Inaugural Lake Charles Film Festival a success

Dressed in a black cowboy hat, red shirt, black vest and black cowboy boots, film and television actor Burton Gilliam talked about his life in entertainment during the first Lake Charles Film Festival.

The event, held at the Central School Arts and Humanities Center on Saturday, featured 25 independent movies made in the United States, Canada, Spain, Argentina and Iran.

Gilliam, the festival’s guest of honor, led an acting panel. Wearing the outfit from his character Lyle in the 1974 Western movie spoof “Blazing Saddles,” Gilliam talked about his shared perspectives on what aspiring actors should consider if they want a career in the movie business.

He explained how a character can also make a person a living, even after the a movie’s cycle has ended. Gilliam said director Mel Brooks encouraged him to use the Lyle character.

“So I refined the character over the years, and now I do speaking and workshops,” he said. “This has been the most wonderful thing.”

During more than 30 years of work, Gilliam has been in movies like “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Fletch” and “Back To the Future III” and has made appearances in television shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “The A-Team,” “Knight Rider,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Alice,” “The Waltons,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Soap.”

Gilliam said he is not able to act unless he learns his lines. “After that, I’m deadly,” he said as the audience laughed.

Even after acting in such high-profile productions, Gilliam said his interest is in doing small movies. “For me, this has always been fun,” he said.

Troy Turner, a spokesman for the festival, said the event was a success because it gave local writers, directors and filmmakers a chance to learn from experts.

“We are trying to get everybody interested in the business together. This is about bringing them together and teaching how to make movies,” he said.

Along with Gilliam’s acting workshop was an event that focused on people who want to make low-budget films and the actual tools of the trade of “shooting” films.

Film viewings included shorts and features.

“We had a much greater turnout that expected,” Turner said.

Gilliam was awarded the “Scallywag” award, the official trophy of the festival.