10/29/2012 04:20 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2012

15 Years at the Savannah Film Festival

As I look back on 15 years of the Savannah Film Festival at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I'm visited by a flood of priceless memories: Terrence Malick helping a SCAD student with her homework, Miloš Forman walking into a SCAD computer lab to find a student re-editing a scene from one of his iconic films, Twin Peaks actor Ray Wise joining the cast of a SCAD student production on less than a day's notice, Woody Harrelson befriending soldiers at a local dive and inviting them to a screening of The Messenger the following night, Peter O'Toole and Roger Ebert, lost in conversation as they strolled down Broughton Street... just to name a few.

We began in 1998 with a handful of guests and a few screenings. This year, the film festival is expected to draw an audience of more than 40,000 for more than 75 screenings and events at Trustees Theater, a 1946 cinema house, and the Lucas, a former Vaudeville stage.

For these eight days in autumn, Hollywood comes to Savannah. And every year, our esteemed guests remind us that the best of the fest is the thousands of SCAD students at its center. From panel discussions to morning coffee talks, from student film competitions to Q&A sessions and workshops led by renowned filmmakers, every facet of the Savannah Film Festival is designed to complement and enrich the academic culture here at SCAD.

To champion the festival's founding spirit and to celebrate its 15th year, we'll honor a true legend in the entertainment world: Stan Lee. Stan is the iconic artist behind the superheroes of our modern cultural canon: Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor, among hundreds of others. In all, 90 percent of the Marvel Comics catalog bears Stan's inimitable signature, and his visual and narrative genius predates -- no, predicts -- the comic film franchise craze. Across every imaginable medium, it seems that Stan has always known the secret of an unforgettable story: show us a character we believe in, and dive into an adventure beyond our wildest dreams. In 2010, he founded the Stan Lee Foundation to promote diversity, national literacy, culture, and the arts, advancing his legacy for decades to come.

A few weeks ago, Stan released a dispatch to his fans, informing them he'd had a pacemaker installed to better emulate Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man -- a "fellow Avenger" of his own design. His newly fortified heart, he said, would allow him to lead the Marvel nation for "another 90 years."

A real hero, indeed.

Hollywood Comes to Savannah