Days ahead of the Dallas International Film Festival, Johnathan Brownlee and I sit down in his Design District office. Everyone in the office sits at their cubicles, anxiously typing away, preparing their final game plans for the festival. Brownlee, who is serving as the Executive Director of this year’s festival, is excited to showcase a variety of works by creatives from various parts of the world.
Throughout the course of his decades working in entertainment, Brownlee has shot and produced in different parts of the world, however, he has grown a great affinity for Dallas.
“Dallas really has all the urban and rural environments one needs to create a film project,” Brownlee says. “Plus, there are a lot of people here who want opportunities to grow within the industry.”
In 2016, Brownlee produced a feature-length film called “Three Days in August,” in which a young woman who was given up for adoption embarks on a journey to find her birth parents.
“We shot the whole thing in and around Dallas,” Brownlee says of his directorial debut film. “I worked with this amazing woman, Shannon Kincaid, to develop the project and ultimately shoot here and have it release at Studio Movie Grill locations nationwide. Everyone who worked on the film stayed together around the same area, so we all got to know each other very well. The camaraderie on set was very special.”
Although many people wanting to break into the industry work part-time jobs in different industries, Brownlee has been lucky enough to work within the entertainment industry from the beginning of his career.
“I’ve never had to wait tables, or work retail, or anything like that,” Brownlee says. “While I was studying to be an actor, I worked in the university’s scenic shop. I built sets, rigged, gripped; those types of things. I also made money renovating flipping homes, which led to the development of my series, ‘Johnathan Brownlee’s, atHome,’ based in Canada.”
This is Brownlee’s first year serving as Executive Director of the Dallas International Film Festival, and it is evident that he has a great vision for this year’s film showcase.
“I’m the new guy, and the new guy, oftentimes, gets to ask for forgiveness rather than permission,” Brownlee says. “I love this film festival. I’ve had four films show in the festival, so I kind of feel a responsibility to take the festival to another level.”
Perhaps the biggest change Brownlee will be making to the festival is the location and time. The festival will be taking place across the span of eight days, and all of the major programming will be screening at Magnolia Theater in Dallas’s West Village with family programming at Studio Movie Grill (Spring Valley).
Another big change to the festival includes a music component.
“Our Artistic Director, James Faust has programmed some wonderful films about music this year,” Brownlee says. “And some of the actual groups will be here to perform following the screenings.”
While organizing an 8-day long festival can be rather strenuous, Brownlee is thankful that working in Dallas doesn’t require getting through as much red tape as it would in other major entertainment cities.
“It’s easy to get things done here [in Dallas,]” Brownlee says. “we have great support from the City and it probably costs about a third less to put on a film festival here than what it would cost to put on a film festival in L.A. or New York.”
The Dallas International Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, May 3, and goes until May 10. Festivities will take place throughout West Village in Uptown Dallas. Passes can be purchased here.