When Josh Butler took an energetic leap of faith toward his dream, he didn't exactly land on his feet. It was more like a really bummed film junkie who landed in bankruptcy court. Staring at the floor he shook his head, "Why! Why did we just have to have limos for all the filmmakers?"
Making the great Texas film festival was going to take more than spastic enthusiasm, but Butler learned his lesson: Don't spend money you don't have. The festival and the nonprofit he created to run it, Texas Filmmakers Association, survived intact while he swallowed a $40,000 debt. But since that 2007 Thin Line Film Fest left him broke, the festival has nearly doubled its revenue each year.
The Texas Filmmakers Association, set-up as a nonprofit dedicated to arts education and funded by donations, grants and Thin Line box-office sales, used the money to award grants and scholarships. It set up offices with film-editing stations and provided cameras, lighting and audio gear to members for a small rental fee. A standing tradition is the annual Docu-Denton 7K video race, in which contestants have five days to shoot a documentary on randomly selected subject.
Now in its seventh year, the Thin Line documentary film festival has a reputation for offering a wide variety of international films and increasingly sought-after awards. Sixty films are screened at two venues over the five-day festival with competition categories earning between $300 and $10,000. More than one Sundance winner has traveled straight to Denton to compete (including the makers of Gasland and Blood Brother) and enjoy documentary screenings with locals.
This year the festival is doubling in size to include an entire music program with at least 100 bands at six venues.