Film festival

Film festival

Louis Hunter (left) and Samuel Z. P. Thomas await the arrival of movie fans and filmmakers to this year’s Deep in the Heart Film Festival at the Waco Hippodrome.

Attendance and community support of last year’s Deep in the Heart Film Festival helped earn the festival a standard in the movie world: a sequel.

That “sequel” — technically, just the second year of an open-ended series — opens Thursday at the Waco Hippodrome with another four-day lineup of film shorts, full-length features, workshops and more. Last year’s debut drew more than 1,000 attendees.

While the festival run remains the same length, the addition of a second venue, nearby arts space Cultivate 7twelve, allows the festival some programming flexibility with a second screening area.

“We learned from last year that there was not enough time for audiences to turn over (between films), explained Waco filmmaker Louis Hunter, who with fellow director and video producer Samuel Z.P. Thomas created and have led the two Waco festivals.

Using a small performance space within Cultivate 7twelve as a screening room, planners were able to shift some of the film blocks on Friday and Saturday from the Waco Hippodrome.

The result: more and shorter film blocks for viewer convenience — 16, up from last year’s nine — a little margin of time between them and more chances for audiences to interact with directors.

Choosing the short and feature films for this year’s fest showed Hunter and Thomas its appeal among filmmakers, even as it made the job for festival screeners harder.

This year’s festival saw more than twice as many submissions, approximately 400, as last year’s debut. Part of the increase came from the rescheduling of the Deep in the Heart Film Festival until after Austin’s South By Southwest Film Festival, held earlier this month, which freed up some films for exhibition.

Despite the increase in entries, organizers picked roughly the same number of films and film shorts as last year with short film blocks grouped by themes or connections that screeners found, Hunter said.

Five full-length features are among the “heartwarming, heart-breaking, heart-stopping films” that the festival draws its name from:

  • “Into The Who Knows!”: The festival’s Thursday opener, where a 10-year-old and his imaginary friend Felix the Fox go on a summer camp adventure.
  • “Amanda & Jack Go Glamping”: A married couple try to rekindle their relationship by “glamping,” or “glamour camping.” Directed by “Sironia” director and Baylor graduate Brandon Dickerson.
  • “Monsoon”: A drama about two friends in Arizona whose relationship is strained by tragedy.
  • “Remixing The News”: A documentary that remixes 1960s and ‘70s news footage from Dallas television station WFAA to show shifting cultural attitudes and news media coverage.
  • “An American In Texas”: A story of angry punk rockers wanting to break free from their small town in 1990 Texas.

The balance of film shorts cover a sprawling range of subjects and stories, including a tale of zombies in the French and Indian War; NBA star Jim Turner’s longtime record for fastest triple-double; an animated bear taking the subway to keep his girlfriend; the Texas School for the Deaf football team; Baylor football player Lache Sistrunk’s post-college journey; “From The Ashes,” KWTX-TVs follow-up to its Vietnam War documentary “We Can’t Forget;” colonization of Mars; and relationships spanning times and circumstances.

Shorts are organized in two- to three-hour blocks with such titles as “Art Meets World,” “Thicker Than Water,” “This Is Me,” “Love Lost & Found,” “Future Men,” “Wrong Place, Wrong Time,” “Choices,” “Lies,” “You And Me,” “War Stories,” “Anything Could Happen,” “Grace,” “Stranger Things,” “Texas Two Step,” “Family Friendly Films” and “Lone Star Shorts.”

Crowd-pleasers will return in an encore screening at 2 p.m. Sunday.

A full schedule and description of festival movies are available online at

Shorts deemed R-rated-equivalent will be shown at Cultivate 7twelve with the Hippodrome used for the five feature films and selections aimed at general audiences. The festival also offers three workshops and panel discussions — “Virtual Reality Analysis,” “Directing Your First Feature Film” and a “University Professor Panel and Student Film Showcase” representing Baylor University, Texas Christian University and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Organizers and the Waco Film Commission also have planned a Saturday morning Waco locations tour to show filmmakers Waco-area settings and looks they might consider for their films.

An after party follows the festival’s first three days with an awards ceremony scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday. An opening reception will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Festival admission ranges from $8 for a single film or film block to $32 for a six-ticket package and a $100 all-access VIP ticket.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor