By Mike Ullery
The first annual Reel Stuff Film Festival of Aviation took place in Dayton, Ohio, April 24-26. By all indications, this year’s festival will be the first of many. The event, hosted by the National Aviation Hall of Fame, featured eight films over three days in venues including Sinclair Community College’s Smith Auditorium, the Dayton Convention Center theatre and the IMAX theatre inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Reel Stuff kicked off on Thursday with a rough cut, 25-minute preview of the soon-to-be-completed documentary, “Pancho Barnes!” “Speed and Angels,” a 2007 documentary, followed that, and then Brian J. Terwilliger’s “One Six Right,” a popular 2005 documentary featuring spectacular footage and conveying the romance of flight combined with a history of California’s Van Nuys Airport. Day two of the festival began with the 1986 film classic, “Top Gun,” followed by the IMAX film, “Fighter Pilot-Operation Red Flag.” Saturday’s lineup took viewers back to World War II and the Korean War with “Battle Hymn” (1956) and “633 Squadron” (1964) and concluded with the 1969 epic, “Battle of Britain.”
No film festival would be complete without a star or two, and since the National Aviation Hall of Fame is all about the people of aviation history and legend, the Reel Stuff Film Festival didn’t disappoint. Producers, directors, cinematographers, pilots and movie stars attended the festival. Their involvement in the festival showed not only their commitment to their work, but also their passion for aviation and desire to share that love for the miracle of flight with others.
Nick Spark, producer and director of “Pancho Barnes!”; “Speed and Angels” producer Francesco “Paco” Chierici; and Brian J. Terwilliger, producer and director of “One Six Right,” each introduced his own film on Thursday.
Renowned aerial cinematographer Clay Lacy presented both “Top Gun” and “Fighter Pilot-Operation Red Flag.” A “bonus” presenter attended the festival on Friday night; producer Pietro Serapiglia screened a short piece of the upcoming IMAX production, “Legends of the Sky,” due for release in early 2009 in glorious 3D. K2 Communications produced both “Fighter Pilot” and “Legends of the Sky.”
Saturday’s schedule featured Dayton’s own retired U.S. Air Force Col. Dean Hess and aviation cinema historian James Farmer introducing “Battle Hymn,” the true story of Hess’ Korean War experience. Rock Hudson portrayed Hess in the film.
Academy Award winner and pilot Cliff Robertson introduced the fictional action film, “633 Squadron.” Robertson, a 2006 NAHF enshrinee, played a RAF Mosquito group commander in the movie. After the screening, aviation cinema historian Jim Farmer joined Robertson onstage for a question and answer session.
Wilson “Connie” Edwards presented “Battle of Britain” at the Dayton Convention Center on Saturday afternoon. The chief stunt pilot for the film, based on the pivotal 1940 air battle for England, kept the crowd laughing with his accounts of flying Me-109s, Spitfires and He-111 bombers with a mixed group of British, Spanish and Texan pilots. When the film company ran out of money at the end of production, he instead negotiated his payment in aircraft, including Spitfires and a bevy of Me-109s.
Each of the festival’s three days opened with a reception, allowing guests the chance to mingle with presenters and take photos of past, present and future aviation legends. Friday’s reception at the National Aviation Hall of Fame Learning Center was sponsored by Joe Clark of Aviation Partners Inc.—joining Rolls-Royce North America and the Gates Frontiers Fund as 2008 Reel Stuff supporters. It featured a silent auction that included items signed by NAHF enshrinees and presenters. Also featured at the receptions was talented aviation artist Joe Jones, whose work is becoming some of the most sought-after in the world. Jones designed the spectacular commemorative Reel Stuff poster artwork.
All proceeds from Reel Stuff will benefit the nonprofit National Aviation Hall of Fame.
“With something like more than 5,000 film festivals worldwide, everyone involved with Reel Stuff—our sponsors, our presenters and the audience—is amped to be part of the very first and only festival to celebrate aviation in cinema,” said Ron Kaplan, executive director of the NAHF. “This is a super way for us to prominently promote the wonder of flight, while raising funds so that the Hall of Fame continues to honor our real legends of air and space.”
Following the events on Saturday, Kaplan was happy with the festival’s results.
“It was a delight to see the enthusiasm of both our audience and our participants,” Kaplan said. “The Hall of Fame looks forward to presenting the Second Annual Reel Stuff Film Festival, adding a fourth day to accommodate an expanding lineup of presenters and their documentaries, theatrical releases and classics, and several made-for-TV projects. We might even be hosting a world premiere.”
Mark your calendars to be in Dayton March 12-15 in 2009.
For more information, visit [http://www.reelstufffilmfest.com].