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Oklahoma's deadCenter Film Festival benefits from previous year's success

“Talihina Sky,” a documentary about Kings of Leon, the Oklahoma-connected band comprised of brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill and their cousin, Matthew Followill, will open the deadCenter Film Festival Wednesday on Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City.
BY GEORGE LANG Published: June 3, 2011

Step-by-step growth was the name of the game for the first nine years of the deadCenter Film Festival, but on June 9, 2010, the first day of last year's event, deadCenter suddenly was ready for its close-up. That was the day Spike Jonze, director of “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” stood on a stage in the middle of Broadway Avenue with Edmond BMX legend Mat Hoffman and discussed their new documentary, “The Birth of Big Air.”

This was not the first time deadCenter delivered a killer opening night, but by moving the outdoor kickoff party to Broadway and having an A-list director-producer in the spotlight, deadCenter moved to another echelon in the national film festival scene. Executive Director Lance McDaniel said the successes of 2010 helped set the stage for even more growth as he gears up for the Wednesday, June 8, kickoff of the 11th annual deadCenter Film Festival.

“It is a game-changer, because what it says to the rest of the world is, ‘Here is a festival that is able to attract significant, high-level talent,'” McDaniel said of the festival, which continues through June 12 in multiple venues throughout downtown Oklahoma City.

“Any time you're able to do that, it brings you up a notch. It allows all these other people who are looking at your festival compared to the other 3,000 available in America to say, ‘Here's something different. These people have something going on because they're able to attract an interesting group of people.'”

Being called ‘cool'

McDaniel, who took over the executive director position from Cacky Poarch in August, said there was a tangible and immediate impact from last year's success. In December, MovieMaker magazine listed deadCenter Film Festival as one of the “20 Coolest Film Festivals” in the country.

“Because of that, we got a lot more attention,” McDaniel said. “Now, we're not some random festival in the Midwest. We've been identified as cool by an industry leader, and I think that actually led to us getting more submissions.”

But as McDaniel points out, the seeds for deadCenter's current success were planted by Poarch, chief operating officer/festival director Kim Haywood and former program director Melissa Scaramucci, who created an outreach program for promising filmmakers in Oklahoma's public schools and developed lasting relationships with filmmakers such as Bradley Beesley and regular participants such as the Flaming Lips.

Respected critic Elvis Mitchell, host of “The Treatment,” originating from KCRW, Southern California's leading NPR affiliate, participated as a panelist last year, serving as further evidence of deadCenter's growing reputation.

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11th Annual deadCenter Film Festival

When: June 8-12.

Where: Multiple venues throughout downtown Oklahoma City.

Tickets and information:


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