Tom Emery (left) at the 1991 Folk Fest with Tony Jozefowski and Dan Emery.
I have volunteered at the Philadelphia Folk Festival for twenty-seven consecutive years. I started out on my uncle Tom’s committee, Community Relations, and answered a rotary telephone inside the Executive Trailer. With the invention of cell phones, a landline was no longer needed and the committee slowly disappeared. In recent years, I volunteered for the Parking Committee, a great group of people to work with. After my first year with them, I made a series of instructional videos for new committee volunteers.
This was not the first time I filmed video at the folk fest. Shortly after high school, I went to the festival armed with my brand new VHS camcorder. I wanted to document the weekend, but after some early footage, my youth got the best of me and it was something I talked about doing ever since. While writing this book, a filmmaker named James Wallace accomplished his own goal of making a documentary about the fest. His film is titled At Fest and can be found at www.atfestmovie.com.
In the early nineties, I started to write a feature-length script set entirely in the campground. I kept the title simple and named it The Fest. Just like my documentary attempt, the script for The Fest remains unfinished. I recently found the first thirty pages and my character notes that were based on real campers, including my uncle Tom.
After I graduated from Temple Film School, I shot several scenes from my first film, The Good Life, at the folk fest. Those scenes might seem out of place in the film, but I loved the footage and have wanted to film my script for The Fest ever since. I followed The Good Life with my folk fest trilogy of short documentaries. In 2003, I made Drive-By Dotters, about a controversy in the campground over dot stickers and the argument that one man's art is another man's trash.
The following year, I shot The Perki Turkey which covered an unusual race in the Perkiomen Creek where the winner of the race was the person who came in last. The race made no sense, but was fun to watch…and film.
In 2007, I made Born to Run, also known as The Topless Footrace Movie. Despite the title, it’s not what it sounds like, as there is no nudity in the film. The campground was covered with flyers that advertised a topless footrace on Saturday night, and just before the race, curious campers lined the main path expecting to see topless women. To their surprise, it was just a bunch of dudes running up the hill with their shirts off. Due to some unpublicized controversy, this short documentary is very hard to find, but it’s out there if you look hard enough.
For my feature-length script, my plan was to introduce a bunch of characters whose lives intersect throughout the weekend and was inspired by real events from the actual Philadelphia Folk Festival. Here are the opening scenes from The Fest.
CLICK HERE to read this script excerpt.