North Texas Daily

The Denton Black Film Festival: Past, Present and Future

The Denton Black Film Festival: Past, Present and Future

January 22
17:14 2018

Rows of empty seats occupy the theater but soon, however, they will be filled, and the room will resonate with cheers, laughter and maybe some tears.

The Denton Black Film Festival will take place from Jan. 25 through 28. The festival will be spread out among several venues within walking distance of each other, and will host many different events and features of film and art.

The Campus Theatre, a staple for Denton, has been a host for the DBFF in the past and will be one of many venues hosting the festival this year.

“We were excited when the Eaddy’s approached us,” said Mike Barrow, managing director for the Denton Community Theater. “We had seen the success of the other film festival we had here and we saw that it brought in a whole new crowd that had never experienced this theater before.”

Linda and Harry Eaddy, two of the organizers for the festival, have worked with Barrow in the past and see him and the theater as an essential part of the DBFF.

“We wanted to be a part of something groundbreaking for Denton and we were extremely proud to be a part of it,” Barrow said. “It’s so great that we embrace the poignancy and not hide the poignancy that at one time, this was a segregated theater. So I think this event in this theater just speaks volumes for where Denton has come and what kind of city we are and continue to be.”

The Campus Theatre is one of the largest showing venues in Denton that hosts and showcases a wide variety of various plays, musicals and films.

“It’s a large enough venue to accommodate the crowds we were hoping to draw,” said Mesha George, co-marketing director for the Denton Black Film Festival. “It has vitality  the pulse of this area just really brings energy to the city at large.”

The DBFF has made quite an impact on the Campus Theatre, which was recently awarded a $5,500 grant from the Denton Benefit League.

“Next week we have a permanent screen being installed, it will be retractable  just a push of a button away from being used,” Barrow said. “A direct result of these festivals is we now get calls all the time from artists wanting to screen their films here.”

Due to the rapid growth since the festival’s conception, the event has expanded to several other venues as well.

“The heart of our festival is film, so our main venue for film is here [the Campus Theater],” said Linda Eaddy, director of film programming for the Denton Black Film Festival. “We’ve also added on Saturday three screenings at the Black Box Theater, which will provide a more intimate space to view some really good films.”

Aside from films, there will also be workshops on Friday at ‘UNT on the Square’ and at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center, as well as an open mic event that night.

On Saturday morning, there will be panels and a creative resource expo at the PAAC, and local band Fingerprints will open for Frank McComb during their live concert. Festival goers can also attend an ongoing art exhibit at ‘UNT on the Square’ and a comedy night at the Black Box Theater on Saturday.

Meetups will happen at Harvest House on Friday night and Steve’s Wine Bar after the concert on Saturday for those who want to stay out a little later.

The festival will conclude with an awards breakfast at the Best Western on Sunday for the artists featured throughout the weekend.

“It’s pretty amazing where this festival has come in a few short years,” Barrow said.

Now in its fourth year, the festival has grown considerably since its inaugural year with 800 attendees, 13 films and seven screenings, all limited to one day and a half.

“Last year we had 3,500 attendees so we’re expecting 5- to 6,000 this year,” Eaddy said.

And with big sponsors like NBC 5, festival organizers are hoping to reach their highest attendance numbers yet.

“As the word gets out more, and you consider the population in this area alone, you could really go crazy with attendance,” George said.

The festival travels beyond its North Texas borders with people coming from far and wide due to the national and international submissions and screenings of the films and content shown.

“The festival has attracted so much interest, and many different businesses and organizations have wanted to be a part of it,” George said. “I think everybody likes to see progress when it’s happening and be a part of furthering that and helping it grow.”

With this growth comes challenges like how to accommodate large crowds and attendees from beyond the North Texas area.

“This is the festival’s origin, but I think we will also need to look at 21st century solutions for growth, and that means that everything may not be a physical accommodation,” George said. “We would look at things we could do online or doing more things throughout the year.”

Due to such rapid growth, festival organizers have recently considered providing online alternatives for the festival as well, like streaming events or hosting showcases solely online.

“We’ve discussed what this model should look like in this age given what people have access to,” George said. “We’d love to have a larger audience throughout the country and even internationally, and that means we have to look for other ways to provide that.”

After expenses, the net revenue from the festival goes toward scholarships for filmmakers as a way to give back to the community — the festival organizer’s ultimate goal for hosting event.

“Being able to engage others and build new relationships and partnerships and being able to give people an enjoyable weekend is most important,” George said. “More than anything, we want to make people feel good and be happy, entertained, educated and hopefully inspired.”

Featured Image: Linda Eaddy, Mike Barrow and Mesha George stand outside the Campus Theater. The Theater is one of many venues hosting events throughout the duration of the festival. Paige Bruneman

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Austin Wagner

Austin Wagner

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