Advanced Search | Search A!:
Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Rusty Sheridan leads programming team

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | September 26, 2016

Two years ago, when Rusty Sheridan came to East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tenn., to teach film production, he hoped to start a film festival someday.

"I moved here from Charlotte, North Carolina, where I programmed a number of other film festivals dating back to 2008. It was one of my goals to start a film festival that could grow and eventually become a multi-day annual celebration of cinema. Shortly thereafter I was introduced to Believe in Bristol by a colleague at ETSU and found out they were interested in doing the same thing. So I came on board as program director," he says.

As program director, he chairs a committee that selects the content for the festival, including films, workshops and lectures. The other members of the program committee are Scotty Almany (Birthplace of Country Music Museum), Carrie Cannaday (Starscape Media) and Cody Hall (Bristol Creatives).

Last year, the first PUSH Film Festival was organized in three months. "One of the biggest lessons we learned was about logistics and time. We felt rushed with some components of the festival last year. That is why we decided to move the festival to October instead of doing it in June again. We needed those extra months to prepare and make the festival bigger and better," Bishop says.

They used those extra months to screen 190 festival entries. Film submissions opened in the spring and early summer.Once all the submissions were in, the program committee started evaluating the films and searching for the best fits for PUSH.

"The biggest difference is that we are focusing more on independent films this year," Sheridan says."Last year we screened a lot of curated Hollywood films, and we had success with those, but this year we wanted to focus more on the independent films. So we have more than 30 additional films from independent filmmakers from all over the world in the lineup this year compared to last year. We are still doing a couple of Hollywood films, but far more independent content this year.

"Of course I'm excited about all of the films, but one that stands out is the film "As You Are." This film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and won a special jury prize. Its screening at PUSH will be the Southeast premiere of this film."

"As You Are" is set in the early 1990s. According to its description on, "It unfolds as a series of disparate memories. Prompted by a police investigation, we witness alternating perspectives of pivotal moments in the relationship between three teenage friends: Jack, Mark and Sarah. Bound by their aversion to the culture around them, Jack and Mark explore the limits of friendship and love until Mark's judgmental father tears them apart.

"Just as Jack and Sarah are adjusting to life without Mark, he gets unexpectedly thrown back into their lives. The two boys struggle to navigate complex emotions that are compounded by the disapproval they feel from all around. Ultimately, tensions rise to a boiling point, and tragedy echoes through their world.

"Infused with the rebel spirit of Kurt Cobain and propelled by star-making turns from Owen Campbell as Jack, Charlie Heaton as Mark, and Amandla Stenberg as Sarah (with strong support from Mary Stuart Masterson and Scott Cohen), "As You Are' is the feature writing-and-directing debut from gifted newcomer Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. This refreshing take on the coming-of-age tale boasts a plethora of young talent with boundless potential."

Local young filmmakers were encouraged to be a part of PUSH film festival. "We have students from local schools who are screening films in the festival, and there are also several students who are volunteering on various committees."

The submission fees were waived for students who entered a film. "We want to assist with cultivating the next generation of filmmakers. And during the festival we will have a hands-on workshop on filmmaking basics for kids" Sheridan says.

>> Special guest for PUSH opening night reception

Topics: Film