deadCenter Film Festival Executive Director
Cacky Poarch is the new executive director of the deadCenter Film Festival, Oklahoma’s Oscar-qualifying film festival, but she’s also one of the people that have been around since the very beginning.
Poarch was a part of the core group that got the festival started 23 years ago to provide a way for Oklahoma filmmakers to screen their films. And she’s worked to turn it into a four-day festival screening almost 200 films, being named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “20 Coolest Film Festivals” and Film Freeway’s “Top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals.”
“It’s been great to adjust the perception of Oklahoma,” she said. “And OKC has really, really grown.”
The festival’s growth has mirrored the city, also providing education initiatives and year-round programming for filmmakers.
“We always surpassed 10 percent growth every year,” she said.
The festival has about a $5.5 million economic impact every year, Poarch said. And while crowds were robust in 2022, festival attendance is still rebounding a bit from the pandemic. Poarch said 2019 pre-pandemic attendance swelled to more than 30,000 people.
“To me, we were the first organization to give filmmakers a voice,” she said. “So, we’ve been integral to the growth of the film industry. Back in the day, we fought really hard for the incentives. I do believe we were the spark.”
The spark that started almost a quarter century ago is still seeing dramatic growth: This year, the festival is on track to have 2,500 film submissions, which is up dramatically from the 1,500 submissions last year. She said becoming an Oscar-qualifying film festival two years ago have made submissions soar.
“I feel like a proud mom,” she said. “We talk about that a lot. We think of this as our baby. We still have lots of challenges, but there is way more momentum to fix them than before.”