SXSW: deadCENTER team looking for the 'magic' in Austin 

click to enlarge Lance McDaniel, executive director of the deadCENTER Film Festival, and Sara McCombs, the festival's shorts programmer, are in Austin this week reviewing films at SXSW. - BEN FELDER
  • Ben Felder
  • Lance McDaniel, executive director of the deadCENTER Film Festival, and Sara McCombs, the festival's shorts programmer, are in Austin this week reviewing films at SXSW.

Lance McDaniel is on the hunt for magic at South by Southwest.

The executive director of Oklahoma City’s deadCENTER Film Festival is in Austin this week with a small team reviewing dozens of films for possible showing in OKC this June. He will consider his personal feelings when watching a film at SXSW, but he is also paying close attention to the audience around him.

“We are looking at a lot of stuff that has already applied to us, but we are going to see how they play to the audience and see them in person,” McDaniel said.

Last year, McDaniel came away from SXSW knowing “Take Me to the River” was the film he wanted to close deadCENTER with on the outdoor stage.

“I saw that film here [last year] and there were five standing ovations during the film,” McDaniel said. “People were going crazy for these performances [in the film], so I was like, ‘yeah, that’s got magic.’”

deadCENTER receives over 1,000 submission for 100 spots, but the team is also on the lookout this week for any films that should be added to the list.

“I try not to look for anything in particular and just let it happen,” said Sara Thompson, deadCENTER’s short film programmer. “I really just try to come in with an open mind.”

Beyond the films, the deadCENTER team is also looking at the functionality of SXSW to get ideas on how to improve the festival experience in Oklahoma City. McDaniel travels to several film festivals a year, but said SXSW is an important one to attend because it offers a similar vibe to deadCENTER.

“I think that Oklahoma City and Austin share a very similar sensibilities about music and about culture,” McDaniel said. “The reason we come to SXSW is because I think it’s the [film] festival that feels the most like deadCENTER in that the city of Austin really gets behind it and it creates this vibe where it is a celebration of film. A lot of the other bigger festivals have a harder time keeping it from becoming a commercial market for film. SXSW manages to create an environment where, even though films still get sold, it’s a celebration of what is here.”

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