WILLIAMSTOWN -- The town's annual film festival showed new vitality this year, drawing an estimated 1,200 for a long weekend of carefully selected film titles.
At events, champagne flowed while corn kernels popped, as visitors welcomed performers, live music before each showing and guest speakers that included writers and directors.
The 14th seasonal festival debuted a new honed look, occurring over a single long weekend, Oct. 17-21, rather than two.
Both Executive Director Steve Lawson and Sandra Thomas, executive director of Images Cinema on Spring Street, declared it a success, saying future years would likely follow the same format.
"Attendance is up," Lawson said. "We started very local. But now there's a lot of people coming from New York and Boston, and I think the five-day span helped."
Lawson said organizers sought to condense the event to create "a hotter ticket" and provide accommodations for out-of-towners who couldn't come for both weekends.
The result, according to Thomas, was both more visitors and local people.
"We're a small festival, so it's always great when the community comes out," Thomas said Sunday.
Thomas thought the weekend's favorite movie was "The Pier," a comedy-drama focused on a family in Ireland.
"That one seemed to really resonate," Thomas said. "Plus, [director] Gerard Hurley was here all weekend, so people had plenty of opportunities to talk to him about it."
A series of short films shown Wednesday was also very popular, Thomas said.
"Which was good," she added, "because I must have watched 75 to 100, maybe even more, to have a variety to pick from."
Some other films shown included "Knuckleball," "Gayby," "Circus Dreams," and "Dreamscapes."
In addition to Hurley and other film-types, organizers hosted a discussion with Maine novelist, short-story writer and screenwriter Richard Russo at the Clark Art Institute on Saturday night.
Russo detailed the travails of helping bring to life three of his novels -- in films that feature Paul Newman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Maggie Smith, Ed Harris, Helen Hunt, among other notable actresses and actors.
Working with director Robert Benton on the first adaptation of his work, Russo said he was at first "alarmed" by the script's brevity.
"How did you communicate your alarm?" asked Jim Shepherd, writer and Williams College professor, who also participated in the discussion.
"I said, ‘Benton, this is just magnificent,' " Russo said.
Russo highlighted the actors' ability to learn characters and the film's ability to provoke visceral reactions from viewers, as select scenes from his movies were shown.
Russo also revealed that he's at work on a script to adapt Bill Bryson's classic Appalachian Trail-hike story, "A Walk in the Woods," with director Brad Silberling, who also attended the festival, and Robert Redford.
Though hesitant to reveal future plans, Thomas said in future years, organizers aim to grow the event and hope this year provided a good start.