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The Reel Deal : Shadowland PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Friday, 12 September 2014 10:45

“Civilization is at its end. America has been reduced to a land where only a few, strictly-governed communities still exist. All else is Shadowland, where there is no rule of law and where fear is the common denominator of all men. Gil Parsons is a wanderer in that place, wary of the strangers he encounters, as the circumstances of his existence call into question the inherent nature of mankind.”

This is the description you’ll find on the Shadowland page on the Knoxville Film Festival website. The film, which is directed by Knoxvillian Steven Wesley Miller, will be presented as part of the festival on Sunday, September 14th at 2:15PM at Regal Downtown West. We caught up with Miller just before the premier hometown screening of his film to ask him about how Shadowland came to be.


BLANK: When did you first develop a love for filmmaking? 

When I was 10 years old I watched Easy Rider. It became my favorite film. After, as a teenager I watched Reservoir Dogs and knew I wanted to make movies.

BLANK: When did you realize that you could actually turn your passion into a career?

When I got my first paid directing job. Honestly, I never wanted to call myself a director until I was paid to do it professionally. I've just always felt that way.

BLANK: Is this the biggest project you’ve taken on thus far?

Absolutely. We had a cast and crew of over fifteen people on set.


BLANK: How did Shadowland come about? Where does the story come from?

It was based off a dream I had. I woke up and immediately jotted it down. After writing a rough draft, I turned it over to David Peacock, who is a life-long friend and an incomparable writer. We spent six months working on it until we eventually started raising funds through indiegogo. We raised close to $6,500.00 and then I budgeted for the rest of production and post on my own. As the vision began to form, more people got on board and we ended up with an amazing cast and crew, that we really couldn't have done without.

BLANK: What was the toughest or strangest experience that happened during production of the film?

The weather. We shot in two locations. Kingston and Newport Tennessee. The weather was around 33 degrees outside and the cabin we shot inside wasn't insulated and was about 10 degrees cooler. Our last day of shooting got snowed out after the entire crew arrived about 80 miles away from Knoxville. Luckily, by lunch time it melted out and ended up pulling through for us.

BLANK: What can people expect from the film? What do you hope they take away from it?

I hope they are entertained. We wrote it with the intentions of displaying the choices people make and how they affect everyone involved. Hopefully, people will get that in some way from watching it.

BLANK: What’s next for you?

I'm writing a feature film very slowly. Hopefully, I'll be able to bring it to fruition eventually. I'm also working on a documentary. Other than that, I've been focusing on my two favorite hobbies: songwriting and boxing. Just living one day at a time.


Find more info about the film and how to catch it later at

New optical shop on wheels in Knoxville PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 10:07
The September installment of First Friday will feature yet another first on September 5.

Andes Optical is a licensed family-owned and -operated optical retailer whose personal approach has drawn locals to its Papermill Road business for more than 35 years. Now, second-generation owner Faith Andes McDaniel is using mobile technology and pop-up infrastructure to bring Andes’ caring service and curated product lines to its customers, via Knoxville’s first compact glasses store on wheels.

This is the Andes Mini Mobile Optical. It will open for business in the parking lot of the Knoxville Visitors’ Center at the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill Drive this Friday, September 5. From 5 pm to 9 pm, those who live, work and visit Knoxville can shop fall frames and lenses, purchase gametime-essential sunglasses, get their current eyewear adjusted and cleaned, and scoop up special offers just for those on foot this First Friday--all from Andes’ rolling "optical lab" housed in its signature vehicle, a white-on-red Mini Cooper.

“We’re actually inviting folks to bring their prescriptions on First Friday,” McDaniel says. Skilled opticians will fit customers with frames and lenses. Finished eyewear will typically be available for pickup just days later from Andes Optical at 4613 Papermill Drive.

“Andes Optical has always opened our doors to the community,” she says. “Daddy usually had a pot of coffee going in the shop. It was a gathering place,” she recalls.

But Herman and Judy Andes also initiated partnerships with local charities, and today, through its structured outreach programs, Andes helps provide vision care and eyewear to hundreds of homeless, disabled and working-poor clients of Knoxville’s Interfaith Clinic, Volunteer Ministries, Sertoma and other organizations.

It’s one more way Andes Optical sets itself apart in a marketplace full of big-box optical retailers. “The whole point of being an independent business,” says McDaniel, “is that it frees you to meet your customers’ needs with creativity.”

More information on Andes Optical’s eyewear, eyecare services, special events, charitable partnerships and Mini Mobile Optical is available by liking Andes Optical on Facebook.

