Charles Willis is passionate about films and the gospel. He believes a film that presents the gospel in a fresh and real way will have a lasting impact on our society. With that in mind, he wanted to have a film festival in Dallas that would showcase the work of faith-based filmmakers. He reached out to me on Twitter to help filmmakers know about this brand new festival taking place in November.
What was the inspiration for starting the festival?
The inspiration behind me starting this film festival is the idea of giving Christian filmmakers a start. It is already tough to make it in the industry as a filmmaker. It is a very narrow path with lots of people trying to chase their dreams. Well that path becomes even narrower as a believer. So I wanted to create another venue for Christian filmmakers to showcase their work. I want to create a platform where filmmakers come to network, challenge each other to keep chasing their dreams, and pray for one another. As Christian filmmakers we can not forget what our purpose is – to share the gospel through our films. That is the heart of Upper Room Film Festival.
What distinguishes the Upper Room Film Festival from other festivals?
Man, that is a tough question. I am not sure what will be different from the Upper Room Film Festival and other Christian Film Festivals. I hope the spiritual investment that we will make in the filmmakers will be refreshing. I know what separates our film festival from the rest of the festivals in Dallas is that we are the only faith-based festival in Dallas.
What type of films are you looking for?
We are looking for REAL Films. We are looking for stories that show real life struggles and the faith that gets them through that. We wnt films that will reach the lost and show them the hope we have in Jesus. We want films that encourage Christians who are walking through the storms, that in Christ we can stay strong. The more we show the world that life happens to Christians just as it does for them, but the difference is we have hope in Christ. We have strength in Him. Christians get cancer. Christians lose loved ones unexpectedly. Christians lose their jobs. Christians make bad choices and have to deal with consequences as well. BUT, we have hope in Christ. We have strength to get back on the path and stay on the path with Christ. So we want films that show the struggles of life, but with the hope of Christ.
How can filmmakers submit?
Film submissions can be done through Film Freeway and soon through our website.
What can attendees expect from the festival?
We are hoping to have a great line up films that they can come and watch and to be inspired. We are looking at having some panel discussions on Faith in Film that festival goers can attend. We hope to have special guests that will tell their stories. We are trying to get some bugger films to have a special screening with the filmmakers present to share their inspiration. The local radio station will be on site to bring a different excitement to the event.
What is your vision for the festival?
My vision for the festival is that it will become the premiere festival for Christian filmmakers. That one day people will submit films to our festival and buyers/distribution companies will be there to buy films. This will be a gathering place for filmmakers to network, maybe option scripts, and find their next DP. I want this to be a place where Christian filmmakers can launch their careers. The Kendrick Brothers and the Erwin Brothers have done a great job of opening the doors for the filmmakers that come after them. I hope we can be apart of that path.
I love films. Films have always moved me. Some films have opened my eyes to show me how to be a better human being and some films have shown me how important it is to fight for your marriage, to hold tight to Christ when your life seems to fall apart, or most recently through I Can only Imagine, how you have to go and deal with your past so that God can move you forward. There is a place for Christian films, and the church needs to go and support all these films so that we can continue to produce them. I remember when the church did not embrace any Christian music other than pop or worship music and because of that, it caused the Christian music industry die. I remember going to GMA three years in a row and each time it got smaller and smaller. The last time I went, there were not radio stations in their remote booths, not exhibitor hall, and hardly in showcases. Soon after that, when you went to a Christian music store they went from three or four racks of alternative/metal/rap to just pop/contemporary or worship. It was sad to me. I am a firm believer it’s because the mainstream church did not get behind the rock and the rap, so stores stopped selling it. I hope this does not happen to the Christian film industry. This is why God has impressed on my heart to launch this film festival because I hope it will be something that keeps Christian films going. George Barna had a quote that said the next great evangelist will be the filmmaker.