Ever have an idea so ridiculous that you think it might actually be brilliant? For the past few months I've been haunted by the phrase "Ed Lauter Film Festival." That would be, as the name implies, an event organized around the most notable works of career character actor Ed Lauter. You might recognize him as That Guy who's in That Movie you like. Or that TV series. Ed Lauter was like an electron, simultaneously everywhere and nowhere at once.

Wait. Hear me out.

An academic friend and I are more than a bit unnaturally obsessed with Mr. Lauter, but the more I thought about our comedic suggestion that he be honored with a film festival the more I thought that it's just stupid enough to work. How could our irony-saturated society fail to love the idea of a festival held in middle America to honor the workhorses of Hollywood…people who form the backbone of your favorite movies and shows, adding layers beneath the leading men and women who get all the attention? Isn't that, like, almost poetic? In addition to being bullshit?

The fact is that I have no idea how one goes about organizing a film festival is an impediment. So is the obvious potential for it to be a disaster with nobody showing up. But if that is the worst thing that can happen, I'm pretty sure that's survivable. I happen to know a number of fairly successful people who might be talked into performing to add more entertainment to wrap around the Lauter films. I know a lot of people who write about movies and movie stuff to a substantial audience. And I can be pretty tenacious once I get obsessed with something.

Good idea, or the best idea? Or is it actually neither of those because it's a terrible idea? Maybe a Friday-Saturday event that wouldn't cost much ($20?) and could offer movies, live music at night, comedy, panel discussions and lectures on Ed Lauter, and more? Sure, it wouldn't exactly be Coachella, but with luck we could pack a whole lot of entertainment for not much money into a weekend. Aside from the potential that nobody would go because it's clearly a nutty idea, what are the most obvious roadblocks I should think about as I move from the "Hmm" phase to actual brainstorming? Do you think anyone (not necessarily you) would come to such a thing?

Moving was a great idea. I feel like doing things again. Even if they are Ed Lauter related and kind of illogical.

44 thoughts on “NPF: MAN OF CHARACTER”

  • Any idea that is sufficiently terrible circles back around to being amazing, as you well know. (Provided it's not of the "let's kill all of THIS kind of people" ilk of terrible ideas.)

    Thus, the goal is marketing. Look, people have seen Lauter's movies–they can't not have–but they don't KNOW that they have. That's kind of cool. They'll come, but only if you make it clear to them just how much of their lives this guy has been a part of. So…and that's where a hit a stumbling block. Fliers? Web-based marketing? I don't know.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Anything like this in a major city that gets a hair of press coverage will draw some sort of crowd. Probably a mixed crowd, with varying motivations for being there.

  • I dunno, Ed. Checking out that guy's iMDB, I see the only thing I might have caught him in is an episode of Psych from 2009…if I saw that episode. An honoring of that particular actor might have limited appeal.

  • It would give you an excuse to play "The Longest Yard" (the 1974 original) in which Lauter was the prison guard captain and MIKE who refuses to shoot Bert Reynolds at the end of the movie when he's walking away down the field (to pick up the football).

    So that's something.

  • I immediately thought of The Bicknell International Film Festival:

    This film festival, in a teeny-tiny town in southern Utah holds a film festival every year where they show shlocky B-movies that hold to some theme. One year it might be Godzilla-like monster movies. It looks like this year it's "Gangster Movies I've Never Heard Of." They actually get a pretty good turnout for this event. One awesome event they have is "The World's Fastest Parade" where the floats zoom by main street at 55 mph. The whole parade lasts less than 10 minutes so they do it 3 times.

    You have a great hook. A film festival based around "Oh yeah, that guy" really has the chance to work. Take a look at The Bicknell International as a blueprint and do it. I'll go.

  • Scrolling through IMDB I see he appeared in an episode of Manimal. That brings back shuddering bad memories from an 80's childhood. What I think is even more interesting is the list of "People who liked this also liked…"

    Streethawk (didn't watch it)
    Airwolf (loved it)
    Fall Guy (watched it)
    Blue Thunder (watched it)
    Riptide (Watched it)

  • Next year, pick Stephen Tobolowsky. That way you could show "Groundhog Day", "Memento", "Failure to Launch" and a ton of middling TV. Each year the trick would be to _not_ say which actor is the thread and get the audience to work it out.

  • Get the help of a movie theater. As of ten years ago this would have been the logical first step, projectors being major pieces of infrastructure and dealing with film is one of these "unskilled " jobs that in reality is anything but.

