great artists,” Temerlin said. “That says a lot about the road we are going down.”

Trayc Claybrook, a digital film and video instructor at the Art Institute of Dallas, believes the AFI festival has the potential to shine a “bright light” on the Dallas film community.

“They are going to try to make this a destination festival, and that will be great for the city of Dallas,” Claybrook said. “My hope is that it helps bring awareness to the potential the city has, the film industry in general and the filmmakers that are here.”

Some, however, have questioned whether the AFI festival might detract from other local film festivals such as the USA Film Festival, the Dallas Video Festival and The Vistas Film Festival.

The Deep Ellum Film Festival closed when its director, Michael Cain, left to lead AFI Dallas as its CEO and artistic director.

“I think AFI could only help Dallas,” Claybrook said. “If Dallas can hitch itself on a hip, modern film festival, it can only benefit from that.”

Temerlin stresses that the AFI Festival is not “rewrapping the Deep Ellum Festival.”

The AFI Dallas festival has partnered with an Asian film festival and other existing festival groups, which are hosting some screenings.

“I don’t think anything bad will come out of it,” said Chiho Mori, executive director of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. “This will bring attention to Dallas’s growing film community. I think everybody can benefit from it.”

Showcasing Dallas assets

Dallas is often overlooked by the film industry in favor of Austin, with its “cool” reputation. The South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival and SXSW Music & Media Conference, which are marketed together, generated an economic impact of $38 million for the capital city last year.

Although there will be nods to Texan filmmakers at the AFI Dallas festival, the objective here is to be recognized as a truly international festival, Temerlin said. There will be more than 20 films, documentaries or short films from 40 countries.

“I think we need to beat our own drum a lot more,” Temerlin said of the grand plans. “Dallas culture is something to brag about.”