Producer wants Wichita to host a new film festival
(The following is an excerpt from an article appeared in print in the Wichita Eagle on January, 13, 2003.)
BY BOB CURTRIGHT
Timothy Gruver sees no reason Wichita can’t be the next Telluride when it comes to regional film festivals.
“There are extraordinary possibilities here,” said Gruver, 31, who grew up in Wichita and is now an independent film producer. “It’s been 12 years since I lived here and I’m very encouraged to see what’s happened,” Gruver said. He cited Old Town, the Orpheum restoration, Exploration Place and the Warren Theaters as encouraging developments.When I heard Wichita did not have a major film festival, I set out to change that.”
Gruver has experience organizing and marketing two California festivals, dealing with everything from grassroots outreach to problem-solving for individual filmmakers. He was office manager in 2001 for Outfest, a lesbian/gay showcase that attracts about 42,000 people, making it the largest film festival in Southern California. Then in 2002 he was marketing coordinator for the Los Angeles Film Festival, which draws about 35,000 people...
“But this would not be the Dogpatch Film Festival. Wichita has a lot of resources to throw a world-class event. If the city can host Pavarotti, Domingo and Cher in the same year, there’s no reason it can’t do a great film festival,” he said...
Mayor Bob Knight is intrigued by the idea. “From the snippets I’ve hear, it’s certainly worth exploring. I think the more options for entertainment and culture we have for residents, the higher the quality of life in the community,” Knight said.
Gruver, who has been back in Wichita since last summer, said he’s up to the challenge. “Film as an art form is so accessible. It’s such an easy thing for people to get into. Yes, the audience is here,” he said.
Gruver has organized an 11-member board representing a cross-section of business, civic and philanthropic leaders.And they have all been enthusiastic, he said – even when he told them that they would have to be an active, fund-raising board.
“No festival supports itself by ticket sales. You must have grants and corporate underwriting. I don’t consider that a subsidy. That’s just he way the film festival business is done,” Gruver said...
Gruver, whose personal goal is to be “the best Navajo producer” in the business, was born in Topeka and reared in Wichita. He graduated from Northwest High School in 1990 and attended Brigham Young University, where his interest in film was sparked. “Brigham Young was only 20 miles away from Sundance. It way my first taste. I sneaked into a Miramax party and talked with Samuel L. Jackson, who listened to me like an equal.”
At 23, Gruver joined the animation wing of Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio.Then he moved into film producing and has produced three short films in the past three years. One of them, “ The Moment After,” is a 13-minute drama written by, directed and starring Gerard McCulloch that is now making the festival circuit.
Gruver is open to suggestions for a name for the festival. “I know for sure it won’t be Wichita International Film Festival. That’s too ordinary, too dull, too de ja vu of events all over the country.”
Interestingly, while Sundance has all the glamour and cachet, Gruver would rather patter Wichita’s festival after Telluride.“I don’t want to become the Sundance or the Tribeca of the Midwest. I don’t want to be a film market where deals are made,” Gruver said. “I want it to be done for the love of film, for the audience.”