Market Common Film Festival
Attendees at last year's MBIFF listen to a panel of illustrious speakers. From left to right: Bill Burke, former CEO of the Weather Channel and founder of Turner Classic Movies; Didier Pietri, founder and former president of ABC films under Disney; Jay Alix, CEO of Alix Partners; Jack John Smith, former general mananger for the Cadillac division of GM.

The 12th Annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival

Changing the Face of Film All Over the World

by Melissa LaScaleia

The Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, MBIFF, was designated one of the top 25 film festivals to submit to in the world in 2009 by Movie Maker Magazine, the preeminent magazine for independent and Hollywood film. They were also given the award two years later, and have been nominated again for it. 

The life story of our local film festival’s founder and producer, Jerry Dalton, is so fascinating, that it’s worthy of being made into a movie itself. 

Jerry grew up in Oregon to a pioneering family. His father would buy large tracts of land every four years and relocate his family there. They would sleep in tents or an old barn, and build a house on the land entirely by hand before moving on.

“This was the sort of thing people did in the 1800s,” Jerry says. “I grew up differently than most people.”

His life story took him from bodybuilding, to working as a professional chef, to eventually building his own house by hand in Myrtle Beach, which confounded the permitting office who issued him a $7,000 fee with the general feeling he would not complete it.

“Ever since my youth,” Jerry tells me, “film was my passion. But in the 1980s and even still today, if you aren’t juiced with connections you have a hard time getting noticed. Nepotism runs deep in Hollywood, and I needed a way to survive.

“I never gave up the hope of going into film though, so I worked in the film industry here and there for free, just to do it and be in it. Finally I filmed my own movie, and it ended up being shown in theaters in 37 states. Distribution is my niche; eventually I handled films in which Tom Arnold, Brittany Murphy, and Faye Dunaway were the main actors.”

“Along the way,” Jerry says, “I saw a lot of great films and wondered why they never made the cut at the big film festivals like Sundance, Tribeca and others. So I did some research and discovered that it wasn’t about the film being good or bad, it was about who was in it, who was repping it (meaning attached to it, financially or production-wise), and how much money was spent repping (lobbying) it.

“That’s when I decided that I would start a film festival that is and only is as long as I’m alive, independent, and it doesn’t matter who’s in it or attached to it; we do not accept lobbying, being wined and dined and such. To me it’s not ethical.”

It took him two years to create his vision, and the first Myrtle Beach International Film Festival was in 2004. Each year he’s drawn crowds from all over the U.S. as well as internationally. Those who come herald his movie lineup as the best.

“There’s no secret why,” he tells me. “We have judges from all walks of life with varied backgrounds. At most major film festivals you’re being judged solely by film people, who can be snooty and critiquing, and worse— motivated by agenda.”

“At most of the big film festivals, you get extra points for highlighting a political agenda that the critics back. Once again, it’s not fair. It’s not judging the film on being a work of art. I used to go to big film festivals and wonder why the stories were all basically the same— all the same political agenda, all the same theme,” he says.

Here, if you score high on all the judges’ score sheets here, you score high across a diverse range of people, not just a niche. Movie Maker Magazine noted that the MBIFF doesn’t allow politics to play a place in the judging. It is strictly based on the quality and entertainment value of the films.

“Hollywood is a business, and that’s fine,” Jerry explains, “but their scripting comes from an accounting department which scripts for demographics because it’s what appeals to the demographic and will therefore sell. And that’s why it gets rather boring. 99% of the time, independent film is scripted from the heart; it’s simply a story that someone wants to tell so badly that they will raise a million dollars to tell it. There is so much conversation that happens after these films.”

The Myrtle Beach International Film Festival will be held Wednesday, April 19 through Saturday, April 22 in the Market Common. There will be two days of special screenings, food and discussion events prior to Wednesday for all-access pass holders.

It’s not just the films and ensuing discussions that make this film festival such a worthwhile event. The people who are drawn to Jerry’s festival are looking for great art without agenda, and offer a lot to the community.

“This year, we have a Russian filmmaker who was invited to debut in Hollywood, but elected to debut here instead,” Jerry tells me. “And last year, Jay Alix, the world’s biggest negotiator, who formulated a plan to save the U.S. when it was several hours away from bankruptcy after the crash of 2008, he came, along with the former president and founder of ABC films, and the former CEO of the Discovery Channel. Those are just some of the people you can meet here.”

“For an independent film maker to show up and learn about what actually goes on,” Jerry adds, “it’s invaluable. For the film enthusiast, it’s a tremendous experience.”

Jerry keeps prices for the festival low to ensure that everyone has the chance to see the beauty of the world through these films. He calls it an “expedition experience” that everybody can absorb.

“Living in a beautiful environment makes life so much better,” he says. “When you see the things that are built today, they are ugly and cheap. The quality of art in a society reflects a society. We should support artists, real artists. If you have no art in your culture or environment, it becomes a cold and ugly place. And then people start to reflect that with their demeanor and attitudes.

“Art is a vital component to a healthy life. Art is beauty, and beauty is quality, made by good people who are beautiful inside. And sometimes that strays so far away from a society that is completely driven by making the next dollar. You have to have industry, I’m a business person too, but there should be a better balance.”

The 12th Annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival

The Myrtle Beach International Film Festival will be viewing over 60 films from Wednesday, April 19 through Saturday, April 22 at Grand 14 in the Market Common. 

Monday & Tuesday are special viewing evenings for all access pass holders. All access pass, $50. Individual film passes, $10. Purchase tickets online or by phone, details down below.

Interested in the arts? Check out our feature on the Seacoast Artist Gallery.

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