The Man Making Strides in the Realm of Entertainment
by Melissa LaScaleia
For Jerry Dalton, founder and organizer of the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, there isn’t a better location in the world for a film festival than the Market Common. He prefers it even to Sundance’s location in Park City, Utah. Here the weather is balmy; the flowers are blooming; the Grand 14 cinema, where the films are played, is a new state of the art theater; there are a multitude of restaurants and shopping venues adjacent to the theater making it an ideal location to hang out all day; there’s plenty of parking; and never a shortage of hotel rooms.
“Last year’s film festival was phenomenal,” Jerry says speaking to the Insider. “It sold out and people had a great time.”
This year marks the second time the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival has been nominated by the prestigious Movie Maker Magazine as one of the top 50 film festivals to submit to in the world.
“And once you see our film festival,” he says, “you’ll understand why. The films we have this year are unbelievably entertaining and will transport you out of your life. We have a super lineup, about sixty-seven films from sixteen countries, including the U.S., Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Australia, Iran, Russia, Italy and France. You get to see things that are affecting people in a different part of the world that you might not think about.”
“The beauty of independent film is it’s a story told from the heart, created as art, with no restrictions,” he continues. “Many people don’t know that Hollywood scripts movies for demographics. They don’t make a movie that has a limited or restricted following, or a following they’re uncertain about, because that means their profits will be limited or uncertain. It’s their business model.”
But independent film is not shaped or constricted by these same rules, and doesn’t adhere to any standards to ensure it makes millions in the box office.
There’s a misconception that independent film is poorly made with a handy-cam and bad acting, a misconception Jerry wants to correct. The only thing that makes it independent is that it’s not produced by the top eight film studios in Hollywood.
In the world of independent film, the story told may be devoid of the economic influences that shape Hollywood films, but it’s not absent from the selection process of the films that are ultimately brought to the public; repping is par for the course. The term, as it applies to the film industry, refers to the behind-the-scenes selling of a film based on influences other than the film’s own merits.
“It’s just part of the process, that you have to go out there and wine and dine people and spend money to get your film in a film festival and viewed by the public,” Jerry explains. “There are films that are in there on their own merits, but they are just a percentage, and not the norm. Repping is strictly forbidden at the MBIFF. Selection is purely based on the art of motion picture alone. If you are in this festival, it’s because we judged your film and it earned its position.”
Jerry hopes to one day change the face of the independent film world so that more artists have an opportunity for their art to be seen based on its value alone.
“We’re trying to create new distribution channels and a new way of handling films,” he shares.
Jerry wants art to be financially accessible to all people— both in its creation and viewing. In alignment with this vision, last year he created the Myrtle Beach Film Institute as part of the film festival.
Throughout the course of a year, students meet weekly and conclude the program by filming their own production. The film institute is free to attend, in keeping with Jerry’s belief that nobody should be barred access to art due to financial constraints. Also for this reason, an all-access pass to the MBIFF is an astonishingly low $50. He refuses to sell tickets at the average film festival rates, despite continued pressure from his board.
Five of the Myrtle Beach Film Institute’s films will be showcased on Monday, April 16, as a precursor to the film festival. They are all made by locals and filmed locally. Open casting for the films was last October, and was hugely successful.
“It’s really made a big difference in a lot of peoples’ lives having something like this available,” Jerry says. “I think art opens a pathway in peoples’ brains that leads to beautiful things and makes life better because it allows them to see things from different perspectives, and creates space to allow them to operate in a positive manner.
“Art opens up the right side of your brain, which gives you imagination and your thought processes into a more whimsical world. If someone has that side working well, but no outlet for it, it becomes frustrating. Part of the reason for creating the school is to give people an outlet for the creative process, to tell stories through the art of motion picture, which in its formation and execution, is similar to the synergy needed for an orchestra to successfully play a symphony.”
Creating films locally also helps support the local economy. Jerry explains: “If you have a great movie that highlights a location or a certain iconic spot, people want to go there and see where it took place. It’s called the film effect. And it’s a massive advertising opportunity for Myrtle Beach. You show the beauty of Myrtle Beach, the culture and the people here, and the film becomes one hell of a commercial.”
“There’s something for everyone in the movies,” he continues. “You’re the creator of a story you want to bring to people. I tell my students: you’re a magician and you can create the illusion you want people to see. When you go to Hollywood, you’ll see locations where some films were shot and you’ll be surprised by what it really looks like. You can make it look magical. That’s the power of the movies.
“People change through what they see. We have a moral obligation to come together as a community and create beautiful things to help uplift one another. That’s done by telling good stories and respecting the diversity of thought and wants and needs in life. To me, that’s the beauty of life, that everybody provides something different and we get to share and experience all these different aspects and perceptions of life.”
The Myrtle Beach International Film Festival, April 16-21 in the Market Common. Premier viewing April 16; April 17 commences the actual film festival. Events every night and during the day. Tickets will sell out.
Click here to read more about Jerry Dalton and the face of independent film.