THE LOST WEEKEND FILM FESTIVAL: AN INTERVIEW WITH ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE PROGRAMMER ANDY GYURISIN

The Lost Weekend film festival is the brainchild of Alamo Drafthouse programmer and Film Club 3.0 founder, Andy Gyurisin. It’s a four day cinematic celebration packed to the gills with 21 films (seven advanced screenings), and brings the very best of movies to the rural community of Winchester, Virginia. Maybe not as well known as Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, or Fantastic Fest (yet), Lost Weekend reveals that vigorous film communities are not simply reserved for the metropolitan set. The Winchester location was the first Alamo Drafthouse to arise outside of Texas, and since it’s 2009 construction, the Northern Virginia theater has become a haven for East Coast film fanatics, many of whom travel hours if not days to feel its warm embrace.

The Lost Weekend has been a bi-annual event for the last three years, and has grown from 8 films over 3 days, to its current behtemoth outpouring. The sixth incarnation will occur on Thursday, September 22nd and will consume the lives of its 158 attendees until the final film concludes sometime around 8PM on Sunday, September 25th. Guests will be some of the first to witness movies like LONDON ROAD and BRAND NEW TESTAMENT, as well as indie gems usually reserved for art house theaters like SWISS ARMY MAN and HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE.

As happens with most of us movie maniacs, Andy Gyurisin fell hard for film in his youth, and the impetus of Lost Weekend can be found there. Gyurisin recalls, “It really started when I was young, and had this big love of movies. I would come home from school eager to visit some distant lands and bold new characters. So I would ride my bike to the video store, rent about a dozen or so films, and not come out of my room until Sunday evening. In which my Dad would say, you have lost your weekend. I never saw it as that; I saw it as visiting and experiencing some great art. Then, as I grew up, started Film Club, and we found a permanent home with the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester (and the nice tie-in it had with the 1945 Billy Wilder film about an addiction – I must confess, I’m addicted to films and this community). It morphed into the now perfectly titled Lost Weekend.”

Selecting just the right films for Lost Weekend presents a challenge every year. “There are films that I would love to see on the big screen, but Lost Weekend isn’t just Andy, it is 158 other people eager to see great cinema. So, I have to bring in films that I think will fit our audience as well as listen from year to year as to which did not perform as well as expected.” Since taking on the role of Alamo Drafthouse Programmer, Gyurisin has had the pleasure of building relationships with key film distributers. “We have made AMAZING friends through our last five Lost Weekend events, and I actually turn to them for help. Folks from IFC, Oscilloscope, GKids, The Orchard, A24, and WellGoUSA – plus great help from our counterparts at Alamo Austin, it actually gets slightly easier.” Of course, just when you think it’s all in the bag, another opportunity reveals itself. “BUT then it becomes harder, because as much as you want to have a schedule ahead of time, there are always great films that sneak in at the last minute. Take LONDON ROAD this time. We received approval on that film on our announcement day, so there is always something that makes this job adventurous.”

Gyurisin doesn’t look for themes when putting his schedule together. “This Lost Weekend, I really wanted to highlight worldly cinema as well as humor, plus really define the friendships we have made these past three years, and focus on our themed Film Club screenings that happen weekly.” What excites him more than anything else are the people that travel to see his shows. “That is always first and foremost. I love the films, don’t get me wrong, but I look forward to seeing people that don’t make it to all our Film Club screenings. I heard that some folks take their vacation specifically at our Lost Weekend as a chance to escape, and that makes me feel honored. So, I can’t wait to see the friends that we have made and the conversations to be had in the theater.”

In anticipating the crowd, Gyurisin’s nerves are on edge. “I mean, our Film Club and audience are big movie fans, so it is sometimes a tough crowd, but the reaction can work both ways. At this past Announcement even, I would yell several titles and not quite hear that cheer, and that made me excited. It means we were bringing something new that they were not expecting. That is a great sign.”

During Lost Weekend VI, Film Club will also host a silent auction whose proceeds will benefit the Potomac Conservatory. Gyurisin is incredibly proud of Film Club’s efforts to give back while soaking in the movies. “Our sponsors come back year after year, eager for this event because they can see the value…we have raised a little over $10,000 for local organizations, it is just icing on the cake. I love movies and this area, and to do both at the same weekend, it makes me smile from ear to ear.”

With Lost Weekend VI nearly here, the plan for Lost Weekend VII is already in full swing. “We are growing, getting bigger, and each year we stretch even further. I would absolutely expect more and more development as we go from Lost Weekend VII to Lost Weekend X.” With 20 films squished into such a short timeframe, can we expect the Lost Weekend to transform into a Lost Week? Gyurisin is a man of hope and optimism, “There are so many great films coming out that we almost need a Lost Weekend for our Lost Weekend!”

With a little help from his friends, Andy Gyurisin has shown that there are film communities outside of the major cities willing to take a chance on the weird, the wild, and most importantly, the different. If the opportunity presents itself, you should do your darndest to make the trek out to Winchester for Lost Weekend VII (sorry folks, VI sold out almost instantly). You can join the Film Club 3.0 conversation via their Facebook page, and can follow Andy Gyurisin’s good work through Twitter (@CinemaBandwagon). If you can’t make it out to Virginia, or Sundance, or Fantastic Fest, or any of the other dozen festivals that populate this country, then follow Gyurisin’s example. Step out your front door, look around, your next favorite film fest is waiting to be formed by you.

The Lost Weekend VI Lineup

Thursday, September 22nd –

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

TRAIN TO BUSAN

Friday, September 23rd –

CHEVALIER

MAMMAL

MORRIS FROM AMERICA

DON’T THINK TWICE

THE ARDENNES

THE WAILING

Saturday, September 24th –

A TOWN CALLED PANIC

PHANTOM BOY

LONDON ROAD

UNDER THE SHADOW

MAN VERSUS SNAKE

SWISS ARMY MAN

SCHNEIDER VS MAX

THE NEON DEMON

Sunday, September 26th –

MISS SHARON JONES

GIRL ASLEEP

A BIGGER SPLASH

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE