RIFF

The Rome International Film Festival will kick off Fiddlin’ Fest this year with a screening of “Sweet Dreams Do Come True,” complete with a concert by Nashville veteran Verlon Thompson.

The event will be held at the Rome City Auditorium, Friday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m.

There is perhaps nothing so vulnerable as telling the world your life’s story. Thompson has done just that since the 1970s, and he does it via guitar, his voice, and storytelling lyrics that you can’t help but see and feel. “Sweet Dreams Do Come True” is a musical memoir, directed by Brent Simonds, featuring tales of Thompson’s life as a troubadour.

In addition to the screening and concert, there will also be a Q & A session with Simonds and Thompson.

Throughout the 93-minute film, viewers meet Thompson’s family, friends, and musical peers including Guy Clark, Sam Bush, Shawn Camp, Wayland Holyfield, Billy Dean, Suzy Bogguss, Doug Crider, and Jon Randall. Audiences are also introduced to the love of Thompson’s life — Mike & Betty’s daughter.

Thompson said he was actually a bit reluctant upon hearing of Simonds intended project.

“I was completely comfortable with writing and singing about my life’s journey, but not convinced it would transfer to film,” Thompson explained. “You see, my songs give the listener a sketch of the scene and then they, the listeners, fill in the details with their own imaginations. I was worried that the real and true picture on a big screen would not compare to the fantastical imagery in their minds.”

Upon seeing the film, however, the farm boy from Binger, OK said he was completely overwhelmed.

“Overwhelmed emotionally to see my life flashing before my eyes (I’ve jokingly said that it’s kinda like going to your own funeral!), and overwhelmed that someone would dedicate himself so completely to telling this story….about me! I still get that same feeling every time I see it on the big screen,” Thompson explained. “And maybe best of all, my friends and fans have said that those real and true pictures are even better than what they had imagined.”

Simonds is a professor and the mass media program coordinator in the School of Communication at Illinois State University.

“As a university professor,” he explained, “many of my projects have been grant-related, creating films for highly specific audiences. “Sweet Dreams Do Come True” was a passion project – one I waited a lifetime to make. Making this music documentary was a joy, but the best part was becoming friends with an extraordinary man.”

Thompson’s ballads will ring in downtown Rome’s annual Fiddlin’ Fest with the sounds of Folk and Americana music. RIFF Executive Director, Seth Ingram, recalled a moment of inspiration that has led to the planning of this event.

“My first year at the helm of RIFF [2015],” Ingram explained, “we programmed the now-legendary film “Heartworn Highways,” which chronicled musicians Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Towns Van Zandt, and Emmylou Harris, etc...as they were breaking into the Nashville music scene in the 1970s. Verlon Thompson has long been in that scene and played and wrote with Guy Clark for years. He’s a fantastic talent, and we are excited to have him with us for the film and a concert. It’s going to be a real treat for music fans!”

Sponsors of the event include the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Courtyard by Marriott, and PAM Studios.

DDA Executive Director, Aundi Lesley, said that when offered the chance to sponsor, the DDA didn’t think twice.

“This event opens up a great opportunity to show off downtown Rome, and to celebrate music and all that Fiddlin’ Fest encompasses. Hopefully our residents come out to the event, and people come into town and spend the weekend enjoying all of these wonderful festivities.”

Thompson said he has performed all over Georgia, from Tybee Island to Ringgold.

“I’m honored to be performing a concert alongside the screening of ‘Sweet Dreams Do Come True.’ We’ve done this once before and it was a huge success.” He added, “I’m also just excited to be around the RIFF filmmakers. I get a creative charge from being around these incredibly talented and driven artists.”

The documentary was filmed in Oklahoma, Illinois, Tennessee, and Missouri.

In 2018, the film won best documentary feature at the Red Dirt International Film Festival, an Award of Excellence from the Broadcast Education Association, and was named the best music film at the Franklin International Independent Film Festival. It was nominated for best music documentary at the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival and was shown at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

RIFF 2021 is slated for Nov. 11-14. It’s important to note that this, and all other RIFF events are included and fully accessible to those holding 2021 patron passes. All proceeds from the event in the form of suggested donations and patron passes go toward benefiting RIFF. Patron passes are available for purchase at riffga.com.

“The Rome International Film Festival has a unique ability to bring the community together,” Ingram explained. “Unlike other events, RIFF is not focused on one particular thing or one film. It is a collection of things carefully woven together to create a unique shared experience that engages and enlightens while simultaneously entertaining our community.”

Tickets to the “Sweet Dreams Do Come True” event are available at http://bit.ly/RIFFVerlon

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