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Tennessee International Indie Film Festival Coming to the Franklin Theatre August 1 – 6

In 1923, Tennessee welcomed its first Hollywood feature film shoot. The film, produced by Metro Pictures (now MGM), was called “The Human Mill” and depicted the historic Battle of Franklin. It generated such excitement that schools and businesses closed, hundreds of townspeople showed up to play bit parts (some wearing authentic Civil War uniforms) and 12,000 people lined the roads leading to the location – a Franklin farm known as “the Old Fly Place” - to watch the filming. Sadly, the movie never made it to the big screen. “The director, Allen Holubar, who worked for D.W. Griffith, died before it was completed, and the footage no longer exists,” says Nancy Puetz, president of the Williamson County Cultural Arts Commission and founder/director of the Tennessee International Indie Film Festival (TIIFF).

This August, TIIFF will commemorate 100 years of film in Tennessee by hosting six days and nights of screenings, live music and Q&A’s at the downtown Franklin Theatre. This will be the seventh year for the festival, which began when Nancy organized screenings at a Nashville film school and then at Academy Park, the Mockingbird Theatre and Spring Hill's Worldwide Stages.

“Now, the festival will return downtown and create a ‘Sundance ambiance’ in Franklin,’” she says. “With so many film people and artists living here, we really needed a festival to celebrate with our local population.”

Nancy grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Franklin with her husband Jerry in 2006 when he was transferred by Nissan. They’ve been married 36 years and their four children work in the arts as a ballet répétiteur, a tattoo artist, a writer and a film industry professional.

Her film career began in the 1970s as a runner for the movie “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.” “I would bring huge film cans from the Utah set to Los Angeles, wait at Technicolor for them to be processed, then travel back to Utah with the finished product.” She continued working on features, studied at the University of Utah, met Jerry at a surf party in Huntington Beach, won $31,000 on a game show called “The Joker’s Wild,” and became a board member of Women in Film & Television International, which has 14,000 members from six continents. She volunteered with Tennessee Women in Film and with the Nashville Film Festival but learned that many people in Williamson County weren’t aware that Nashville even had a festival. “I founded TIIFF and now we can host a festival here too.”

The TIIFF runs August 1 – 6 and will showcase 81 films from various genres: comedy, drama, documentary, horror (“but not grisly,” she says), features and shorts. Half of the films are directed by women. Opening night will include a red carpet, live music by Sweepy Walker and Judy Paster, and the 2023 documentary “Facing the Laughter: Minnie Pearl,” about serious Shakespearean actress Sarah Cannon and how she became the happy country character Minnie Pearl with her signature ‘Howdee!’ greeting. The film is directed by Brentwood resident Barbara J. Hall.

Other films being shown include the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival winner “Starring Jerry as Himself,” directed by Law Chen and telling the true story of a Chinese immigrant who was taken for nearly a million dollars by telephone scam artists. “With Peter Bradley” is a documentary about the African-American abstract painter, and “Sold! An American Stockyards Story” is directed by Drew Ames, who grew up selling Angus cattle with his grandpa.

Actors and directors will be on hand for talkbacks after the screenings, including prolific actor Raul Torres and Emmy winner Vincent de Paul, who wrote, directed and stars in “The Genius of Gianni Versace.” “We have such a vibrant arts community here in Franklin,” says Nancy, who, when she’s not at film festivals in Cannes or Sundance, or speaking at international film symposiums, can be found organizing events such as Bluegrass Along the Harpeth, the Celebration of Nations and the Spring Kids Arts Fest. “We’re excited to grow the film festival and make Tennessee a place for filmmakers to gather and share ideas.”

Tickets to the festival can be purchased at the Franklin Theatre box office. For more information about TIIFF, its weekly art shows and free Wednesday movie screenings, visit TIIFF.org.

  • Nancy Puetz (right) with Amy Redford at the Sundance Film Festival