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West Texas Film festival to feature tiny home documentary - Odessa American: Local News

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West Texas Film festival to feature tiny home documentary

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Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 4:05 pm

Dates are Nov. 21 through Nov. 23 with the opening gala set for 6 p.m. at the Ellen Noël Art Museum. Harlan Whatley, director of the festival, said that event will feature a screening of the documentary “Finding Home in Boomtown,” directed by Matt Maxwell of Midland.

“He followed this family around for two years who decided to give up their solid upper-middle class lifestyle,” to create a tiny home village for homeless people, Whatley said

“It’s like a calling for them through their church,” he said.

The movie is about the journey of John-Mark Echols and his wife, Briana, toward creating a nonprofit called The Field’s Edge.  

“The film’s done well on the festival circuit,” Whatley said. “It screened in Colorado and quite a few other places; a lot of Christian festivals. It’s really popular in Texas right now. They just showed it at the PBS theater in downtown Midland at the Ritz.”

The other days of the festival will be in the Jack Rodgers Fine Arts Building at Odessa College, 201 W. University Blvd.

Whatley said there are 19 sponsors with Odessa Arts and Odessa College being the main ones.

The new Odessa Marriott Hotel and Conference Center is providing rooms for out-of-town guests and Standard Sales is donating wine and beer for the reception, he said.

Education Day is Nov. 22 for students which will include Brian David Cange, a line producer who has worked with Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame and he just finished a film with Kelsey Grammer in Georgia. Whatley said a line producer controls the budget. 

Six awards will be bestowed for best short, best feature, best documentary, best screenplay, best TV pilot script and best student film.

A group of students from George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa on Education Day will screen a movie called “Doughboy,” a short comedy.

A second film comes from Whatley’s students from a year ago that created a film on Cactus House, an art venue near NTO, and a third comes from Daniel Joseph Rodriguez, who works for OC, and it’s a horror film called “Goat Man.”

“(Rodriquez is) going to get up and talk with Billy Pon and this guy Jared Rush, who is a horror film producer. All three of them will hold a horror film workshop on the Education Day, which will be good because the students like that kind of thing. It’s the young person’s favorite genre,” Whatley said.

One of the Education Day presenters is Antti Seppanen from Finland. The Finnish Film Foundation paid for him to go to Mexico and shoot a film about a former mining town.

“He’s going to come to Odessa to talk about this film,” Whatley said. “He studied film in Ireland at Galway, which I actually gave a talk there on films about the Alamo four years ago; the spring of 2016 I was there. That should be interesting to get his perspective on documentary in Mexico.”

“We’ve got a Florida producer, a New York producer and a Finnish producer. Billy Pon is local and James Fite is from Big Spring, so it should be an interesting mix of people,” he added.

There also are other interesting movies. One is called “Foster Boy” and it’s set in Chicago. It was produced by retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.

The movie stars Matthew Modine, Louis Gossett Jr. and Evan Handler, who Whatley said was in “Californication” and most recently “Ballers” with The Rock.

“It’s a courtroom drama about the foster care system and the corruption and the abuse that goes on. The young African-American boy decides to take the foster care system to court and Modine is the court-appointed attorney,” Whatley said.

Modine is a hot-shot lawyer who flies around on a Learjet. He doesn’t want to take the case, but Gossett is the judge who makes him do it.

“It’s one of those awareness type films, but it was nice to get that film. I was a little surprised they submitted it to a small festival. Even Matthew Modine tweeted that he was glad it was going to West Texas,” Whatley said.  

“It’s very well crafted, well produced, well shot and well acted. I’m sure it will be in the theaters eventually for distribution, so we were lucky to get a film of that quality with those big names,” Whatley said. “We’ll show it on the Saturday night to close out the festival.”

Whatley said there also are a lot of good documentaries besides “Finding Home in Boomtown.”

“The Race of Gentlemen” is about a car race in Wildwood, N.J.  that takes place yearly.

“They race these old jalopies from like the 20s, 30s and 40s, I guess, and soup them up,” Whatley said.

“The other one is similar to that. It’s called ‘Motorcycle for Maradona.’ It’s a Russian film with English subtitles and it’s about a motorcycle that this guy designs for the famous football soccer player Maradona, so two gearhead documentaries back to back,” Whatley said.

A small documentary called “Honor Chair” about fallen police officers also will be shown, he said.

“I think it’s tradition that comes from World War II soldiers. This former Atlanta police officer turned filmmaker decided to make a little movie about it. It’s been pretty well received by the judges,” Whatley said.

“Another one is an environmental one about the Guadalupe Mountain area and the encroachment of big oil and the pipelines how that could affect the environment in the Trans- Pecos,” he added.

Other films are about Tourette syndrome, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), dementia, bullying and human trafficking, among other topics.

“We did get some good, socially conscious films — both drama and documentary — that address these issues,” Whatley said.

He expects a little more than 500 people to attend, but it could go higher since they are showing “Friday Night Lights” on Nov. 22.

“And there’s another good documentary called ‘Now or Never: A Tony Romo Story,’ by an El Paso filmmaker, so all the Dallas Cowboys people will probably turn out for that,” Whatley said.

There is a shorter documentary called “Best Chance U” about African-American football players at Dartmouth College, directed by Elizabeth Jenny.

“Our VP, Ken Zartner, who played arena football in Oklahoma City will introduce those films that night,” Whatley said.

There are 42 films in this festival and picking the selections was difficult. There are 10 on the submission committee, plus Whatley. To make it fair, they use FilmFreeway software.

“… Fortunately, we had a great volunteer staff this year, mostly OC professors and then four student interns helped with the organizing of the films. They’re doing all the social media. They get college credit for that,” Whatley said.

Ector County ISD and OC students get in free. The cost of a day is $15 and it’s $30 for everything.

“I think it’s going to be a fun festival. It is something different to do in Odessa and it’s not that expensive, so that should be the draw. I think it takes a while to build a film culture here, but like I said, we’re getting more and more film-related events — Big Spring in the spring and San Angelo in the spring. That’s a good thing,” Whatley said. “I think it validates your model it does help add to the film culture.”

Executive Director of Odessa Arts Randy Ham said he’s proud of Whatley and all the work he’s done for the festival.

“We love to help fund it because it’s one of those things film aficionados in the Permian Basin have to go to Marfa or Austin. Now with Harlan and his crew, we have our own film festival right here,” Ham said. “I think he’s very thoughtful about films he selects.”

It’s also a chance to see art as a profession rather than a hobby or something you do for free.

“The grant that we give to the film festival is a cultural tourism grant, so we make sure not only that it’s used well but correctly. Harlan brings filmmakers in from outside the area, immediately satisfies the tourism aspect of it,” Ham said.

He added that he’s looking forward to the Boomtown documentary.

“That’s been generating a lot of interest outside the Permian Basin as well,” Ham said.

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