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Success story: deadCenter Film Festival

deadCenter 2021 logo

When the staff of Oklahoma City’s deadCenter set out to celebrate the independent film festival’s 20-year anniversary in June of 2020, they didn’t imagine it would be against the backdrop of a global pandemic. With the annual festival scheduled for June, they were among the first festivals to pivot to a fully-online streaming schedule. After a year of hard-won lessons, they’ve embarked on an ambitious 2021 lineup. We sat down with their Director of Festival and Operations, Miranda Patton, to see what 2021 holds for the little festival that could.  

deadCenter Staff photo
L to R: Alyx Picard Davis, Miranda Patton, Sara Thompson

What types of films make their way into deadCenter? 

“At deadCenter, we showcase the best independent films being made around the world and right here in Oklahoma. Our annual slate includes feature-length documentaries and narratives, short films, episodics, music videos, and virtual reality. One of the biggest criteria for a deadCenter film is whether or not you’d want to tell a friend about it at one of our awesome parties.” 

Are there any other important aspects of the festival or the organization we should know about?

”deadCenter Film is a non-profit that is operated by Alyx Picard Davis, Sara Thompson, myself, and a great group of seasonal volunteers. A large part of the year is spent planning and preparing for the deadCenter Film Festival. Outside of planning, we oversee the growth of the deadCenter education programs and year-round film programming called Continuum.” 

Staff set up outside screening
Volunteers and staff set up an outdoor screening

What’s with the name? 

“Since deadCenter Film Festival takes place in the middle of the country, the state, and the calendar year, the founders settled on “deadCenter” and we’ve been big fans ever since.” 

If deadCenter is in June, how did you handle 2020? 

“Last year, the deadCenter team pivoted to a virtual platform quickly and remarkably. For the first time, the festival’s selected films and shorts made their way into homes across the country and world.”

Street art for 2021
Street art for deadCenter 2021

What are some of the lessons that were learned when you had to go all-digital with just a few months to plan? 

“While nothing compares to the magic of watching a film in a darkened theater surrounded by cinephiles, you can still create a sense of community online. We quickly realized the importance of ensuring that dCFF 2020 could still happen, and we rapidly began our shift to a virtual festival to make that a reality. We are so grateful to our attendees and sponsors who made our 20th year not only possible, but an international success.” 

Were there any silver linings?

“Using the virtual cinema platform helped us develop, and helped us realize what is possible beyond our pre-COVID structure.”

Staff in front of sign
Staff, volunteers at the entrance to the Winchester Drive-In before a recent socially-distant fundraiser

What are the plans for this year’s festival? 

“Due to this pandemic, dCFF21 will be a hybrid festival. Attendees will be able to watch the entire festival online, and filmogers in Oklahoma City can enjoy a couple of outdoor screenings at the beloved Winchester Drive-In and local parks in the metropolitan area.”

Drive-in movie at night
Drive-in screening at OKC’s The Winchester

What will you do when it is safe to return to a fully in-person festival? 

“First, I will happy cry! Then I will work with the team to plan a festival full of celebrations, parties, and incredible films!”

How can we take part in the festival?

“You can get your $100 Virtual Pass for the festival here, and students can get their $50 Virtual Pass here. Once you order your pass you will receive email updates about exclusive pass holder perks and partnership offers.”


All photos: Courtesy of deadCenter Film Festival, 2021 

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