OKC’s DeadCenter Film Festival Changes Leads As Lance McDaniel Steps Down And Alyx Picard Davis Steps Up

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In February, the deadCenter Film board announced that it had selected Alyx Picard Davis, the organization’s director of festival and operations, to succeed McDaniel following a nationwide search.

“It’s been different, it’s been weird, it’s been bittersweet. There have been some really, really, really great, beautiful things that have come out of it. But there’s also just this immense amount of grief on so many levels, because we’re also humans processing what is happening in the world in addition to what’s happening in our office – albeit virtual offices,” said Picard Davis, who started with deadCenter as a volunteer in 2006.

“It’s funny because this is our 20th anniversary, and so many things that we’re experiencing this year we experienced in the early years when we were building it. Then, we got into a groove and figured it out. And now we’re kind of having to return to that ‘I don’t know where this is gonna go, but I trust it’ and take that leap.”

Executive Director Lance McDaniel draws a laugh from Stephen Tyler and Alyx Picard Davis during the deadCenter Film Festival outdoor double feature in the parking lot of the Tower Theater screening "Shifter" and "Robot Riot" Friday, June 12, 2020. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

 Executive Director Lance McDaniel draws a laugh from Stephen Tyler and Alyx Picard Davis during the deadCenter Film Festival outdoor double feature in the parking lot of the Tower Theater screening “Shifter” and “Robot Riot” Friday, June 12, 2020. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] 

Outgoing Executive Director Lance McDaniel gets a congratulatory hug from Stephen Tyler, deadCenter technology director, after McDaniel was presented with Mayor David Holt's citation at the deadCenter Film Festival's screening of Okie Shorts at the Love's Travel Stops Stage and Great Lawn in Scissortail Park Saturday, June 13, 2020. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

 Outgoing Executive Director Lance McDaniel gets a congratulatory hug from Stephen Tyler, deadCenter technology director, after McDaniel was presented with Mayor David Holt’s citation at the deadCenter Film Festival’s screening of Okie Shorts at the Love’s Travel Stops Stage and Great Lawn in Scissortail Park Saturday, June 13, 2020. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Making the pivot

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The deadCenter team was ready to make its annual pilgrimage to Austin, Texas, for South By Southwest when the massive festival became one of the first major U.S. Events canceled due to the pandemic.

“It was about that time I started entertaining … The idea of, ‘OK, what if this is still around in June? What does the festival look like?'” The thought of not having a deadCenter in June was just unacceptable to me,” Picard Davis said. “We’re very, very stubborn, and it was, ‘We’re not not doing deadCenter: I need this, everybody needs this, the community needs this.’ And it became more of a calling than I think it’s ever been, that drive to work though the day and sit on eight Zoom calls back-to-back figuring out what we’re going to do.”

About 1,600 films were considered for the 2020 festival, making it the most competitive year in deadCenter history. Of the 140 films selected, 20 are feature-length films and 120 are shorts. Thirty of the chosen films were made in Oklahoma or by Sooner State filmmakers.

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