Downtown Tyler Film Festival begins Wednesday; 27 short films featured

Published on Monday, 25 September 2017 18:26 - Written by DANNY MOGLE,

Prev  1 of 8  Next

Grayson Lackey has been making films most of his life - if you count the videos he shot with his iPhone when he was younger.

“I started out shooting my little brother playing baseball and the things we were doing around the house,” he said.

His earliest efforts by his own admission were pretty awful.

But he was hooked on the idea of telling stories. He began adding music to his videos. His mother, a photographer, showed him how to better frame and light his work.

By the time the 19-year-old Lindale resident was in high school, he was making films that touched on personal struggles.

Two years ago, “Don’t Run Away,” his film about a father and son, was selected Audience Favorite and Best Texas Film at the Downtown Tyler Film Festival. This year, his entry in the festival is titled “Counting Up.”

The Downtown Tyler Film Festival takes place Wednesday through Saturday at Liberty Hall on the square. Screenings begin at 7 p.m. each night.

The festival was founded six years ago to introduce audiences to new filmmakers, especially those based in East Texas.

“Counting Up” was shot inside the abandoned Smith County Office Building in Tyler. Lackey received permission to go inside the building but only had four hours to film.

He said the building’s rundown interior provided the perfect setting for the only character, a young woman who faces inner demons and discovers new truths.

“It is abstract but grounded in reality,” Lackey said of the story.

The woman is played by Ashton Eichelman, of Hawkins, an acting student at Tyler Junior College.

Lackey, who works at Lightbox Collective, a Tyler firm that makes videos for commercial clients, said he hopes to one day film and direct longer projects.

Tyler filmmaker Dawn Burgess’s entry in the festival is “Limbs.”

“I had the idea when I was traveling with my two little girls and thought in my mind what would they do if something happens to me,” she said.

Her film explores how a father and daughter forge a new relationship after the wife dies in an accident.

“It is about mending and moving on ... and reconnecting in a different way,” she said. “It’s a glimpse of what happens when someone loses a loved one.”

The film features her husband, Nathan, and Cassidy, one of their daughters.

She filmed it in and around Tyler.

Burgess and her husband worked for years as actors in California before they moved to Tyler. She said they wanted “to escape the rat race” of auditioning and having to hold down a side job.

“Here I really began to find my passion - filmmaking,” she said.

She praised the Downtown Tyler Film Festival for giving exposure to independent filmmakers.

“It (a film festival) is a way of getting your work out there (before others),” she said. “Getting an award at a film festival is a way to get noticed.”

“Limbs” and Lackey’s “Counting Up” will be shown on Friday. For a schedule of screenings, go to

If you go

Downtown Tyler Film Festival will screen 27 short films 7 nightly Sept. 27 to 30 at Liberty Hall on the downtown Square.

Tickets cost $5 on Sept. 27 to 29 and $15 on Sept. 30. Tickets can be bought online at or at the box office prior to screenings.

- Sept. 27 will feature entries from outside Texas;

- Sept. 28 will feature films by those under age 18;

- Sept. 29 will feature films by Texans;

- Sept. 30 will be the Best of the Fest with top selections receiving encore showings.