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story.lead_photo.caption File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette Actress Geena Davis speaks during a panel called "Inclusion: Does That Mean Me" at the Record in Bentonville as part of the Bentonville Film Festival.

BENTONVILLE -- Not many signs around the downtown square hinted that filmmakers, media executives, celebrities and festivalgoers will descend this week upon the city's core.

Yet festival organizers, business owners and restaurant managers have been prepping for the fourth annual Bentonville Film Festival scheduled Tuesday through Sunday.

"Busy would be an understatement," Liz Nunn, the festival's director of business development, said late last week. "It's definitely all hands on deck."

Festival officials are finalizing details, doing run-throughs of the awards show that celebrates filmmakers and welcoming sponsors who began arriving Sunday.

Tents should continue popping up in the Sponsor Village and the Cinetransformers just off the square today, Nunn said.

The Cinetransformers used during the festival are self-contained mobile theaters that seat about 100 people.

Organizers expect 100,000 people to attend and watch one or more of 90 feature films, 33 short films and 13 episodics.

Inclusion Companies Chief Executive Officer Trevor Drinkwater and Academy Award winner Geena Davis founded the festival in 2015 with the mission to champion actresses and female filmmakers. Its mission has expanded to champion diverse voices and inclusion in all forms of media.

Ten feature-length films will premiere, including Jenna Laurenzo's Lez Bomb, showing Thursday and Friday at the Apple Blossom Theatre. She is the writer, director, producer and acts in the movie about a young woman bringing her girlfriend home for Thanksgiving. Her coming-out efforts are thwarted by the unexpected arrival of her male roommate.

Laurenzo, who lives in New Jersey, has been contacting Northwest Arkansas residents and organizations to garner support, coordinating which cast members can attend and asking festival officials what to expect.

"It's just asking a lot of questions," she said. "It's an endless game of asking questions."

Les Key, owner of Meteor Guitar Gallery, had only two days to prepare for the next festival.

The Power of Music Festival, which focuses more on musicians, wrapped up Saturday night. Key and his crew began Sunday to turn the venue around for the film festival, which has more of an entertainment and party atmosphere, he said.

Carly Pearce, Jillian Jacqueline, Vintage Trouble, Alex Aiono, Lauren Alaina and the Song Suffragettes will perform at the Meteor this week.

"Film Fest will ramp right into hectic," Key said. "First thing Tuesday at 9 o'clock in the morning, it'll be 20 people rolling in and out all day, stocking the green room, taking care of the bands, just trying to make sure everything is flowing good."

The 21c Museum Hotel is the official venue of the festival, and it's ready. Business usually doubles at The Hive restaurant in the hotel, according to executive chef Matt McClure.

Preparation largely focuses on creating menus, increasing inventory and beefing up staff, he said. There's not many last-minute adjustments.

"There may be a dish or cocktail that becomes the popular one, but I would say that's so much easier to manage than writing a schedule that didn't have enough people on it," McClure said.

Officials from organizations and entities not directly involved said that because they've learned from the first three festivals, the fourth year is going smoothly.

"We're just crossing the t's and dotting the i's," said Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president and CEO. "Everything is looking really good right now."

There were a lot of unknowns the first year, Griffith said. Now, it's mostly making sure space is available because events change each year, and making sure attendees are aware of those changes.

Kevin Boydston, deputy fire chief, said, "Everything is settling in, becoming consistent."

Three weeks out, fire inspectors made sure each venue is up to code, he said. Department staffing is increased by six to eight people at the beginning of the week and 10 to 13 by Friday and Saturday, he said.

"It's really been smooth and uneventful for us," Boydston said.

The fire and police departments and festival organizers will once again set up a central command center in the Visit Bentonville office.

Metro on 04/30/2018

Print Headline: Bentonville prepares for film festival; Planners of 6-day event expect 100,000 people to attend, view variety of works

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