East TN History Center: There's A Lot Going On PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Saturday, 30 August 2014 18:53


Urban Girl and I have been hanging around together a lot the last couple of weeks and it’s caused me to take some fresh looks at some things I’ve allowed to blend into the background. One of those is the East Tennessee History Center at 601 South Gay. I’d heard from my friend Mary Pom Claiborne that a temporary collection called Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature would be an exhibit that I’d find interesting. So Urban Girl and I explored one morning last week.

My first contact with the East Tennessee Historical Society came somewhere back in the 1990s as I plowed my way through genealogical research in the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, which is owned by the Knox County Public Library. My roots are not in Tennessee and, while the collection is stellar for local and regional research, I was continually amazed at the information I could retrieve regarding ancestors in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.


I don’t particularly think of the primary collection appealing to children to any great extent, but I was surprised at how much my five-year-old running mate enjoyed it. I took her to that part first, assuming she would enjoy the children’s part, but might balk at some of the regular exhibit. She actually had a lot of fun.

She enjoyed the old transportation and I was able to explain the difference between a true trolley system and the trolleys she and I planned to ride locally later in the week. She liked the old car, the old irons and the log cabin. Her attention span allowed a light discussion of segregation and of the people who lived here before Europeans arrived. For some reason she was captivated with the machine used to quarry marble and after explaining to her what marble is and why it was important to Knoxville, we spent the rest of the week marble-spotting all around town.

Uncertain that she knew David Crockett, I found that she did and so she was able to share some of my excitement at standing in front of his famous rifle, “Betsy.” This is the kind of thing that brings out my (not-so) inner nerd. I can stand dumb-founded for long periods of time in the presence of much lesser historical artifacts. I get a bit overwhelmed with being in such proximity with a physical object bearing such an intimate connection to a past that seems so removed. I hope she grows up to share that and I think perhaps she might.

After stretching her interest as far as possible in the permanent collection, we entered the special, temporary children’s literature collection. She had as much fun as I imagined she might, looping through the materials there more than once. She loved the old toys and the life-sized characters from various children’s books focusing on Appalachia over the last hundred-plus years.

We’ll probably make a return trip to try on the masks and maybe read a few of the fifty books or so available for looking through. It really is a different kind of museum experience and one that I recommend, especially if you have children. It runs until September 14.

More information can be found at


New Comedy Festival Brings National Comedians to Downtown Knoxville PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rusty Odom   
Saturday, 30 August 2014 19:13

Knoxville’s festival calendar is making room for laughs in November with the debut of the Scruffy City Comedy Festival, November 6-8. Festival organizers will select approximately 30 national and regional comedians to perform at multiple venues across downtown Knoxville.

The festival is being organized by local members of Knox Comedy Live and by Super Cat Productions. Super Cat Productions also is the co-founder and co-producer of the highly successful Cape Fear Comedy Festival held annually in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Scruffy City Comedy Festival will feature performances in the Old City at the Pilot Light, on Gay Street at Jack Cellar, on Market Square at Latitude 35 and Scruffy City Hall, and also Volunteer Landing aboard the Star of Knoxville riverboat.

Headliners for the festival will be announced soon, but festival organizers confirm they have booked a comedian and podcaster from the popular Nerdist network online with a live national podcast recording to take place during the festival. Other performances will include stand-up comedians, comedy music acts, improv comedy and two editions of Knox Comedy’s popular celebrity roasts.

Visit for announcements in September of participating comedians and ticket information.

Blank Newspaper and WBIR-TV are media sponsors for the festival.

Labor Day Sunflower 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Saturday, 30 August 2014 21:39

From 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1, Labor Day Sunflower Project again will transform the western edge of the Krutch Park extension into a floral paradise. LDSP cofounders Gerry Moll and Joshua Bremseth will welcome Knoxville residents representing each city district to weave hundreds of harvested sunflowers into a circular design on a freestanding, 15’x15’ chain-link substrate. Once completed, the installation will remain open to the public until Sept. 7 when it will be prominently featured during the First Friday festivities. From 7-10 p.m. on that date, Circle Modern Dance will deliver a performance – inspired by the art – in the section of grass between the display and the 500 block of Gay St.


Labor Day Sunflower Project began in 2007 as a creative means of uniting a single neighborhood, but it has since grown to symbolize the unification of all of Knoxville’s disparate parts. Each sunflower signifies the reward of individual labors while the circle embodies the coordination of those efforts. In keeping with the event’s theme, this year’s installation will feature a video projection displaying publicly submitted photographs – gathered over several months – depicting various kinds of work. At the de-installation on Sept. 7, participants will gather the seeds (which will be used to yield sunflowers for the next year’s display) in order to winnow them so that they can later be distributed to the public for growing, thus concluding this cyclical and unique yearly tradition.

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