    These days you can probably show the flics from any old DVD, but having a cinema to nominally organize the event will grease the skids with the distributors and keep you out of legal pitfalls. In my part fo the world, cinemas pay license fees based on revenue while one-off organizers will be billed according to the size of the venue.

  • There is a weird movie with a similar theme, Being John Malkovich, about this semi-famous actor who usually plays secondary roles in movies. The plot concerns some people who find a portal into his mind.

  • I second Laie's suggestion. There must be some kind of funky arts theater near you, the kind that plays midnight movies or has other weird theme nights.

    I wonder if it would go over better if you broadened it a little. Call it the "Hey It's That Guy" film festival and feature a couple of different character actors (maybe Lautner on Friday and a second guy on Saturday or something). And that way it could also be renewable, if it went well and you decided you wanted to do it again next year.

  • Sounds like a good idea although until I checked out IMDB I didn't know he had died.
    After all, he was in "Youngblood".

  • Just a warning — anything you obsess about with a fellow academic while both of you are trapped in Peoria may not be a good idea. I'd run it by Ivars.

  • True Confession: I looked at your IMDB link, saw the picture, was sure I'd seen that guy in some movie within the past few weeks, then realized he was the vigilante-friendly police captain in Death Wish 3. . .

  • I think it's a good idea; I really like the idea; the only thing that prevents it from being a great idea is that Lauter's movies tend to suck. None of them are great. They're the high-production-value mediocrity Hollywood excels at. The best of them (True Romance, Leaving Las Vegas) are maybe barely good enough for a retrospective film festival but there's too few of them.

  • All kidding aside — Wikipedia tells me there is an Ed Lauter Foundation being established to provide scholarships to young actors. He died of mesothelioma.

    If you broadened the scope a teensy bit (call it the "Ed Lauter Memorial Working Stiff's Film Festival"), made it a little bit tacky-chic (cheap beer and brats for refreshments), and donated some of the proceeds to either the foundation and/or cancer research, I think you might seriously have something here.

  • slimlove and Jason T. have some good ideas there.

    If you have some arts theater, so much the better, but generally it's not difficult to get even a mainstream cinema on board. Booking one movie, or another, or ten, it's all the same to them. From their point of view, the biggest holdup is that they don't get to show their usual program on that weekend.

    The real effort in organizing such a festival is getting the word out: advertising, media, what have you. If you want to do it right, this will be a major time sink. Some funky arts place may know the drill and can be of great assistance, but what you really want (and what will probably save your behind) is their standing and experience as an established business partner vis-a-vis the distributors. To that end, any cinema will do.

  • He's maybe a little bit higher profile, but Lexington, KY, has had a Harry Dean Stanton fest for several years running now.

  • Come to Palm Springs. We have film festivals galore — short film fest, LGBT, film noir, and a kickass International Film Festival. There's a theater that would run it. There are a lot of "industry" people who have retired here or have second homes. We're also a quick drive from LA. And there is a local film society and a lot of film buffs in town. And most important — people who know the ins and outs of running a film fest and could help.

    Plus, you get to spend time in Palm Springs.

  • Double down on irony and hold it at a genuine old timey cinema.

    I know one can rent the recently renovated Portage near Irving/Milwaukee/Cicero; I can't imagine it costs very much. The same company owns the Patio further north, which (assuming the owners remembered to pay off the fire marshal this month) is gorgeous inside.

  • If the Tracey Walter film festival includes 'They're Hanging Parker Tillman Pt. I and II', from Best of the West then I'm there. Peoria or Palm Springs, doesn't matter. I don't care if it costs $60.

    'If he dies, you get it! If he dies, I get it?' Etc or words to that effect.

  • I actually run a small nonprofit theatre capable of showing movies.
    We are located in St Paul, MN- so a distance from you
    The licensing for a multi-movie weekend could be quite expensive

    We can be convinced to have exceedingly reasonable rates
    We have a commercial cable license, so any movie that is on TV, we can play "live" for free (hopefully one of his movies is on TNT that weekend!)
    We have a full bar.

    Website is linked with my name

  • I LOVE this idea!! I think you could totally do this. I was a part of a small independent film festival at the University of Illinois a few years back, I would be happy to put you in contact with the lead organizer. This festival was organized as a part of a course, so undergraduates did a lot of the labor and some of the funding came from the college via teaching grants.

