100 Dallas Creatives: No. 88 Movie Maestro Eric Steele

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys.

While the Dallas filmmaking scene may not have the hipster gravitas of Austin, we can claim quite a few of the most interesting and provocative indie filmmakers in the Lone Star State. One of those cinema wizards is hometown wiz Eric Steele, who additionally works as a writer, producer, theater owner, film festival founder, and the list goes on.

But arguably Steele's greatest achievement has been in turning Dallas into the birthplace of the next big thing in the film industry. Steele, along with his partners in Aviation Cinemas, have turned the historical Texas Theatre into a bastion for experimental and original films all of the world. And once a year, the Aviation dudes deliver even more indie film magic with the Oak Cliff Film Festival, which recently completed its third successful year.

The festival is a three-day celebration of the kind of innovative film that Steele himself has dedicated his life to producing. His most recent film, Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, which he wrote and produced, is an 85-minute long motivational speech turned gut-wrenching maelstrom of what occurs when a human overcomes impossible tragedy.

His thought-provoking take on the silver screen and efforts to stimulate interest in the cinematic arts makes Steele one of Dallas's most creative residents. But he is not looking to rest on his laurels anytime soon. Steele and the guys with Aviation Cinema are looking to bring a richer film experience to the big D, and we had a chance to delve into the mind of this daring jack of all trades.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find inspiration in the encounters I have with people every day and my observation of people. My journey as a filmmaker has always been rooted in experiences I have had in the business world, while working to pay the bills.

When did you first decide on filmmaking as a career? I've been making movies since I was a kid but, just recently, some of those movies have been good. Sanford Meisner said it takes 20 years to become a good Actor and I think it takes at least that long to become a good Director.

What do you plan on doing next? Partnering with Caliber Media, we (Aviation Cinemas) have optioned the film rights to the story of journalist Danny Casolaro who was found dead in 1991 after investigating high-level corruption in the Reagan-Bush era. We are close to finalizing an agreement with an investor and hope to be going into production on that feature by October of 2014.

What do you enjoy about being a part of the Dallas film scene? Well, it is very small... close-knit community... so people always help each other out. It feels very much like a community in that sense.

What do you think could be better about the film scene in Dallas? We have to find out way to bridge the gap between artists (filmmakers, etc) and investors (business community). If we could do that, the Dallas film community would be a force to reckon with.

Have there been any challenges you have encountered working in Dallas? The biggest struggle continues to be finding large-scale investment dollars for projects. Things move very, very slowly here from an investment perspective as a result of the (relatively small) pool of active financiers.

100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple

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