Previously known as the No-Name Film Festival, which was exclusive to Tyler citizens, Downtown Tyler Film Festival was acquired by the city in 2011. It removed its locals-only restriction and allowed filmmakers from not only Tyler, but from all around the world to submit, with submissions coming in from as far as Australia, England and Italy.
“We are really trying to encourage our local filmmakers,” said Serena Butcher, senior public relations specialist with the city of Tyler. “We really hope to just … help them grow in our community.”
As an audience member, Butcher appreciates all the films submitted to the festival, but the ones filmed in Tyler hold a special place in her heart.
“I like seeing areas of Tyler in the films, ‘cause you are watching the films, you are really into the story, and then all of a sudden you realize, ‘Wait! I know where that is! I’ve been there … I drove that street everyday’,” said Butcher. “So that’s really my favorite part, seeing Tyler in a different light.”
For TJC alumni, Justin Reese and Kenny Rigsby, winning first place in the “Best Texas” category was a huge honor. Their short film “No Matter How Far” went against others from larger markets like Austin and San Antonio, where filmmaking is more prevalent.
“It was such a reminder that while having access to tons of resources is super helpful, it’s not what makes a film great. There’s some alchemy that happens when you collect fine people with good taste and they work hard … Money can rarely buy people who care about what they do and have a high bar of excellence for themselves, and we were blessed to work with people like that,” said Reese, one-half of the filmmaking duo Chalant Films.
Reese, of Canton, and Rigsby, of Lindale, are self-taught filmmakers whose small-town upbringing didn’t stop them from having big dreams in film. For those young filmmakers who feel living in a small community holds them back from succeeding in the world of cinema, Reese and Rigsby prove that with enough ingenuity, one can deliver a product they are proud of.
“Your most important asset is your own creativity and determination,” Reese said. “If your aspiration is to make a very specific story that requires tons of people, then a large market will probably be necessary, but if you know your limits ahead of time, you can work within them and still make something great.”
Their short film “Recommended Reading” received “Best Film” and “Audience Favorite” at the 2011 Downtown Tyler Film Festival.
For this year’s film festival, Reese, just three years after his first film submission, was chosen to be Festival Director, deciding what films play at the festival and mentoring and communicating with upcoming filmmakers so they know what they can expect.
“They (Reese and Rigsby) showed a real passion for helping other filmmakers and I think it was that passion that led them to be asked to be Chairmen (of the festival),” said Butcher. “They didn’t just want to make themselves better, they wanted to help everyone else get better too, which is really what this whole festival is about.”
For 2011’s second place comedy short, “Sharkhead Man,” filmmakers Patrick Perkins and Dylan Voisard took a unique route by telling a futuristic tale involving robots and made all costumes out of cardboard. They took an idea that would generally lean towards having a big budget and focused on character and story instead to deliver one of the visual stand-out entries of the festival.
“The better your story, the easier it will be to find people excited to help you produce it … However, I tend to create stories that reflect the environment that I find myself in. It’s an easier feat for me in this way,” said Writer/Director Voisard. “I adopt a more metaphor driven, minimalistic style and focus on telling a story without the characters having to be human-centric.”
The Downtown Tyler Film Festival will take place Sept. 24-27. Submission deadlines run all the way to July 31, 2014.
To watch the short films mentioned above and for all other submission guidelines, be sure to visit tylerfilmfest.com. To follow these individual filmmakers, visit their websites at ChalantFilms.com (“No Matter How Far”) or Kid Mountain (“Sharkhead Man”) at vimeo.com/kidmountain.