Nearly 8 years ago myself and Jim Pohl of the Grand Theatre ushered in a unique 3-day Nebraska film festival. It was based on a few simple principles: Nebraska films by Nebraska filmmakers, no submission fees, no competitions, and no outrageous pricing to get in the door.
7 years ago, the Prairie Lights Film Festival was born and over that time, we’ve screened hundreds of Nebraska made films, Q&A’d dozens of filmmakers, and provided a venue and platform for any Nebraska filmmaker to screen their films on a big screen without judgement.
Prairie Lights has always been a showcase for ALL Nebraska film. Whether you made a film for 10 bucks on your phone, or a million dollar professional production. Whether you were a first time filmmaker who had no idea what you were doing, or a seasoned vet with years of experience under your belt. It didn’t matter because, in my mind, every filmmaker deserves to have their film shown on a big screen.
Prairie Lights was about supporting and celebrating the large filmmaking community in this state and providing a place to network and share that creativity. It is an incredible point of pride to us that so many first time filmmakers created their first films as a direct result of attending Prairie Lights. The festival succeeded for us on every level and the friendships we’ve made, memories, and emotions we’ve felt seeing everyone’s work, whether friends or strangers, will be with us forever.
Earlier this year I made the decision that this was going to be the final Prairie Lights. Seeing the growth of the community over the past decade, the festival accomplished what it set out to do and I have no doubt that there will continue to be people out there willing to take the baton Prairie Lights carried and run with it.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Jim Pohl. I may be the “public face” of Prairie Lights, but this festival literally would never have existed had he not pulled me aside at a wedding and said “Hey, what do you think of helping us create a festival for Nebraska films?” Jim has put in just as much work as I over the past 7 years and it’s his hard work and dedication that makes the nuts and bolts of the festival itself look so professional and run properly. Much love, Jim!
I also want to thank the dozens of volunteers at the Grand whose hospitality and hard work have resulted in so many wonderful comments from our patrons. They are the oil that makes the machine run smoothly. Everyone involved at the Grand has had a helping hand in making it not only such a beautiful venue, but such a warm and welcoming place to be. I also want to thank the people who have helped me over the years: Steve Eaton, Mark Popejoy, and Joshua Weixelman, in particular. You guys had my back in a lot of tight spots and also were always there as emcees when I needed you.
Thank you to all of our past sponsors: Chocolate Bar, Prairie Pride, and Kinkaider. But a gigantic thank you to Brent Lindner, our first sponsor, who was with us from the very beginning and offered so many discounts. You opened the doors of your various restaurants and bars to us. You have no idea how many people now love Wave, Sin City, Glass Bar, etc. And how many creative discussions, plans, and friendships were cultivated by your generosity and hospitality. We will forever be in your debt.
Lastly, I want to thank the Nebraska film community. The reason Prairie Lights has always been so successful is because you A) create and B) support. I got to meet a ton of really incredible people over the years and your continued support was always appreciated more than you can know. It was a joy to know that so many filmmakers wanted to World Premiere their films and would specifically make a film just because they wanted it screened at Prairie Lights. This festival was a very unique space where people could hang out and celebrate their work without judgement. So a tip of the cap to all of the filmmakers who not only supported the festival, but helped the Nebraska film community grow!
If you’ve been a regular Prairie Lights patron, you’ll probably recognize this final piece of advice we always say: Go pick up a camera and create!
And with that, we bring the curtain down for the final time.
Mathew Kister, Director of the Prairie Lights Film Festival