Carrie Rengers

Tallgrass Film Association names new executive director

Marci Hawks is new Tallgrass Film Association executive director

New Tallgrass Film Association executive director Marci Hawks discusses her favorite independent film from this year's festival. (Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle)
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New Tallgrass Film Association executive director Marci Hawks discusses her favorite independent film from this year's festival. (Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle)

Tallgrass Film Association and Wichita Habitat for Humanity may not seem to have a lot in common, but Marci Hawks says they do.

One commonality is Hawks herself.

The former director of development and community relations for Habitat is the new executive director for Tallgrass.

“To me, it’s kind of still the same,” Hawks says.

She says she sees the position as an opportunity to take the skills she developed in fundraising, working with boards and managing special events and apply them to Tallgrass.

Hawks inherits the job from longtime executive director Lela Meadow-Conner at what she says is an important time for Tallgrass.

“We’re really going to kind of explode and break open,” Hawks says of a necessary growth spurt.

“More and more people are learning about the festival, so it takes more money to put it on and more manpower to pull it off.”

The association has an operating budget of about $350,000.

“We’re going to have to add more staff,” Hawks says.

There are two full-time employees and up to 20 consultants hired throughout the year for various events.

Tallgrass puts on five events annually.

“The (Tallgrass) Film Festival is the big one,” Hawks says.

There’s also Down to the Wire, a 24-hour film race, and a couple of fundraisers, Dudegrass and Shaken Not Stirred.

The association also partners with Exploration Place on Smallgrass, a day of family-friendly films.

Hawks says fundraising will be a big focus for her, as will building the infrastructure of the organization, such as creating more partnerships.

“We’re pretty young really,” she says.

The association will be 15 years old next year, and Hawks says there will be various celebrations of the milestone.

“We’re going to try to do some pretty fun things with the festival.”

Though she hasn’t been with Tallgrass previously, Hawks says she’s been a fan of its entertaining and educational films.

“What I love about the independent films that the festival shows (is) it’s really people who are going outside of the main Hollywood system.”

Hawks says sometimes filmmakers have to make changes to their work to make it more popular with mainstream audiences, but independent filmmakers make decisions on their own.

She says she likes their attitude of “This is something I believe in, and I made, and I’m going to take a shot at trying to get it out there without getting the whole industry involved.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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