Tallgrass Film Festival to Go On as Organizers Mourn Founder’s Death
by Brian Brooks
Organizers of the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, KN have vowed to carry on with the event after the untimely death of event founder and executive director Timothy Gruver. He suffered a seizure near his home on Tuesday and quickly died but no details regarding the exact cause of death were immediately known. He was 33 and autopsy results are pending.
Although the festival will continue in Gruver’s absence, colleagues paid tribute to Gruver’s legacy in shaping the event. “I never met anyone in my life who loved film and was as passionate about it as Tim was,” Lela Meadow, producer of the Tallgrass Film Festival, told indieWIRE on Thursday. He loved the filmmaking process and the filmmakers themselves. His hope was to make Tallgrass a home for people who shared these passions and to cultivate a film community in the Heartland.”
“On behalf of everyone involved with the Tallgrass Film Festival, we will do everything possible to ensure that Tim’s vision is carried out,” Meadow told indieWIRE yesterday.
Gruver, who also founded the Wichita Association for Motion Picture Arts (WAMPA), launched the Tallgrass Film Festival in 2003 and formally announced the formation of an advisory board to spearhead the event at the then IFP Los Angeles Film Festival, after securing a $10,000 donation from the Kansas Film Commission. “I’m modeling the [Tallgrass Film Festival] after Telluride, one of my favorite festivals,” Gruver told indieWIRE in July of 2003, adding that he wanted to introduce “film as an art form for the Midwest region.”
In its first two years, over 7,500 people attended Tallgrass, while 60 filmmakers from around the world also took part. The festival includes feature-length and short format narrative, documentaries, foreign, LGBT, animation and experimental work. Last year’s highlights included appearances by Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman and Oscar-nominee Gary Busey, who performed as Buddy Holly after a screening of “The Buddy Holly Story.”
“Tallgrass has always been a filmmaker’s festival,” Gruver said in a recent statement announcing Tallgrass’ call for entries for the 2005 edition, taking place October 21-23. “We offer them a unique location and demographic in which to screen their films — the center of America — and an opportunity to shine by meeting their audiences one on one and create lasting friendships in and out of the industry, without the tabloid fodder and celebrity frenzy.” Plans for this year’s event include an intended 26 features to screen during the three-day event, in addition to 40 shorts.
The board of directors for WAMPA, which is the organizing platform for the Tallgrass Film Festival echoed Lela Meadow’s sentiment about Gruver and the festival. “WAMPA cannot begin to express its gratitude to Timothy Gruver as the organization’s founder and as executive director of the TFF during its first years,” the group said in a joint statement to indieWIRE. “We mourn his passing as we finalize plans for the ’05 festival and begin looking forward to 2006. Tim cannot be replaced But Tim’s dreams for both WAMPA and TFF can and will be realized.”
The entry deadline for film submissions is August 1st ($50 for features, $25 for shorts) with a late submission deadline on August 15 (fees doubled). Memorial gifts can be made to “Tallgrass Film Festival,” and sent to: Tallgrass Film Festival, c/o Conlee, Schmidt & Emerson, 200 W. Douglas, Suite 300, Wichita, KS 67202.
A service for Timothy Gruver will be held tomorrow (Saturday) in Wichita.
[ For more information on submissions and Tallgrass, please visit http://www.tallgrassfilmfest.com ]