Are Drive-in’s the New Ideal Cinema Experience?

I attended the Loudoun Arts Drive-In Film Festival.

And away we go! Let’s start off with… I hate flying. It gives me massive anxiety! However, it was well worth the journey to Washington DC.

Finally out of the clutches of a massive heatwave that has hit Southern California, I prepare for my interview via Zoom, by taking a seat outside on the balcony of my Hollywood Hills Airbnb. I’m looking forward to speaking with Kaeley Boyle, who is widely known as the ‘Mother of All Arts.’ Located in Loudoun County, Virginia, Kaeley’s skills range from master painter to U.S. Open Circuit, to Olympic trials swimmer… yes, you read that correctly. Thus, it should come as no surprise that her latest venture is pioneering the Loudoun Arts Film Festival. What can’t this woman do?

“I’m a visual artist by trade…” She states in a demure tone. “I do a little bit of everything. I finished my master’s in Boston at the museum school there. I came to the DC area and opened up a gallery focusing on emerging artists. The area is growing so rapidly and the one thing it’s missing is the arts bend. There are artists around here, but no one was really showcasing or collecting the art.” With the experience to back her, Kaeley’s creative gears begin to turn — she takes a risk, calls a buddy, and asks, ‘Hey, so, do you think we can do this?’ She giggles as she reminisces on his wary response, ‘Sure, yeah!’ 

And just like that, with a team in place, including Dallas Reid and Wendy Keeling, the Loudoun Arts Film Festival was born. “We initially found this old theater from the 1800s which was converted into a music hall, but due to Covid, we weren’t able to do that. Instead, we did an online program and drive-in and there are 30 different wineries around the locations which made for a very nice venue.”

“Yes, sign me up!” I exclaim, with my hand raised over my head.

“Right!” We share a laugh before she explains, “I love the idea of a forty-foot blow-up screen outside, with the backdrop of the blue ridge mountains, servers bringing you wine and different foods. I want to make it a special event. We can provide people a unique and safe experience by allowing them to stay in their cars while watching a film and drinking wine…”

“What is it about films that speak’s to you?” I ask, tapping into Kaeley’s imaginative way of thinking.

“Damn! Good question.” I seem to have caught her off guard as she smiles sheepishly. “It actually goes back to our programming. We have submissions from over fifty different countries… What we’re trying to do is showcase film in all different aspects of our cultural landscape on race, gender, LGBTQ+ issues, and putting it all out there to have people view…” She goes into more detail explaining, “It creates aspect points to create communication between people — that’s what I love about it.”

I, of course, have to ask how she feels Covid-19 has been affecting the process of producing the Festival. To my surprise, Kaeley seems positively optimistic — “We, as a first-year festival, have gotten opportunities we wouldn’t have previously had.” She goes on to mention that they’ve been able to gather opinions and be in conversations that otherwise may have been out of reach. “We have two Oscar-winning films from 2019, November First (Nominee) and Skin (Winner), and some incredible local talent attending.” She reveals with a grin. “I look forward to more things like the drive-in. Covid evolved the way movies are being seen, how they’re being made… and with everything going on culturally, it’s making us aware of our own humanity and really questioning the decisions we’re making. It leveled the playing field a bit more and that’s exciting to me! I think it’s going to be a great time for independent film.”

When I attended the Loudon Arts Film Festival, I was truly inspired by the old Hollywood glamour Kaeley was able to produce along with her team. The food trucks in addition to the wine were also a much-appreciated perk! Following the success of the Loudon Arts Drive-In Film Festival’s inaugural event, I’m sure we’ll see them again and again.

Are drive-in festivals the new wave of the future? And if so… I’ll see you at the drive-in!

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