Bristol will host the PUSH! Film Festival for its second year on Oct. 21-23 and will debut 72 films from local artists in or from Tennessee and Virginia.

Workshops will also be held during the weekend festival. With so much happening, there will be three separate venues for all of the films and activities: The Paramount Center for the Arts, The Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Public Library.

The goal PUSH! is aiming to fulfill is reaching out to the community and exposing these films to new audiences. Their title was gained from the original Bristol sign that read “PUSH! That’s Bristol.” Like the sign, the film festival reflects on the growth of the city and the culture they want to create.

Program director Rusty Sheridan is an RTVF professor at ETSU and said entries were received from all over, including local middle schools and high schools.

The festival is meant to “celebrate film and entertain people,” Sheridan said.

This year marks a new record of films being shown, as last year’s screenings only included 40 films. PUSH! also received more sponsors this year. Sheridan is hoping the festival will steadily grow into a larger and longer festival. He said he would like the festival to be at least 10 days.

ETSU filmmakers Tim Abelseth and Ryan A. Renfro made the cut in submissions. Both will be attending the opening premiere on Oct. 21.

Abelseth’s entry, “Erika’s Dream,” is about a former student carrying on the life work of her college mentor by completing the development of a device used to talk to the dead through a dream.

“I originally wanted to do something about death, about a relative or mentor, and that’s what we came up with, a device to talk to the dead,” Abelseth said.

This short film was shot locally in Johnson City and on the ETSU campus, utilizing one of the residence halls as a set.
Renfro, on the other hand, traveled to Bristol for the shooting of his short film “Bae.”

“The whole film is about kids getting married, essentially, 20/21-year-old students getting married,” Renfro said.

This is a personal issue for Renfro, as he was engaged to his high school girlfriend at the age of 18. He’s grateful they never got married, because he believes it wouldn’t have ended well. Like many Americans, he’s a child of divorce, so this film speaks for Renfro personally on the institution of marriage.

Renfro’s film breaks the fourth wall, a unique technique used where the characters not only talk among themselves but also to the audience.

Both filmmakers had fun in the development of their films, but both agreed it was emotionally challenging.

“It’s always fun, but it’s always heart-wrenching and anxious and exciting and a dumb idea. That’s the best way I can sum up filming,” Renfro said. “You put so much into it, and then it never meets your expectations.”

Despite the hardships of being an artist, both filmmakers agreed that they love filmmaking. It’s more than just a hobby for them.

“There is nothing else that I’d rather do,” Renfro said.