By Ann Leach

Filmmakers from across the Four-State Region will gather in Joplin and Webb City, Missouri, for the Uplift Film Fest Jan. 11-13. Sponsored by Great Wonders Productions, a new cinematic arts organization based in Joplin, this inaugural festival will showcase filmmakers and videographers from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. 

Nearly 90 entries were received, and the judge-selected films will vie for awards given Jan. 13 at the Beshore Performance Hall inside Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex in Joplin. 

Three days of movie screenings will take place at the Route 66 Theater in Webb City. Additionally, workshops for current and aspiring filmmakers will be held at the Route 66 Event Center. 

It was just one year ago that creatives Steve Head, Nathanael Dunn and David Cheek met to form a nonprofit organization that would produce films, and out of that discussion came the idea to sponsor a regional film festival in Joplin. Doing so would help them network with fellow filmmakers from throughout the region. The conversation among these three men resulted in the formation of Great Wonders Productions (, the organizer and sponsor of the Uplift Film Fest. 

“We started with nothing, just ideas,” Head said. “I had a 4 a.m. dream about doing this kind of thing and I wrote all of the details of the dream down. I called it Random Thoughts at 4 a.m. and sent it to a couple of buddies. The focus was not about making a dollar but about making a difference. It took off from there.” 

Head began networking and sharing the idea with the staff at Spiva Center for the Arts and with arts advocate and visionary Sharon Beshore. “I dreamed out loud and through the sharing decided it should be a nonprofit,” Head said. “We registered as a nonprofit last January, got the by-laws written by March, and in April our board members began moving the dream into reality.” 

By late April and early May, at the time of Joplin’s 2011 tornado anniversary, the group decided their first movie should be about the tornado and the butterfly people phenomenon. They connected with local filmmaker Gregory Fish and partnered to create a film. 

A casual conversation between Head and Route 66 Movie Theater owner Scott Hudson happened and Hudson told him he always wanted to do a film festival here. Head was working on just such a project and suggested they talk further. 

“That comment helped up step out in faith,” Head said. “So, with a small budget to test the waters, we sought film submissions.” The submissions came in and the group was on their way. 

The organization’s mission is to help independent filmmakers produce projects that inspire, educate, uplift and encourage. Head added, “The Uplift Film Fest is the organization’s way of encouraging filmmaking and to connect and network those filmmakers to one another.” 

The awards night will premiere the film, “The Butterfly People,” that the group completed last Thanksgiving. Directed and edited by Gregory Fish and produced by Steve Head, the film is an investigation into the phenomenon that took place in the 2011 Joplin tornado, where many children described sightings of what they described as butterflies, which helped them in some way. Head said, “I did hours of research about the butterfly people and tracked people down who saw them, and they agreed to be filmed.” 

To purchase tickets for the film festival and awards night, visit www.