Exciting. It's the first word that comes to Lance McDaniel's mind when he talks about deadCENTER Film Festival. As its new executive director, he admits one word doesn't do the state's largest film festival justice, but it's a starting point.
"Everyone who comes is surprised by how exciting it is to watch independent films," McDaniel says. "You just get to be part of the fever."
This summer, he took the reins of an organization that has been on a supernova track since it first dimmed the lights and rolled its first flick one June evening in 2001.
Now, deadCENTER Film Festival is a five-day event held in Downtown Oklahoma City each June that draws nearly 10,000 people to the metro. deadCENTER screens more than 100 indie films, hosts a professional panel series, and features a screenwriting competition - and it's only growing.
"Our goal moving forward is to leverage the fact that we've become really well respected within the independent film industry," McDaniel says. "The goal now is to create educational programs to help students around Oklahoma who want to be part of that, to give them the tools to be part of that."
He volunteered with deadCENTER for five years before taking the executive director position. He says he fell in love.
"It's a festival run by other filmmakers, so everything they do is geared toward making it easy for filmmakers to be participants," he says.
For 15 years prior, McDaniel served as the creative head of an Internet company. He decided he wanted to start making movies, so he quit his job and moved to Los Angeles. He was able to score some credits, first as a producer's assistant on "Cloud 9," a little-known beach volleyball comedy starring Burt Reynolds and Angie Everhart.
That led to serving as a producer's assistant on Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" with Hilary Swank. The 2004 movie claimed four of the seven Oscars for which it was nominated.
From there, a friend offered him a ticket back to Oklahoma to work on a series of low-budget films. He knew he wanted to be closer to home, and he knew he was starting to come into his own in the industry.
"I would say we're a young adult," McDaniel says of the 501(c)(3) organization he now runs. "For the 10 years they've been going, they took one night of a local festival