Weiss is the man behind the Dallas Videofest, now going into its 27th year, and an independent film director, producer and editor. He's been a video columnist for The Dallas Morning News (among others) and teaches art and history at University of Texas at Arlington. So it's no surprise he's media-obsessed.
"We live a very mediated existence," he says. "There's so much media out there the problem is how to find what's uplifting. ... After 20 minutes on a phone or laptop no one says, 'Boy, that was a really productive time.'" Weiss is fixated on finding ways to make the time we all spend in front of a screen worthwhile.
Eschewing the popular juggernauts of film festivals, like Sundance, Weiss follows lesser-known festivals like INPUT around the world, watching for films for bringing back to Dallas. In 2013 the Videofest screened True Tales, the story of Tami True, a dancer at the Carousel Club run by Oswald assassin Jack Ruby; Vessel, about Women on the Waves, an organization that travels to countries where abortion is illegal and carries women into international waters to perform the procedure; and footage recorded from Google Glass, the company's new eyewear computer.
Originally from Philadelphia, Weiss moved to Dallas in the early '80s, when he says it seemed like everyone in the country was moving here. He spent his free time working at music video clubs, showing Talking Heads videos as soon as they were released thanks to connections he made at local offices of major recording labels.
"I believe profoundly that you can change the world through media," Weiss says. Audio and video are unique among media for their power to install empathy (Weiss believes that commercials featuring African-American families did more than anything else to humanize them for the rest of the country), and he feels an almost moral duty to bring to light stories people wouldn't see otherwise. That extends to films and media Weiss makes and ones that he brings to the festival.
Unlike many artists who feel drained by teaching, Weiss thrives off the creative energy of his students. Between organizing for the festival and teaching his classes, Weiss still finds time to work on his own projects. In April, Frame of Mind, the show he produces for local public television, returns for an eight-episode run. He's close to finishing a documentary on the Denton-based polka band Brave Combo, the headliners for the first concert in West after the disastrous fertilizer explosion. Brave Combo, according to Weiss, were perfectly suited: "Listening to them makes you feel joyous in a way that few things do." -- Luke Darby