The Sun is Shining For Wild Bunch Rock and Brenda Whitehead
The Hollywood Entertainment Report
The time is almost here for yet another exciting edition of the Sunny Side Up Film Festival so our Film & Entertainment Correspondent Melissa Salinas sat down with film producer and festival founder Rock Whitehead – one half of the dynamic duo that includes actress and screenwriter Brenda Whitehead.
Sunny Side Up Festival is Ardmore’s premiere indie film festival and runs March 24-25.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Whitehead’s also run the highly anticipated Wild Bunch Film Festival in Willcox, AZ and interest in these two festivals is at an all-time high. Rock was gracious enough to have a chat with us about how he and Brenda balance such amazing careers with running hugely successful festivals.
MS: Where did the idea for “Sunny Side Up” in SSUFF come from?
RW: My wife Brenda came up with that one. If you describe something as "sunny side up", you might mean it's cheerful and bright. That's what the festival's atmosphere might be like, especially with the festival's Emcee being the one and only Mark Staggs, a Comic Celebrity Impersonator. This annual film festival will be known for having a "Comic Emcee".
MS: What are your goals for SSUFF in the next 3-5 years?
RW: Our goals will be to continue doing what we're doing as it's working so far. We want to see them continue to grow bigger year after year.
MS: I understand that filmmakers and screenwriters are able to submit their film / screenplay on your respective film festival websites. But, how do you determine what films you will screen in your festivals?
RW: We have Brenda and myself plus five other judges that screen all of the films and judge them online. Then, we have five screenplay judges including Brenda that read and judge the screenplays. All of the judges remain anonymous; except Brenda and myself, of course.
MS: Tell me a little bit about your other film festival in October, The Wild Bunch Film Festival (TWBFF).
RW: TWBFF is solely for the western genre and subgenre. It is growing! We never knew it would get so big so fast. :) It is held at the Willcox Historic Theater in Willcox, AZ from Oct 19-21, which happens to be the same time the Fall Wine Festival will be in town. No doubt, the wine festival is a plus!
MS: I know you screened a couple of really amazing films, “Painted Woman” and “The Legend of Ben Hall” at TWBFF last year. It must have been quite an honor to have screened these films in your festival. They are truly excellent films. As a matter of fact, we have cast Lauren Grimson of “The Legend of Ben Hall” in a film we are producing in Australia next year.
RW: We were very excited, to say the least. Both films, as well as, a few others like "Blood Country" & “Vermjo" were very good, as well. But, certainly “Painted Woman” & “The Legend of Ben Hall” were top notch films! We were more than thrilled to have screened them last year. The cast of both films couldn't have been any better. Lauren Grimson was really good in TLOBH and we're thrilled you cast her in your next film....we just love her!
MS: What/who inspired you to begin SSUFF? TWBFF?
RW: SSUFF developed when we wanted something for Oklahoma, as well, but that includes all genres. So far, it's off to a good start. TWBFF was an idea that became a reality pretty quick. Westerns were making a comeback and very few, if any, western genre film festivals were around. So, we started TWBFF and now it's going into it's third year and held in Willcox, AZ.
MS: Where does “Wild Bunch” in TWBFF come from?
RW: TWBFF came to mind when we were thinking about great westerns. Of course, "The Wild Bunch" came to mind....so that's how that came about. Actor Bo Hopkins is a friend and also was in that film [so] it just seemed like a good fit.
MS: Aside from the “western” film genre, what other genre do you like?
RW: I also like drama, action, comedy and mystery. Brenda likes those, too, but also horror, terror and vampire movies.
MS: Please share a bit about your experience in film and/or with your film festivals.
RW: If you've never been to a film festival, you should attend one. Along with several great films that are screened, you'll also meet interesting people and possibly meet new friends for life. It's a fun experience!
MS: What/who is/was your inspiration for film?
RW: I grew up watching Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies, so I'd have to say both actors inspired me for film. A bonus for me was I grew up in Tucson, AZ in the 60's and 70's. My brother and I were able to go and watch several films being made at Old Tucson Movie Studios.
MS: So, what other projects are you and your wife working on that we can look forward to?
RW: My wife Brenda has a movie coming out soon that she has a huge part in as "Lola" in “High on the Hog”. It's a grind-house movie starring Sid Haig. It's in the can and producers are looking for distribution. Brenda and Jack Snyder are co-writers of our film that is currently in development titled "Eli Elder" starring Golden Globe Winner, Paul Le Mat, Kathy Garver and others. We’ll also be giving a hard look at the talented actor Robert Craighead from “Painted Woman” when the time comes. Aside from co-writing “Eli Elder”, Jack Snyder is also directing the film. Over the last few weeks, there has been a few films on “Lifetime Movies” that Jack has written and directed. So, we are looking forward to getting this film made.