The deadCenter Film Festival was founded in 2001 by Justan and Jayson Floyd, who hosted a one-night screening of short films from Oklahoma filmmakers at City Arts on the State Fairgrounds. Their mother provided hot dogs and snacks for the 50 film fans that showed up. And, just like that, deadCenter Film was off and running!
The festival moved to the University of Central Oklahoma in 2002. And, in 2003, Executive Director Melissa Scaramucci relocated the festival to downtown Oklahoma City, cementing our location in the dead center of Oklahoma and America. 2003 also welcomed Kim Haywood to the team as a volunteer. Kim became deadCenter’s first paid employee in 2006, and is still running the show as Director of Programming and Education to this day.
In 2004, Melissa Scaramucci moved over to become head of programming. Cacky Poarch stepped into the Executive Director roll for an astounding 7 years, most of those as a full-time volunteer. Brian Hearn, former Film Curator for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, joined deadCenter from its inception, leveraging his relationships with independent distributors to increase the profile of the festival and attract bigger international films.
Lance McDaniel joined as Executive Director in 2010 after volunteering for 5 years in programming, events, and production. Kevin Ely joined the same year as Features Programmer. And, Shorts Programmer Sara McCombs and Head of Operations Alyx Picard joined the deadCenter team in 2011 after several years of managing the box office and host committee respectively.
In 2011, we launched our award-winning statewide education program. In 2012, we launched a Distribution Forum to allow every accepted filmmaker to meet with Sales Agents and Distributors at the festival. And, we started our Oklahoma Film ICON Award to link our filmmakers with people leading the industry.
Lissa Blaschke was hired as Executive Director in 2016, allowing Lance to become Artistic Director and unveil our year-round deadCenter Film Institute. And, long-time volunteers Shane Smith and Ryan Baker joined our official programming team.
Since our humble beginnings, deadCenter has become Oklahoma’s largest film festival and one of the “20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” according to MovieMaker magazine. We now attract 30,000 fans to Oklahoma City to meet filmmakers and see award-winning films from around the world.