  • ConcernedCitizen says:

    Ed, you used "irony-saturated society" and "middle America" in the same sentence. I mean, how far are people supposed to travel to see this thing?

  • 1)Consider a charity or benefit so it doesn't seem like you are trying to become Donald Trump via this adventure. (Anyone but Komen, please)

    II) Love the idea of changing the actor each year. Makes for troubles with continuity with the Fest name, but If it was Ed's Free Mammogram Film Fest featuring Ed Lauter. this year and Carlos Irwen Estevez (please not him) next year.

    C) The last movie of each years fest will feature that years "feature" AND the actor who will be the feature next year. . . But you don't confirm who that will be for 6 months. . . builds excitement and more advertising to upcoming event, even if it's 6 months away.

    Four) Spring (Break?) or Fall: No Winter or Summer in Illinois !

    V)Silent Auction: Some items available at the theater and some inline.

    f) If you do this as a charity event you can and probably will raise 50% of your money by donations of people who can't come.

    Next) Jex in MN . . . Full bar, greatly increases Silent Auction revenue. . .

    I'll add more tomorrow.

    P.S. My numbering system used to drive my boss absolutely crazy, but their superior loved it so the bossman had to STFU. Ah memories…

  • I'm currently re-watching the X-Files so I clocked him in S1E9 "Space" as a possessed astronaut sabotaging the shuttle missions.

    He *has* been in a lot of good, mediocre, and bad movies and television shows, so I decided to find out what his Bacon Number is:

    It's 2.

    That said, I imagine that because of the prolific and, frankly undiscriminating nature of his career, he can be connected to any number of actors in relatively few steps, e.g., Errol Flynn–>Ed Lauter: 2.

  • Thanks April !

    I used to work in nuclear plants and got a gig as a work planner and insulation SME. If anyone mentions it tell them that’s how they do it in nuclear power plants as part of the safety program . . . Also, try and keep a straight face.

    Above comments;

    Entertainment between each show is an awesome idea. I would prefer in lobby. Lets you stretch between shows and lets the band, poet, etc, do sound check and get set – up.

    Have a minion (probqbly one of us) put together a small Playbill w/ movie times and all sponsor info. Include the Bacon # as Nick suggests.

    Jason T mentioned that Lauter already has a foundation. . . What could be easier? He also died of meso, which is the worst (for patient – Alzheimers #1 for family). If you rotated feature actor, find out what their fav charity is/was.

    Tom mentioned the Bicknell International Film Festival: Lots of ideas there.

    Chow: Weber grill, but make sure the operator is food service trained and understands HACCP.

    Drink: Kegs work great, especially if the source is close by when it starts to float.

    FYI, my experience is from running do it yourself fundraisers for Breast CA at; Hawthorne Racetrack, Blackhawks bus trip, 2 at my condo rec room and charity side of three – 8 team softball tourneys. If you decide to run with this I will vol to assist.

  • Ed Lauter Foundation is being established, which will award a scholarship yearly to aspiring young actors. Being established are the operative words. . . Google Fu appears to have begun Labor Day Weekend. Not finding any trace. . .

  • I'm in if you do it in Austin or San Antonio. But I'm not sure the Venn Diagram of "Fans of Gin and Tacos politics", "Fans of Ed Lauter" and "Residents of Central Texas" have enough overlap to make it successful. But, then again, maybe it would help "Keep Austin Weird"…

  • Every time I watch Twelve Angry Men, I wonder at the number of career supporting actors in it, each of them great in his own right. The Ed Lauter Film Festival might be a crazy idea, but it would shine a spotlight on the men and women who do the heavy lifting in the industry, year after year. The producers certainly know them, and know them well, which is why they keep cropping up in films. Time for the rest of us to recognize them as a group, not just two a year being mentioned at the Academy Awards.

  • So you said "THAT guy" and I clicked and it was OMG THAT GUY! Real Genius, boys and girls! If you do this I'll totally come to Chicago for it. Assuming it's in Chicago. Peoria… well, as Lauter's daughter says in Real Genius "a girl's gotta have her standards."

    But I am not gonna make you nail a six inch spike through a board with your penis. Yet another reason to have the Ed Lauter festival.

  • E-mailed author of the article announcing death and mentioning "Ed Lauter Foundation". He in turn gave me the talent agency who represented Mr Lauter. No response. Can't find IRS records either. . .

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