Daily updates from the first annual AFI DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Target, founding sponsor Victory Park, March 22 to April 1, 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who Are These People? Liener Temerlin

With his knack for story-telling and quick wit, AFI DALLAS Founder and Chairman Liener Temerlin is the perfect advertising man.

He founded one of the largest agencies in the country, Temerlin McClain. He is a member of the Advertiser Hall of Fame. And he is a past president and chairman of the Dallas Symphony Association.

So what's he doing founding an international film festival?

"I got interested in the movies growing up in a little town in Oklahoma. There's three things to do in Ardmore: play cards, go fishing and go to the movies," he explains. "Movies were my window to the world."

He became interested in the idea of a film festival when "a guy by the name of Michael Cain," called him about raising money for a film school. Temerlin told Cain, who's now AFI DALLAS CEO and Artistic Director, that he didn't think the time was right for a school.

"I did say that there were some very fine small film festivals in Dallas. But the city didn’t have didn't have a major fest. I knew if I could get AFI to franchise the festival by supplying their name and consulting it would work. It occurred to me this would be great for Dallas. And the filmmakers of the world know who AFI is."

Temerlin also knows who AFI is. He has served on the board of trustees for the organization for several years, and was responsible for one of AFI's most-known programs, the 100 Years...100 Movies Series.

Temerlin bounced the idea for the festival off his longtime friend and arts patron, Raymond Nasher.

"Ray underscored that film is the art form that America gave to the world. It started in the U.S. And now with the festival, we're putting movies and films on a very high pedestal, right along with the great symphonies, paintings and other artworks where it belongs."

In fact, many of the lectures by film critics and film-industry players will be held at the Nasher Sculpture Center, the museum and sculpture garden that Mr. Nasher founded to preserve modern sculpture in 2003. Mr. Nasher died this month and Temerlin gives him credit for all he's done to help Dallas' cultural profile.

Temerlin jumped into organizing the fest, almost without knowing what he was getting into.

"After all this was all underway, Michael brought me a book called The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide. One of the mistakes I made was not reading it. The second mistake I made is that I did eventually read it. Hell, I would have never started the thing if I'd known what was involved," he jokes.

Although it just opened, AFI DALLAS is already a success. A lineup of some of the best films in the country gives festival goers the chance to see films they might never have had a chance to. A beehive of volunteers and staff members buzz at the Victory Plaza office, preparing for showings, parties and, of course, the audience.

And sponsors have pitched in to help make the first year a memorable one.

"We wanted to give a significant star award," says Temerlin, "and Neiman's about came in as a sponsor with a wonderful Steuben crystal."

One of the awards is for Gregory Peck, the first AFI Chairman and friend of the Temerlins.

"My wife and I met him 30 years ago at the premier of MacArthur at The Majestic. Later, I called [his wife] Veronique and asked if she'd like to be on the AFI board. We very much want to remember the anniversary of his death. And it's also the
45th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, which scholars say is the
most viewed film in the world."

The festival has more than 190 films with more than 200 screenings and it's a major event for the city and the Southwest.

"It's been wonderfully embraced by the community and the sponsors. It's almost like a brush fire. The jungle drums started beating and we got recognition from around the country," he says.

"I've been really good at advertising and marketing," Temerlin says. "But, do you remember that song 'I Wanna Be a Producer?' In my next life I'm going to come back as a movie producer."

- by Marc Lee, Editor, AFI DALLAS Daily News