Fort Collins is in a transition, our talents and ambition in the arts are quickly coming to the surface. I am in Austin Texas this week, taking a peek into the arts scene here. They have a version of what we call the SCFD, and many economic platforms that stimulate cultural development. In addition to some exploration, I am also taking some time to look at Fort Collins though the viewfinder of the outside world. As I sit in near 100% humidity, and listen to the stories of the people around me, I have noticed a common theme arise. All of the artists that I am reading and hearing about took enormous risks to get to where they are today. They were eternally unsatisfied, refusing to stoop to self congratulatory praise and continuously pushing forward prioritizing at times their art before everything else. And most importantly, growing and working closely with peers to bring about a creative movement in their communities. In this post I want to bring out some of the finest examples of this determination. Beginning with Steve Miller of Steve Miller Band.
Steve Miller had a musically rich young life. Encouraged by his parents and their good friends Les Paul and Mary Ford who were regular visitors in the Miller household. After bouncing around at few different schools and a semester abroad in Copenhagen, he became disenfranchised with the Chicago blues scene and he moved to Austin to try and finish his degree at the University of Texas. When academic politics became too much to bare at UT, he had to make a choice. He drove his beat up Volkswagen bus cross country to San Francisco and with his last $5 saw the Butterfield Blues Band and Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore auditorium. A short few years later he was backing Chuck Berry on that same stage with his very own band, and the rest is history. Key takeaway to this story however, is that he made these choices not because they were easy. The Steve Miller band and the music they made came at a great risk, and i’m sure with some degree of sacrifice. This is the epitome of a “passion project” going to the extremes to pursue the dream, and prioritizing (in this case) music over all else. He could have bought a sandwich with that last five dollar bill in San Francisco, but instead he was ready to go hungry to see a show. A show that any die hard fan of music would kill to see today.
Another classic example is Richard Linklater, a Texas native, who set the film reel in motion in Austin in 1985 when he founded the Austin film society with his long time collaborator Lee Daniel. Before directing classic movies such as Dazed and Confused and It’s Impossible To Learn To Plow By Reading Books, he was a baseball player. Linklater actually received a scholarship to play for Sam Houston State University, however due to an infection that caused an irregular heartbeat, he was forced to give up the sport. Not to long after his sports career ended, he had dropped out of college and was working on an oil rig. This job allowed him to save money to start the Austin film society. This then enabled him to direct numerous short films over the course of several years leading up to his first feature film. Galvanizing the Austin film scene and changing the landscape for arts and culture, especially its depiction of youth culture at the time forever.
Richard Linklater founding the Austin Film Scene has been cemented into the history books. However, his dedication and sacrifice was not alone his to bare. The entire community was only possible though the culmination of many hardworking individuals who most likely had periods of great sacrifice of their own. All to cultivate a movement. In addition, the Scene in Austin was not born though one pivotal project either. It was birthed through the numerous short films and smaller projects that truly allowed information and talent to come to fruition. Unsurprisingly, this method of “Scene Building” is alive and well in our very own city.
A few weeks back we covered the 48hr film festival as it was ramping up. The turnout for this event was staggering. Thirteen teams turned out and met the deadline. Currently, of those thirteen teams we have access to eight of their submitted films (linked below). This is terrific news for the Fort Collins film community. This displays a diversity that is usually rarely present, a unique level of talent that is constantly improving; and a determination amongst these young filmmakers to push their bodies and budgets to the limits.
Regardless of the artform, no scene or community can be built by one person. I believe ascribing a scene to one person or project and the relative success of either is not the failing of one entity or publication, but possibly it is the only way to spread the word of a community’s achievements efficiently. By appointing a figurehead or leader, we are able to reduce a complex ecosystem with many moving parts and people to a soundbite. However, if you scratch beneath the surface, it is quite evident that this is not the case. So the next time you see anyone declared a champion of industry, the king of cool, or the founder of a movement, it might behoove you to do a little digging and wonder who else has sacrificed that and more in the pursuit of the same dream.