Reel East Texas Film Festival begins in just over a week and festival director Chip Hale is excited to show off Kilgore to visiting directors.
“We try to make every screening awesome for the filmmakers if they come to town. Having a packed house for your movie is pretty awesome.” Hale said 70 filmmakers are scheduling a visit to Kilgore during the festival and he hopes the screenings are well-attended.
“Kilgore College students can get into the films for free. We’re really encouraging them to take advantage of it and see some independent films while they’re on campus,” Hale said. This year, the festival will screen student films in Dodson Auditorium on the KC campus.
“I wish I would have had a film festival I could have gone to for free when I was in college. Especially with student films, I think it’s good for our student films in the festival, for their peers to watch the films as well,” he said.
The festival will also include a screening of “Dinkheller”, a documentary from Georgia made by a former police officer about an infamous murder of a deputy. Law enforcement will be invited to view the movie for free. Hale said inviting students, veterans and law enforcement to free screenings was his way of thanking the community.
“Any group of people that we can give a thank you to, I think that’s one of the coolest things about the film festival. I don’t know if law enforcement in East Texas would be able to see ‘Dinkheller’ otherwise,” he said.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, the festival will screen a kid-friendly movie called “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.” The digitally animated film tells the story of a dog who became the most decorated military canine in American history.
Hale said he was happy to show such an eclectic group of films in the second year of the festival.
“We now have more people making movies, that makes it easier for us as the filmmaker to get our work out there and to find work,” he said, noting the availability of movie-making technology had allowed many more people to get their start in the craft.
The week of RETFF coincides with many other popular Kilgore events and Hale said that’s no accident.
“There would be no film festival if there were no derrick lighting,” he said. “I wanted to attach the film festival to something that was already going on. Filmmakers like things that look pretty and have an aesthetic. The derrick lighting is specific to Kilgore. You can take a film festival and put it anywhere. You can’t move the derrick lighting. It’s a perfect way for me to show filmmakers where I live.”
He said filmmakers visiting Kilgore at last year’s festival were enthralled with the derrick lighting and the charm of the city.
With only a few days until the festival begins, Hale said there was still a need for volunteers to help out with the festival. Anyone interested in volunteering can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This year’s festival will include movie submissions from East Texas locals.
Charlie Walker, owner of Charlie’s SnoBall and Seasonal Tanning, served as assistant director and actor in “Flu Shot”, a suspenseful movie about tainted injections causing an apocalyptic scenario.
Written and directed by KLTV reporter Bob Hallmark, the movie was filmed primarily in Hawkins and Liberty City.
“This is the first one I’ve worked on,” Walker said. “It’s been lots of fun. It’s definitely been an adventure, lots of running through the woods.”
Walker said he and Hallmark are already teaming up to work on another film. “Flu Shot” will be screened on Friday, Nov. 16, at 10 p.m.
A Kilgore High student with a passion for drama penned the script for a festival film submission and local musician and youth pastor Michael Wooddell helped her shoot the scenes.
“The movie script was written by a girl named Carly Mauldin. She’s a freshman at KHS and she’s in the theater department,” Wooddell said. “She wrote the script and I pretty much filmed it and did a little bit of editing and directing.”
Wooddell had some experience with filmmaking from appearing in commercials. His wife, Sally, teaches theater at KHS and has Carly as a student. He said Mauldin had been wanting to write a script and he helped her turn her idea into a movie.
Most of the filming was done in Kilgore, including at KHS, the Kilgore Bookstore, at KC and a few scenes were shot in Gladewater.
The film, “Cameron”, focuses on a young man and his attempts to figure out his life.
“It’s basically about this kid named Cameron. He’s in high school in his senior year and he’s got some struggles at home. He has a relationship with this girl and he’s just trying to figure out how to make it all work,” Wooddell said, adding the movie would “definitely be considered a drama.”
“Cameron” will be screened on Nov. 17 at 7:05 p.m.
Wooddell said he and Mauldin may collaborate on future films, perhaps on another drama or a suspense film.