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Lexington Film League has a hit in the Harry Dean Stanton Festival

Celebration of character actor and University of Kentucky alum Harry Dean Stanton expands in its second year

rcopley@herald-leader.comMay 17, 2012 

  • IF YOU GO

    Harry Dean Stanton Fest

    May 18: Pretty in Pink (1986), dusk, Triangle Park. Free.

    May 19: Straight Time (1978), 3 p.m. Central Library Farish Theatre, 140 E. Main St. Free.

    May 19: Repo Man (1984), night, film screening and concert by Palisades and special guests. 8 p.m. The Green Lantern, 497 W. Third St. $5.

    May 20: Harry Dean Stanton: Crossing Mullholland (2011), documentary by Tom Thurman. 3 p.m. Farish Theatre. Free.

    May 20: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), followed by discussion with musician and actor Donnie Fritts and filmmaker Tom Thurman. 7 p.m. Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. $5.

    Learn more: Harrydeanstantonfest.com

  • ON THE RADIO

    Hear portions of our interview for this story on Arts Weekly at noon May 19 on WKYL-102.1 FM, and 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. May 20 on WEKU-88.9 FM.

Lucy Jones admits to a somewhat selfish motivation in launching the Harry Dean Stanton Fest.

"I wanted to watch the movies that I love on the big screen and at the Kentucky Theatre," says Jones, whose love affair with film began when she discovered a VHS copy of Cool Hand Luke at her home in Midway when she was growing up during the 1980s.

Luke, like many movies, features a memorable character-role performance by Stanton, a native Kentuckian, and was featured at the inaugural Harry Dean Stanton Festival in February 2011. This year, the festival has moved to warmer months and an all-weekend schedule, starting with a Friday night showing in Triangle Park of the 1986 John Hughes classic Pretty in Pink, featuring Stanton as Molly Ringwald's father.

This year's event will feature a Repo Man party at the Green Lantern, with the Palisades leading a lineup of local artists that will perform music from the movie's soundtrack. The night also will feature a visit by singer and actor Donnie Fritts, who worked with Stanton in a number of movies including Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. That movie will be screened Sunday night at the Kentucky Theatre, followed by a conversation with Fritts.

In just two years, the festival has become the signature event for the Lexington Film League, which was instrumental in bringing Jones back to Lexington from Los Angeles.

Jones, who has a film studies degree from Atlanta's Emory University, worked in public relations in the film industry and owns a vintage clothing business.

The film league was started by Sarah Wylie Smith-Ammerman VanMeter and Kiley Lane, who both also ventured from Kentucky before returning home.

VanMeter was completing her master's degree in filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute when Lane called and asked whether she'd be interested in being part of an organization "that celebrated and created opportunities for filmmakers, local filmmakers, and also brought opportunities to film lovers and audiences," VanMeter says.

The group's first event was a showcase of local filmmakers in the courtyard of the Lexington Art League's home, the Loudoun House on Castlewood Drive.

"Gosh, like 150 people showed up," VanMeter says. "We were not expecting that. When that happened with just a little bit of word of mouth, we realized there was a real need and a real hunger for this in Lexington."

One of those 150 was Jones, who just happened to be in town.

"More and more, I was realizing that I wanted to be in Kentucky again," Jones says. Late in the year, the Film League folks asked Jones whether she wanted to be involved. "I thought about it and said, 'How can I let an opportunity like this pass me by?'"

Plus, she could operate her vintage-clothing business from anywhere.

The League has taken on numerous projects since its inception, including local filmmaker showcases and the do-ers film contest, highlighting local not-for-profit organizations.

Looking at Jones, VanMeter says, "I think the first thing you said was, 'I really want to do a Harry Dean Stanton Festival.'"

Jones had developed a fascination with Stanton, a West Irvine native who graduated from Lafayette High School and attended the University of Kentucky. While at UK, he performed on the stage of the Guignol Theatre under the direction of UK theater icon Wally Briggs.

"I always wanted to celebrate him here, since he's from here," Jones says.

Thus far, Stanton, 85, has not been able to travel back to Lexington for the festival. But Jones got the thrill of a lifetime in going to Los Angeles recently to film a greeting for the festival with Stanton.

"We got almost two hours of footage," Jones says. "We had him introducing the films and talking about the movies he's worked on."

The trip affirmed for Jones that her efforts and admiration were well placed.

"It's always a little bit dangerous to admire somebody that much," Jones says, "Fortunately, Harry Dean the man exceeded Harry Dean the myth. He's just a lovely human being."

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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