Will Rogers was the Number 1 movie star in America in 1934, and last year marked the 100th anniversary of his first movie, “Laughing Bill Hyde.” This year, the first Will Rogers Motion Picture Festival will be coming to Claremore, October 30-November 3.
Claremore actor Kenny Wayne Shavers said this idea has been a dream of his for some time. “I’m so excited that we are going to have an international film festival in Claremore,” Shavers said. “With Will Rogers having had such a wonderful and diverse movie career, it just seemed like a perfect fit to have a festival to show movie talent from all around the globe.”
Tad Jones, director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums, said this a great way to recognize Will Rogers and bring excitement back to Will Rogers Days, which is in its 80th year of celebration.
“I think this event is a perfect fit to remember Will’s career and create opportunities for others to experience their dreams. Will was always known as a friend to everyone and this festival will be a family friendly event everyone can attend,” he said.
Shavers had the idea of calling it a motion picture festival, rather than a film festival. “It came about because during Will Rogers’ time they were called motion pictures, and really, film isn’t used anymore. People can grab a cell phone and shoot a digital motion picture, so it made sense to call this event the Will Rogers Motion Picture Festival.”
Claremore-based actress Lea McCormick has also been part of the event planning process.
“We approached Tad about this in December, and he loved the idea,” McCormick said. “We have been researching film festivals around the country, and we want to make this festival unique and exciting for the participants and the entire community. We think this can bring a lot of people to Claremore and provide another opportunity for movie directors to display their creative works.”
The Festival will be accepting movies in the following categories: College Shorts, Made in Oklahoma, American Indian/First Nation/Indigenous, Documentary, Narrative, Comedy and Children’s. The Children’s category will have a 14 and under and 15-18 category. There will also be categories for Features over 45 minutes and Shorts less than 25 minutes.
The Festival will start accepting motion pictures February 1 through August 31. After the deadline, the top films in each category will be chosen for showing at different venues around Claremore during Will Rogers Days, October 30-November 3. Winners of each category will be announced at the Red Carpet Event, sponsored by the Will Rogers Memorial Foundation, on Saturday, November 2. Winners will also receive a prestigious Dog Iron Award, designed after Will Rogers’ brand.
“Last year, the Will Rogers Memorial Foundation hosted the Red Carpet Event to celebrate Will’s movie career. The Festival will become an annual event for celebrating movies,” said Bill Biard, Will Rogers Memorial Foundation President.
“This Festival is going to take a lot of work, and volunteers are needed to help make this happen,” said Jones. “If you like movies, please contact us through the website and we will find a place for you to help.”