A Chunk of Coal and a Bunch of Films

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The 2012 Lone Star Film Festival is the sixth edition of this growing event, bringing a wide variety of films to multiple venues in downtown Fort Worth Nov. 7-11. It is more than just films; there are educational panels, celebrity guests and nightly parties featuring celebrated musical acts.

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The society honors the legendary producer of The Godfather, Albert S. Ruddy, with the Achievement in Film Producing award and Texas singer Billy Joe Shaver with the Stephen Bruton Award. The Bruton Award recognizes an artist whose career, although anchored in music, includes extraordinary achievement in film.

Venues for the festival include the AMC Palace Theatre, the Four Day Weekend Theatre and the Fort Worth Convention Center. The schedule is too complicated and extensive to print here, so check the Web site at lonestarfilmsociety.com for details.

The Bruton Award is a special honor, Shaver said recently in an interview at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth.

“He was my first guitar player,” Shaver said. “He was just a kid. He wasn’t old enough to get into the places to play, and I had to kind of fudge a little bit. … Stephen was a very good guitar player and a good friend, too.”

Shaver is no stranger to movies. Friend and fan Robert Duvall cast him in the 1996 film The Apostle. He has other credits to his name as well.

Bruton died May 9, 2009. “I don’t remember what year it was. I try to forget those things. I’m a born-again Christian, and I always think everyone when they die, it’s the beginning of forever then. I’d rather feel that way,” Shaver said.

“It’s like Stephen is reaching up out of the grave and saying, ‘Billy, here’s for all the times I got crossways with you’ or ‘for all of the happy times we had.’ It’s just like a friend giving a friend something for nothing, because I can’t imagine why I would receive it,” Shaver said.

Last year’s recipient, Willie Nelson, will present it. “Willie’s my brother,” he says. “I’ve been knowing Willie since 1953. I stay in touch with Willie. He’s been a big help to me.” That was especially true when Shaver’s son died of a heroin overdose in Waco on New Year’s Eve 2000. “He was real concerned about me because he’d been through something similar to that. He’s just been a real good friend,” Shaver said.

Shaver says his song I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal marked a turning point in his life. “I wrote that when I was in real bad trouble with drugs and alcohol and all kinds of stuff,” Shaver says. He had climbed up to a cliff overlooking Narrows of the Harpeth River outside of Nashville, intending to end his life. But he didn’t. “I wound up asking God to help me,” he says. “I came down from that place singing the first half of Old Chunk Of Coal.”  — Paul K. Harral