The final credits have rolled on Waco’s first film festival, and organizers already are talking sequel.
The Deep in the Heart Film Festival finished its four-day run Sunday at the Waco Hippodrome theater, drawing some 900 people to a slate of six feature films and some 70 shorts. The festival also attracted 47 filmmakers, including one from France, many of whom talked with audiences after screenings about their work.
“We spoke to several Waco transplants — folks who’ve lived in California, Austin, Houston — and they were all so pleased that we brought a quality film festival to Waco,” said Waco filmmaker/video producer Louis Hunter, who with colleague Samuel Thomas led the festival’s planning. “Again and again, people told us that they could not believe this was a first-year festival. We are humbled by this high praise.”
Carla Pendergraft, marketing director for the Waco Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, lauded the fest’s organization as a key part of its success, in addition to quality films and sponsored events. Films and personalities may bring the headlines to film festivals, but a smoothly run schedule and operation go as far in shaping favorable perceptions, she said.
“Kudos to those who put it on,” she said. “If something is poorly organized, people get frustrated and angry and they won’t come back.”
More than 150 people attended the Feb. 16 screening of the Waco-made feature “Blur Circle” that launched the festival’s evening screenings, but the largest crowd came Saturday morning when about 200 showed up for the “Family Friendly” short film block.
The festival not only offered feature and short films, but workshops and the announcement of news that might pay off in future Waco film projects. Texas Film Commission marketing coordinator Taylor Hertsenberg recognized Waco as a “Film Friendly” city, while Creative Waco executive director Fiona Bond announced that the festival would receive the first grant, for $10,000, from the newly created Arts Match Project.
Waco-made films took home several of the 30 awards given at the festival. The Chris Hansen-directed “Blur Circle,” the story of a mother working through trauma, guilt and forgiveness in the disappearance of her son, won best feature film and the audience award for best feature, with its actress Cora Vander Broek winning best actress honors.
The KWTX-TV documentary on Central Texans who fought in the Vietnam War, “We Can’t Forget Vietnam,” won a special jury award, as did Chris Scott III’s look at the 1953 Waco tornado, “What About Waco: A Mighty Wind.”
Hunter said next year’s festival is open for submissions, but after four days with shortened sleep, he first wanted “a good, solid nap.”