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 out
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.
This year, the deadCenter Film Festival begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, with the redCenter gala at Red Primesteak, 504 N Broadway, followed by the outdoor premiere of “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. Like last year's premiere of “The Birth of Big Air,” “Talihina Sky” will be projected on a massive screen in the middle of Broadway.
McDaniel, a longtime Kings of Leon fan, said “Talihina Sky” offers some rare insight into a group that came from extremely humble beginnings and, over the course of a few years, transformed into one of the biggest rock bands in the music industry.
“It is awesome,” McDaniel said of director Stephen Mitchell's documentary. “What is amazing about it is, these were guys who grew up in and around Oklahoma with a Pentecostal preacher father doing traveling, weeklong revivals. So they grew up super-poor, super-religious and now they're the biggest rock stars in the world. They're a very, very family focused group of guys, and so it's so interesting to see the behind-the-scenes — what does it mean when you go from young, religious kid to rock star, what your family thinks of it, how it affects their families when they're back in their own communities.”
McDaniel said “Talihina Sky” and other films such as the acclaimed documentary “Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times” are just the most prominent titles in this year's impressive slate of documentaries and narrative films. He also sees deadCenter as continuing to amass national and international interest and support in the coming years.
“I think we'll continue to get more people,” McDaniel said. “I think our films will get better, our crowds will get bigger, and we'll draw a lot more attention to Oklahoma City — not as a one-off like, ‘Hey, Spike Jonze showed up once,' but as a yearly event that gets national press and focuses on Oklahoma City as a hub of creativity.”
11th Annual deadCenter Film Festival