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Reel values: Waco Family & Faith Film Fest debuts at Hippodrome

Via Waco Tribune-Herald |

The first Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival makes its debut this weekend with two days loaded with screenings of feature and short films, receptions beginning and ending the festival, awards for both filmmakers and film advocates and community screening and discussion sessions. For founder and organizer Tyrha Lindsey-Warren, it’s the culmination of more than a year’s planning, all meant for the encouragement of family- and faith-friendly movie making and with an eye to help build those audiences. It’s the fifth such film festival put on by Lindsey-Warren, presently a Baylor University clinical assistant marketing professor with extensive background in film and marketing, complete with Hollywood industry connections from her time there. The festival will present three feature films in its two days of screenings: “Miracle in East Texas,” the story about two con men whose drilling scam unexpectedly hits oil when church members pray; “Amazing Grace,” a 2018 documentary on gospel great Aretha Franklin, shot during a 1972 church concert; and Disney’s live-action “The Lion King,” released in theaters last spring. “There’s more than seeing movies,” Lindsey-Warren added, pointing to a Thursday night pre-festival reception honoring film and television actors and festival producers and organizers; a post-festival awards ceremony; live performances before feature screenings; and a Saturday filled with community screenings and “Soul Sessions” discussions at 11 locations.

“If people have not been to a film festival, they’ll be in for a treat,” she said. Actor/director/producer Kevin Sorbo and his actress/producer wife Sam Jenkins Sorbo, seen here in their film “Miracle In East Texas.”Kevin Sorbo photo Star power comes in the persons of actors Kevin Sorbo (the television series “Hercules: The Legendary Journey” and “Andromeda,” and films such as “Meet the Spartans,” “Soul Surfer,” “God’s Not Dead” and “Let There Be Light”) and his wife Sam (“Chicago Hope,” “Andromeda,” “Avenging Angel,” “Let There Be Light”), Food Network personality Gina Neely; and TFNB Your Bank For Life president David Littlewood. They are winners of the festival’s first Champions Awards, recognizing “exemplars of innovation as well as disruption in the film and entertainment industry.” For actor, director and producer Kevin Sorbo, who wore all three hats with his film “Miracle in East Texas,” it’s a trip back to the Lone Star state where he’s shot six movies as well as episodes of “Hercules” and “Andromeda,” not to mention several comic book conventions in conjunction with those roles. It’s also a return to Waco, where he spoke at a 2015 fundraising banquet for Care Net Pregnancy Center. “I love Texas,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Florida. “Tyrha’s been amazing and I’m grateful for the chance to help open the doors for this festival.” “Miracle in East Texas,” which Sam Sorbo also acted in and produced, is based on a true story that happened in Kilgore and it’s the sort of family-suitable film with a faith storyline that the Sorbos are drawn to, Kevin Sorbo said.

He compared it to the film “The Blind Side” in its grassroots popularity that, in the case of “Blind Side,” surprised its studio producers. He expects “Miracle in East Texas” will hit theaters in early summer, but finds it’s been considerable work to get it onto screens. While making movies may be easier these days for independent filmmakers like the Sorbos — provided one can raise the several million dollars needed for a small production — the next step of getting those films before broader audiences still is a challenge, Sorbo said. “We’re working hard to get the money to get into the theaters, but it’s tough to combat the $300 million films of Hollywood studios,” he said. Add to that the competition for theatrical releases created by streaming video and films produced with that in mind, and one sees the Sorbos’ work as producers doesn’t stop once the cameras do. “I think the indie world is picking up, but it’s tougher to get people into theaters,” he said. It’s not the only project that Sorbo is juggling these days, with three films in the works: “The Mustard Seed,” “One Nation Under God” and “Matthew Far From Here.” “I founded a production company and have been staying busy doing my thing,” he said. “We love doing movies the family can go see.” The Sorbos will do a question-and-answer session after Friday’s screening of “Miracle in East Texas” and will sign their books and DVDs after their festival appearances.

Around town

Festival organizer Tyrha Lindsey-Warren is a Baylor University clinical assistant marketing professor with extensive background in film and marketing, complete with Hollywood industry connections from her time there.Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file The festival will feature film screenings at the Waco Hippodrome from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Saturday, with feature films “Miracle in East Texas” in the Friday night block and “Amazing Grace” and “The Lion King” in the Saturday blocks. Dozens of film shorts from around the world will fill the festival’s screening blocks, with such themes as “Be the Change,” “Girl Power,” “Music Soothes the Soul,” “Love Is a Universal Language,” “Celebrating the Family,” “Empowering the Human Spirit” and “The Power of Faith.” There are also six “Soul Sessions” blocks Saturday morning at local churches and other community sites, followed by audience discussions. The community screenings are meant to expand the festival’s reach and stimulate community-building conversation, Lindsey-Warren said. “We’re using film to open discussion on how treat each other better and love on each other,” she explained. The festival will wrap up with an awards ceremony and final reception from 8:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday at Z’s at the Curry. A detailed schedule of film screenings and sessions is on the festival’s website,

Admission to Hippodrome screenings is $5 per session while the community location screenings are free. An all-festival pass, which includes admission to the festival’s opening and closing receptions, is $50.


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