January 19, 2012 by molliveroneal
An Interview with Anthony Foreman by Molly O’Connor
I first met Anthony Foreman last sumer when a mutual friend asked me to join the Trail Boss Team for the 48 Hour Film Project in Oklahoma City. Having no idea what this project was, but being the diva-actress-wannabe that I am, I of course signed on to help. Along with ten other teams, we worked fast and furiously to create, edit, and submit a short film, all in less than forty-eight hours. After the debut of our quirky yet clever superhero film “Briskman,” our team was out for an evening of celebration when I began to quiz Anthony about his interest in the art of filmmaking. It was then that I learned that he was the Founder and Director of the Trail Dance Film Festival, which is now in its 6th year and is set to place January 27-28 at the Simmons Center in Duncan, Oklahoma.
“How old are you?” I demanded.
When he told me that he was 26, had started the festival at the age of 20, and successfully started his first online website business at the ripe age of 14, I realized that my recent high score in Angry Birds was no longer that brag-worthy.
Having grown up with a love for movies and a strong interest in independent film, Anthony began talking about starting a film festival when he was a Communications student at Cameron University. He had been assisting with graphic design and advertising at the Duncan Convention and Visitors Bureau when he and the director at the time, Jessika Davis, began talking about how there were no events in the month of January to pull people into the community. Influenced by one of his professors, Dr. Matt Jenkins, who had successfully created and submitted several independent films to festivals all across the country, Anthony began putting the initial plans together to start a film festival in Duncan.
“I asked him (Dr. Jenkins), ‘If I started a film festival, would you submit films for it?’ And he said ‘yes’, so I thought…okay, I have at least one person who will submit films. It was then that I talked to Jessika and that’s when things really began.”
Anthony hit the ground running with the idea, spending the entire year of 2006 raising money and seeking support for the concept. He brought together people who were dedicated to the cause, including one major supporter: his dad.
“The first year, I was doing everything. I went and begged for money. Called executives from large rental chains to get support. I told my dad, ‘I’m gonna put on a film festival.’ He said, ‘You’re crazy.’ And that was the end of the conversation. Then the first box of films arrived and I got him wrangled in to help out.”
The hard work paid off, and in January 2007, the first Trail Dance Film Festival took place. Much to the excitement of Anthony and the festival planning committee, the Governor’s Conference on Tourism granted them the Redbud Award, which recognizes outstanding new events. The festival succeeded in attracting new tourism to the town of Duncan, including several filmmakers and film enthusiasts from across the country.
“Our first year we had a dude fly in from Paris, France to promote his film at the festival. Every year we have a lot of people from Canada, LA, Chicago, Texas, Oklahoma and Washington State.”
Anthony speculates that the Trail Dance Film Festival has about a $100,000 impact on the local economy. Those attending the two day event spend a significant amount of money on hotel rooms, restaurants, and retail.
“Our budget for the event is about $50,000, and I would estimate that we spend about $45,000 of that in state. That includes things like renting the facility, printing costs and trophies.”
In addition to generating new revenue in Duncan, the festival has been instrumental in providing Oklahoma filmmakers a forum to exhibit their work and the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, filmmakers, and actors from outside of the state. Included in the event is an educational outreach program that serves approximately 700 3rd through 8th graders. In this program, professional filmmakers talk with youth about the art form and show examples of their work. A scholarship program has also allowed several young filmmakers to attend the festival.
While the Trail Dance Film Festival has had a successful six-year run, it has endured several obstacles along the way. With a population of less than 25,000, Duncan presents a real challenge when it comes to raising funds for the festival. Building awareness about the event and the overall value it plays for the community has also been a big hurdle.
“It has been hard to get people involved and invested. We also are competing for funds in a community where several basic needs are often unmet. When the schools already have to raise money for graduation or essential things like school buses, it’s hard to compete with that.”
Still, Anthony’s leadership, dedication and vision for the festival have endured and have only continued to help it reach new heights. Among other honors, the Trail Dance Film Festival has been named one of the Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals by Movie Maker Magazine. And most recently, the festival was listed on the PBS View Blog article: “12 Small Town Documentary Film Festivals for 2012.”
Featuring over eighty independent films, you won’t want to miss out on this year’s festival. For full details about the 2012 Trail Dance Film Festival and to purchase tickets, visit: www.traildancefilmfestival.com.
In closing, when asked about his advice for other new and emerging arts leaders, Anthony replied, “I know this sounds really cliche, but reach for the stars, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and keep your eye on the prize. That’s exactly what I did.”