Things to Do In the Smoky Mountains: Lights, Cameras, Action-style
By Bennie McCann © 2011, All Rights Reserved

Imagine, if you will, a room filled with actors, directors, and filmmakers, all partying with local people who are hanging out with the stars. You're in Hollywood, right?  Maybe Sundance?  Nope, you're in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

When you’re looking for things to do in the Smoky Mountains, you’ll inevitably come across Gatlinburg – home town of only 4,000 people, but host to a whopping 10 million visitors each year. With its excellent restaurants, abundant shopping and quaint beauty, Gatlinburg is the Aspen of the Appalachians. 

Yet, despite the nearby amusement parks, museums, and assortment of entertainment, one thing you won't find there is a single movie theater. This makes the Gatlinburg Screenfest Independent Film Festival all the more unique and fascinating. 

Every March, Gatlinburg Goes Hollywood

For three days in March each year, Gatlinburg becomes the regional Mecca for independent film culture and Hollywood glamour. The power-packed weekend of events promotes indie films, artists and filmmakers on the cutting edge, bringing their craft to an audience of locals and tourists alike.

The event opens every year with a party where all the attendees can meet the invited filmmakers. Since there’s no movie theater, the film festival moves into a huge convention center in the middle of town. Because the festival is so unusual for the area, it also attracts a large pool of locals and university students, making the event feel incredibly young and hip. This is not a Hollywood takeover of a small town, like Sundance, but a local event that primarily draws people from Eastern Tennessee.

Because Gatlinburg is a hotspot of things to do in the Smoky Mountains, and because of the unique location of the event in a downtown conference center, the film festival capitalizes on this and makes the other local attractions part of the event.  Though Gatlinburg might not traditionally be associated with Hollywood glamour, the festival is an industry-themed event which associates with the nearby Hard Rock Café, Hollywood Wax Museum, and Hollywood Star Cars.

Meet-and-Greets and "After" Parties

In addition to the film screenings and the meet-and-greet party with the filmmakers, the event also has vendor booths, games and workshops. This gives the entire event an atmosphere more like a festival and less like a series of movies.  In years past, they've had idea development assemblies, costume balls and workshops.

Perhaps the highlight of the Gatlinburg Screenfest – and the thing that makes it one of the most glamorous things to do in the Smoky Mountains – is its Awards Ceremony. Taking its cues from the Academy Awards, the soiree in Gatlinburg presents its accolades at a cocktail party. Honors are given to the festival’s best films as well as the big four from the Oscars: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.  Adding to the Hollywood feeling are the clips shown throughout the event and marquee entertainment.

So, if you're searching for things to do in the Smoky Mountains in the early spring, and want a little Hollywood Glamour sprinkled in, the Gatlinburg Screenfest is highly recommended. This perennial winner deserves two thumbs up!

Bennie McCann is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in cabin rentals in the Smoky Mountains. Visit the main website to book cabins for your next Smoky Mountains vacation.