A day at Thin Line: Experience the five-day film, music and photo festival

A day at Thin Line: Experience the five-day film, music and photo festival

A day at Thin Line: Experience the five-day film, music and photo festival
April 23
09:23 2018

Every year deep in the heart of Denton, people from all around the world come to the Thin Line Fest to throw a five-day celebration of film, photography and music. This year’s festival lasted from April 18 to April 22 and offered hundreds of opportunities to see these different art forms from local and out-of-town artists all around Downtown Denton.

Throughout the festival’s 14 venues, each moment is a new opportunity to be surrounded by local and out-of-town creativity. This is a glimpse into what a day at this year’s Thin Line Fest was like:

Hickory Street Office photo gallery: A celebration of real-life art

Light shines in through the windows of the Hickory Street Office doors and onto the photographs being displayed inside. Knowing her photo is on one of the display boards in the lobby, 20-year-old concert photographer Abby Stanford walks in off the Square to find it.

“I took that,” she said when she saw it for the first time in the gallery.

She remembers the moment it was captured: the band LANY was playing at the House of Blues in Dallas, and she was sitting in her favorite spot, looking at the concert from above through her lens.

Photographer Abby Stanford shows her photo she submitted for the Thin Line photo contest. Will Baldwin

“I went up on the balcony, climbed four flights of stairs for this spot and tucked myself away in a little corner,” Stanford said. “I love overhead crowd shots because you can see how many people are swamping over this one human being, so it’s fun.”

Now, photo of LANY lead singer Paul Klein, titled “The Breakup,” is a finalist in Thin Line’s photo contest.

“It’s fun seeing your work up on a wall for other people to come and see,” Stanford said. “I have a website, I have an Instagram and all that stuff, but it’s fun to see a physical copy of your art in front of people’s faces.”

The piece hanging in the Hickory Street Office gallery is one of four Stanford submitted to the contest. Out of the 720 submissions from 212 different photographers, her work caught the attention of Thin Line’s photography board.

“Her concert photography is from such a different angle and a fresh perspective,” Thin Line director of photography Al Key said. “It’s hard to get a moment, and I think Abby really catches some moments with her photography.”

Each of the three photo galleries at Thin Line showcases the real-life moments captured by photographers in Denton and across the nation. The festival also gives Denton locals like Stanford the opportunity to share their love for photography in the town they call home, which makes the festival even more special.

“It’s fun to bring people from across the nation and get to meet them and show them our art and our town,” Stanford said. “I just think it’s really cool that Thin Line happens in Denton — I love it.”

The Campus Theatre: Historical night for a historically impactful film

As the sun begins to go down on the third day of Thin Line, festival goers file into the green seats of the Campus Theatre to view the world premiere of “Dodging Bullets.”

Moments before the lights dim, co-director Bob Trench and special guest Meskwaki Native American Dirk Whitebreast are brought on stage to introduce the documentary film, which focuses on the effects of historical trauma in the Native American population.

Dirk Whitebreast (left) and Bob Trench (right) talk about their film “Dodging Bullets” with moderator Paul Meltzer (middle) after their premier at Thin Line Film Festival. Will Baldwin 

“The film was made for non-Natives,” Trench said. “Even from Minnesota — where I’m from — which is a big Indian [state], they don’t know these stories.”

The project took four years to complete after extensive research, many interviews and a great amount of collaboration with Native Americans to make sure their stories were told truthfully.

Whitebreast is one of the many Natives connected to the film. He is part of the Meskwaki tribe in Iowa and became a long-distance runner after his 18-year-old sister committed suicide 11 years ago, an issue many Natives consider to be “an epidemic.” Now, he tells his story of resilience and challenges the stereotypical views most of the country has about Native Americans.

“Films like these are important because you can have a person who has no idea what our world is like, what we go through, and one right word could change their mind,” Whitebreast said.

When the filmmakers were choosing where to premiere “Dodging Bullets,” they had many options. But the DFW area’s historical connection to the film’s subject matter is what made them choose Thin Line.

“We chose it because the Indian relocation program in the ’50s brought a lot of Native people to the Dallas metroplex area,” Trench said. “Bringing it here was more important because it tells a big story about educating people and letting them know what’s going on in Indian country today.”

The film is one of six documentaries world premiering at Thin Line. The festival’s film team was honored when they found out Dodging Bullets had entrusted Denton with the important premiere.

“The reason they made this film is that there aren’t many films like it,” Thin Line film director Susan Carol Davis said. “I think we’re showing something that is unique because it’s not a film that’s often made, therefore it’s an important one to honor and see.”

As the credits rolled across the screen of the Campus Theatre, the audience applauded. It is the response the filmmakers were hoping for, and as they look beyond the world premiere at Thin Line, they are hopeful for the impact the film will have on future generations.

“No documentary films make any money — they are done as either art or they’re done to help elicit change,” Trench said. “’Dodging Bullets’ is here to elicit change.”

Dan’s Silverleaf: Rocking into a new day of Thin Line

It’s a few minutes past midnight, the photo galleries have closed and the last films have been screened for the evening, but Dan’s Silverleaf is alive with music. Members of the community are standing near the stage ready to experience Denton band Mother Tongues’ performance.

Mother Tongues performs at Dan’s Silver Leaf. Will Baldwin

“This is our hometown — it’s awesome to play here,” Mother Tongues lead singer Tyler Spears said. “There’s so much support and so much love. It’s just a super creative and inspiring place to play.”

The band was created three years ago by original members and brothers Tyler and Garrett Spears. Tonight, they are playing at Thin Line for the second year alongside Trent Reeves, Calvin Lebaron and Drew Mealer. The music they create is more experimental than anything, although many describe it as psychedelic rock.

“Mother Tongues have, in a way, started to become like a staple in the fest as far as locals that we continue to work with every year, and it’s a great sound too,” Thin Line co-director of music Dallas Guill said.

The Denton band is one of 44 music acts playing during the five-day festival spread out over four locations. Since the music acts are made up of local and out-of-town artists, Mother Tongues is getting the chance to represent the town they love with fellow musicians they admire.

“Everyone needs a glimpse of what Denton is and bringing in people that have never been here, it’s inspiring,” Garrett Spears said. “Everyone that comes here just has such a good time and I feel like that’s the beauty of it.”

As people come walking through the door in the early morning hours, one day of Thin Line comes to a close and another is welcomed in by the experimental sound of Mother Tongues.

They are just one moving piece of the festival that celebrates the many aspects of art in and outside of Denton. In just one day of Thin Line, original photography is admired, documentary films are seen and live music is enjoyed. And in a few short hours, it will all be happening again.

“Denton is like a Mecca for artists,” Tyler said. “It’s a big city with a small town feel, so to have a festival like this is awesome to see. It gives a chance for everybody to be a part of something.”

Featured Image: Festival goers gather at the Campus Theatre for Thin Line Film Festival. Will Baldwin

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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