From spectator to organizer, Good keeps bringing award-winning films to Burlington.
By William Smith
Tadd Good was 25 when Snake Alley Festival of Film founder Lonnie Schuyler handed him the reins to the annual event.
A film buff his entire life, Good submerged himself in the festival atmosphere, doing anything to help. But he never considered running the entire show.
“I met Lonnie through the film festival. And he was like, ‘This is a lot of work. I’m getting ready to start a family. Would you like to take it over?’ ” Good said.
Good had never organized anything beyond a preview of independent feature films. But he knew if he didn’t, the film festival would likely go away.
“I had always been the quiet guy who just attended things,” Good said.
Updating the festival
Good is now 37 and has assembled a team of regular volunteers who make the massive event happen, including his wife, Nikki Good. The event is still four days long, but the way the festival works behind the scenes has changed drastically.
Especially the judging process.
“Lonnie was still doing physical media. So when you submitted your film, you would send in a physical DVD or Blu-ray in the mail,” Good said. “Lonnie would find a group of 10 people and sit them down at the theater, or he would package the DVDs up and bring them to somebody’s house. And they would sit and put it in the DVD player one at a time, watch them physically, and add up the scores.”
All the movies are available online now through verified access, which has streamlined the judging process considerably. Good typically gets about 200 short film submissions and watches all of them — twice.
“I’ve created a flagging system with a spreadsheet,” he said.
The process is simple. Good grades each film with a green flag, a yellow flag, or a red flag. Anything good enough to earn a green flag passes with flying colors. Anything with a yellow flag might not be the best movie but is worthy of consideration.
Anything with a red flag isn’t making the festival. It’s not a responsibility he takes lightly.
“I don’t give any red flags after the first viewing,” Good said.
But he still has to eliminate 100 films, which means downgrading many of those yellow flags to red. Good meets many of the filmmakers in person and knows how emotional the experience is for them.
“Just getting a film to the finish line is an accomplishment. For some of the filmmakers, this is the only chance they will get to see their work on a big screen,” Good said.
A life of horror films
While Good is a horror-film buff, he is obsessed with all genres of film. He’s a regular on “Attack of the Killer Podcast,” discussing classic movies with hosts as knowledgeable as he is.
He is one of those people who could accurately vote at the Oscars because he has seen all the movies up for nomination.
“I have an older brother and an older sister, and I’m the youngest sibling. I always got to watch movies that were probably not meant for me to be watching,” he said.
Good recalls his first theater experience clearly — a screening of “The Lion King” — without parental supervision.
After former council member Becky Anderson led a capital campaign to restore the Capitol Theater, Good was wedging his foot into the door. He wanted to help the theater show films when it wasn’t hosting performances.
“I would email the theater, and be like, ‘You know, the theater is dark tonight when it could be showing a movie,’” Good said.
That persistence paid off.
“Tina Salamone, director of the theater at the time, reached out to me and said, ‘Here’s the October schedule, here’s all that the nights you can fill. We have no money. Good luck,’” Good said.
No money was no problem. The public-domain films didn’t attract a lot of attention, but it was a start.
Before the Capitol
A Burlington native, Good moved to Macomb, Ill., for a few years to get his degree in graphic communications (with a minor in fine art) from Western Illinois University. He moved back and started working at Craftsman Press during his senior year of college. Good stayed there until this year, when he took a job as a publicist for Southeastern Community College.
“It’s hard to transition for 14 years of one position into a completely new role, but it’s going well,” Good said.
Good has his own podcast in addition to appearing on others, where he challenges someone to watch a classic film they have never seen before. Then they discuss.
Good takes the challenge as well, which is how he recently watched “Seven” and “Gangs of New York.”
Keeping the Fest Alive
This year is the 11th annual Snake Alley Festival of Film, but it would be the 12th annual if COVID-19 hadn’t caused a cancellation
Bringing the festival back was harder than Good expected. He even questioned if he should keep the film festival going.
After talking over the future of the festival with his wife, those questions didn’t seem so important. If he didn’t keep it going, Burlington would be missing one of the things that had made it unique over the past decade.
“You know, I think Lonnie’s dream eventually made it (film festival director) a full-time thing, for whoever takes it over,” he said.
That didn’t happen — and Good isn’t sure he wants it to. There’s no beating the passion of dedicated volunteers.
“I don’t know if I’d want that because it sort of takes what you love and turns it into a job. I don’t want it to become that,” he said.