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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — With the departure of Alyx Picard Davis and return of the omnipresent Cacky Poarch as interim executive director, Oklahoma City’s deadCenter Film Festival nonprofit board and staff are preparing for a return to in-person festival events.

Cacky Poarch

Poarch and just four others were instrumental in bringing the festival into greater prominence in its early years. It originated in 2001 in a borrowed room at the Fairgrounds. Eventually, under her leadership, the festival was named “Top 20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine. Poarch helped organize the festival’s nonprofit.

The award-winning documentary “Faces of the 47th: The Art of Activism,” revealed Poarch’s chops as a filmmaker, too. She is an Artist INC Fellow and was awarded the deadCenter Festival ICON Award at the 2018 Glitterball.

“I love dead center,” Poarch told Free Press. “We all love dead center. We all want it to be successful. We have 60 days. I’m excited about being in person again. We haven’t really been in person for two years.”

“Alyx has been a vital asset to deadCenter for over a decade, and we are so grateful for her steadfast work of steering the festival through the pandemic,” Poarch said.

It was not easy keeping deadCenter alive during the two heaviest years of the pandemic when film festivals were taking hard hits.

Pandemic pivot

Davis brought the festival through the difficult times of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 with innovative approaches to a festival that was valued for the person-to-person interaction of attendees, actors, and filmmakers.

She earned leadership depth as she worked her way up through the ranks of the organization starting as a volunteer in 2006. She was program coordinator and then Director of Festival and Operations before becoming the executive director.

When no one had knowledge of the looming pandemic, Davis was named the executive director of the organization in late February 2020 as Lance McDaniel prepared to exit from years of leadership to becoming a full-time filmmaker.

Within a month and with only a few months to go before the festival, the pandemic forced the organization to move completely online. It was a move made possible by Davis’ prior knowledge of leading-edge innovations for virtual film-going. She was vice president of the international Film Festival Alliance which gave her unique contacts to sort out just how to make a virtual festival work.

Davis now moves into a closer relationship with the Film Festival Alliance as she becomes president and board member.

Then Executive Director Lance McDaniel records an interview for one of the many recorded segments with filmmakers for the virtual deadCenter Film Festival in the 2020 pandemic year. (file, Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

deadCenter survived that pandemic year better than expected because of Davis’ leadership combined with the flexibility of deadCenter’s other leaders, 400 volunteers, and devotees’ willingness to try something new.

Last year, the festival ventured into outdoor venues like Scissortail Park, Wheeler Ferris Wheel, and the Winchester Drive-In, giving festival participants safer outlets for contact while still providing a full range of virtual film offerings.

Now, deadCenter moves back into their familiar territory of a full in-person schedule.

Screening of the documentary “We are the one thousand” at the Wheeler Ferris Wheel during the 2021 deadCenter Film Festival. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Basics for the 2022 deadCenter FF

Here is core information you need to know about the upcoming festival:

  • The 2022 deadCenter Film Festival begins June 9 and runs through June 12.
  • A record-breaking number of submissions, almost 2,000, were submitted during the open call timeframe ending in March. The slate of festival films will be released in early May.
  • This will be the first year that award winners in the categories of Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film will eligible to enter into the OSCARS ® Short Film competition.

To learn more: deadCenter Film Festival now officially in pipeline to Academy Awards

  • Two new venues are being added this year: the First Americans Museum just opened in the fall, and the Yale Theater in historic Capitol Hill on S.W. 25th street.
  • With support from the Cherokee Nation, deadCenter will give a cash prize for the Best Indigenous Feature award.
  • Virtual offerings of festival films will be available through June 19.
  • Two nights of free outdoor programming: Friday night in Scissortail Park and Saturday night at the Ferris Wheel in the Wheeler District.

To check in for updated information as the festival date gets closer and to purchase passes, visit deadcenterfilm.org.

Last Updated April 17, 2022, 12:22 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor