“It was really fun but also a little bit dangerous,” Poarch said. “You didn’t know if the wheels were going to come off or what you were getting yourself into. But now, the [festival] is smooth and pretty, like a Cadillac.” 

(Photo by Mark Hancock / Composite and design by Christopher Street)

(Photo by Mark Hancock / Composite and design by Christopher Street)

deadcenter2015Related content:

• deadCENTER Film Festival celebrates 15 years. • 2015 ICON award winner and honorees. • Commentary: Becoming an art-smart city, by Tyson Meade. • Satanic black mass documentary: The Real Enemy. • The life and times of a freewheeling legend: Being Evel. • Foodie favorites: Course of Food, City of Gold and The Last Sandwich. • Recommended: Special event screenings, LGBTQ, topical history, music, feature-length Oklahoma. • Dead Drunk Festival is Award Winning. • Oklahoma Gazette's official deadCENTER Film Festival program.


Cacky Poarch, one of the original volunteers of deadCENTER Film Festival, often compares the early years of the event to an old Corvette.

“It was really fun but also a little bit dangerous,” Poarch said. “You didn’t know if the wheels were going to come off or what you were getting yourself into. But now, the [festival] is smooth and pretty, like a Cadillac.”

Entering its 15th year, deadCENTER has grown into one of Oklahoma City’s premier summer events, drawing nearly 30,000 attendees and a wide collection of independent films and filmmakers.

The Corvette versus Cadillac analogy works, but the festival and its organizers were also likened to daredevils setting their sights on a seemingly impossible task only to prove the naysayers wrong.

“deadCENTER has been taking huge risks throughout its history,” said Lance McDaniel, the festival’s executive director since 2010. “Trying to establish something really cool in Oklahoma City was a real challenge 15 years ago. Now, Oklahoma City is the toast of the world, but it wasn’t that way when the festival first started.”

The festival seems to fit in modern-day OKC with its up-and-coming vibe and intimate accessibility to world-class talent. But when a pair of brothers launched deadCENTER in 2000 and gave the reins over to a small, yet aggressive group of local film advocates, success was not a likely outcome.

“I don’t know why we never gave up,” Poarch said as she remembered screenings in front of just one or two audience members in the first few years.

But in a city that had adopted a “Why not us?” mentality at the turn of the century, the deadCENTER team knew in their guts that they could build something great.

“It really is amazing what has been created,” Poarch said.

Lance McDaniel in the Hart Building lobby on Film Row. (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Lance McDaniel in the Hart Building lobby on Film Row.

Expanding vision

The 15th deadCENTER Film Festival runs Wednesday, June 10 through Sunday, but the organization also recently completed a 15-city film and education tour across the state.

The festival’s distribution program also ensures that deadCENTER is not just showcasing great film but is also helping create it.

“We are constantly looking for ways where we can help other filmmakers,” McDaniel said. “When I first came [to deadCENTER], I was blown away by how great they treated the filmmakers, and I think that’s what we do better than any film festival.”

Any filmmaker who attends the festival is guaranteed to meet with a film distributor, and there are various workshops to help get films off the ground.

The education program, which McDaniel helped take to a new level when he became executive director, works with high school students across the state in an effort to inspire them to follow their passion for film.

“It was really important for us that young filmmakers in the state of Oklahoma knew about the opportunities they had,” said Kim Haywood, deadCENTER’s director of programming and education. “If a young kid wants to be a filmmaker, we talk about the education opportunities that exist to them because we are going into these small towns where some kid in Guymon might not have any clue that he can be a filmmaker.”

In addition to traveling throughout the state, deadCENTER brings in 50 to 60 of the high school students they meet across Oklahoma to attend a multi-day seminar meeting with filmmakers and award winners who have gathered for the festival.

click to enlarge Kim Haywood, program director for DeadCENTER Film Festival in her office on Film Row. (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Kim Haywood, program director for DeadCENTER Film Festival in her office on Film Row.

“The cool thing to me is that they get to network together,” Haywood said. “If there is a kid who cares about film and another one just two towns over, maybe they can get to know each other and work together on a project.”

While the education component of deadCENTER is thriving, so is its main annual festival, which kicks off Wednesday night with a concert before the official opening night party and films on Thursday.

This year’s festival includes a lineup that appeals to the thrill-seeker, including Being Evel (See page 66.), a documentary on the life of Evel Knievel that will be shown for free on the Great Lawn at Myriad Botanical Gardens on Saturday.

Another high-energy film at this week’s festival is Rolling Papers, a documentary on The Denver Post’s pioneering marijuana coverage during Colorado’s first year of legalization.

Uncle John is a suspenseful narrative feature that tells the story of Dutch’s disappearance in a small Illinois town and the role John played.

The festival includes many more documentaries, shorts, narrative features and several parties and panel discussions.

From humble beginnings, deadCENTER has grown into a giant party that takes over downtown, celebrating the growth of film and the growth of the city it calls home.

“I remember when it would blow our minds that people would actually come to our film festival here in Oklahoma City,” Poarch said. “When I think about where it has grown to, it makes me want to cry.”

click to enlarge deadCENTER Film Festival 2014 (Provided)
  • Provided
  • deadCENTER Film Festival 2014
click to enlarge deadCENTER Film Festival 2014 (Provided)
  • Provided
  • deadCENTER Film Festival 2014
deadCENTER Film Festival 2014 (Provided)
  • Provided
  • deadCENTER Film Festival 2014

deadCENTER Film Festival

Wednesday-Sunday

deadcenterfilm.org

$10-$150

Note: For festival tickets, schedule and more information, check out the official deadCENTER program guide in this issue.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art 415 Couch Drive

Harkins Bricktown Cinemas 16 150 E. Reno Ave.   

Devon Energy Auditorium 333 W. Sheridan Ave.

Terrace Room Myriad Botanical Gardens 301 W. Reno Ave.

Great Lawn Myriad Botanical Gardens 301 W. Reno Ave.


Print headline: dead days,  deadCENTER Film Festival celebrates 15 years of bringing movie magic to Oklahoma.

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