Choctaw actor honored at deadCenter Film Festival 2018
Choctaw native Ryan Merriman was honored over the weekend as an Oklahoma Film ICON at the 18th annual deadCenter Film Festival.
The ICON Award honors Oklahomans whose success in the film and entertainment industry has drawn positive attention towards Oklahoma.
Merriman was an award-winning child actor who starred in three television series, 10 TV movies, and studio films like Deep End of the Ocean before transitioning into a successful adult acting career.
He later landed roles in the Halloween, Final Destination and Ring franchises, as well as the TV series Pretty Little Liars and 30 feature films including 42 and The Jurassic Games.
At the June 7-10 festival Merriman claimed the prestigious Oklahoma Film ICON Award and also secured the festival’s Special Jury Narrative Feature Award for his latest movie, The Jurassic Games.
Starring Merriman and directed by Ryan Bellgardt, The Jurassic Games sold out a 400-seat theater Friday night for its world premiere at Harkins Bricktown Cinemas.
“This is probably the biggest award of my career since we shot the film here and it’s an Oklahoma film festival,” said Merriman. “This is my first film at the deadCenter Film Festival, and what a huge honor. I will work very hard to hold up to that icon status.”
The latest movie was an Oklahoma-based project and that’s something the actor, who resides in his home town of Choctaw, takes great pride in.
“Ryan Bellgardt, the director, is becoming a good friend of mine. He’s really focused on the same things, making great films in Oklahoma and using Oklahomans. He’s a great dude, and it’s amazing to see the special effects we did with the budget we had. It was so great to sleep in my own bed and drive to work and make a movie. It was a dream come true,” said Merriman.
Merriman hopes to see the Oklahoma film industry pickup in coming years, and believes the state has plenty of talented and hardworking people interested in the industry.
“There’s so much good it does for the community and people. It brings in a lot of revenue. I don’t know why we couldn’t be the next Atlanta,” said Merriman. “Half the movie making business is having blue collar type people. We need electricians, set builders and carpentry. We’re surrounded by people that are so use to going to work and busting their butt. Film making is not just powder puffs and money. It’s 12 or 13 hour days for a month, and we need about 100 people to make that one thing happen. You can see by all the people out here at the festival that there’s an interest.”
While he has high hopes for his Oklahoma film colleagues, Merriman has a full schedule with several major projects lined up.
“This business is funny. It’s either feast or famine, but it’s been a good year,” said Merriman. “I’ve already done a movie, attended this film festival and claimed the Icon Award. We wrapped a movie called Sunny Daze around my birthday, and that’s loosely based off of a true story about a friend of mine. The director, Jason Wiles, directed, wrote and starred in it. He played Boscorelli on Third Watch. Michael Beach and the kid from This Is Us, Lonnie Chavis, star in it. I’m actually leaving after the festival to shoot another movie, and I’ve got a western coming up called East of Yuma. We should be shooting that toward the end of July in New Mexico. I’ll be the lead in that, playing a Marshall, so I’m growing out my beard and will hopefully get a good ‘stache going. I get to ride horses and shoot guns. What Choctaw boy doesn’t want to do that?”
Merriman’s latest release, The Jurassic Games, will be available on a variety video on demand platforms in coming weeks.
Others to receive the prestigious Oklahoma Film ICON Award over the weekend were Emmy Award winner Alfre Woodard and virtual reality filmmaker Kim Voynar.
Woodard, of Tulsa, is Oklahoma’s most awarded actress. The Oklahoma Hall of Famer has won four Emmy Awards from 18 nominations, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe. She earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the 1983 drama Cross Creek. She also founded Artists for South Africa, a nonprofit that has raised approximately $9 million and provided healthcare to 3,500 South African orphans battling AIDS.
Voynar, from Oklahoma City, is an award-winning filmmaker specializing in emerging technologies. As a film critic, she has done reviews for Movie City News, Indiewire and Variety. As CEO and founder of WonderTek Labs in Seattle, she now produces and programs virtual reality/360 films for festivals around the country.
Since 2001, deadCenter has attracted some of the best independent films from around the world to the annual festival in downtown Oklahoma City and also provided year-round programming and education opportunities for students and working professionals.
The annual festival is run by three staff members, four volunteer programmers, 20 community leaders making up a board of directors, an advisory committee consisting of 12 long-time volunteers, 100 volunteer screeners and over 400 volunteers. For more details visit www.deadcenterfilm.org.