This weekend, Dallas Film will debut the North Texas Film Festival in Plano, with more than 20 features screening from September 26 through 29.
Johnathan Brownlee, the CEO of Dallas Film and Executive Director of NTXFF, has been in the industry for over thirty years. The Toronto native has acting, writing, producing, and directing experience, and is always seeking out opportunities for growth.
“When I came to Dallas, I didn’t even know if my industry existed here,” says Brownlee. “I had the opportunity to build a really robust film industry, and that includes not only production, television, content, and film, but also a vibrant film festival like we have in Toronto. I really felt like I needed to put a couple of years into this to get it on the right track so we could really grow the industry and the festival at the same rate.”
The selection for the festival’s inaugural year includes several films that are soon to be released by Netflix, including Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy, The Laundromat with Meryl Streep, and The Two Popes. You can also catch the premiere of Now or Never: A Tony Romo Story, and Disney’s Back of the Net.
In addition to premiering new films, NTXFF will also include screenings of two fan favorites, The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights, to be hosted at The Star in Frisco at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, September 28. After the films, there will be a Q&A with Quinton Aaron, who played the lead, Michel Oher in The Blind Side, and Brad Leland and Grover Coulson, who starred as John Aubrey and L.V. Miles in Friday Night Lights.
“We are playing both of those at The Star, so you can sit on the field and watch,” says Brownlee. “You actually get access to meet these people. You really get access to the feel of these movies and the people in them, which is different from a typical movie-in-a-theater experience.”
One thing that makes NTXFF different than other festivals is its partnership with the Veterans Institute for Film and Media, a program that helps prepare veterans for careers in the media and film industry with opportunities for education, mentorship, and job placement.
“There are certainly other film festivals, but it’s the veteran program that makes this festival so unique,” says Maggy Croxville, Director of VIFM and coordinator of Veteran Programming for the NTXFF. “There isn’t another festival in this area that focuses on veteran art and veteran filmmakers–people who served our country, but are also capable of telling a story.”
Proceeds from the weekend’s events will go to the program, and ensuring more veterans have access to training in the media and film industry.
“I had worked with some veterans on films before, and I really wanted to build a program near DFW that helped that community,” says Brownlee, who founded the program two years ago. “I’m excited to help introduce the civilian community to our veteran community, and start to get those communities supporting each other.”
The film program allows veterans to open up about topics that aren’t always discussed in their community, and the VITM hopes to continue facilitating those conversations.
“We have a real crisis in this country when it comes to our health and mental wellness, and we don’t want to talk about it; we just want to complain on the effects of that illness,” says Croxville. “Art is a great way to open conversations on hard topics like that. Even though the stories we are telling are from a veteran’s perspective, these issues effect everybody.”
“We really felt like it was important to build something in North Texas that also parallels what is happening up here,” adds Brownlee. “We are doing a lot of family films, sports films. There is something for everybody.”
Tickets for the screenings at Cinemark West Plano and XD are on sale now. The movie event at The Star in Frisco is free to attend.