About Tallgrass Film Association
Tallgrass Film Association fosters an appreciation of the cinematic arts by creating shared experiences around the international medium of film.
TFA, a 501(c)(3) arts organization, was founded in 2003 by Timothy Gruver, a Wichita native who studied filmmaking at Brigham Young University (often sneaking into Sundance Film Festival parties in Park City to mingle with the stars) before moving to Los Angeles for his first job with Dreamworks Animation, followed by Outfest and the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Tim returned to Wichita in 2002 to found Tallgrass Film Association (known originally as the Wichita Association for Motion Picture Arts.) Tim believed Wichita could be the next Telluride — obvious geographical issues aside — and created the city's first annual Tallgrass Film Festival, held in October of 2003. Tim amassed a dedicated board of directors and staff, many of whom remain with the organization today, and North America's most Stubbornly Independent film festival was born.
Tragically, Tim passed away suddenly at the age of 33, just prior the third festival. The board, staff and community united, determined that the show must go on. The group produced Shortgrass, a 24-hour celebration of his vision.
Since then, the festival has expanded to a 5-day format and has become a hallmark of Wichita's fall event calendar. 12,000 people attended the 11th annual festival, which screened over 180 films from 32 countries around the world. TFA emphasizes community partnerships and regularly collaborates with the Music Theatre Wichita, Wichita Art Museum, Botanica, Ulrich Museum of Art, Exploration Place, Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Orpheum Theatre, CityArts and Wichita Symphony Orchestra to name just a few, as well as tens of other non-profit organizations throughout the region.
Tallgrass Film Association's activities have expanded to also host year-round screenings and events, as well as educational workshops, and a traveling road show.
In 2014, more than 17,000 people enjoyed Tallgrass Film Association events.
Producer wants Wichita to host a new film festival
(The following is an excerpt from an article appeared in print in the Wichita Eagle on January, 13, 2003.)
BY BOB CURTRIGHT
Timothy Gruver sees no reason Wichita can’t be the next Telluride when it comes to regional film festivals.
“There are extraordinary possibilities here,” said Gruver, 31, who grew up in Wichita and is now an independent film producer. “It’s been 12 years since I lived here and I’m very encouraged to see what’s happened,” Gruver said. He cited Old Town, the Orpheum restoration, Exploration Place and the Warren Theaters as encouraging developments.When I heard Wichita did not have a major film festival, I set out to change that.”
Gruver has experience organizing and marketing two California festivals, dealing with everything from grassroots outreach to problem-solving for individual filmmakers. He was office manager in 2001 for Outfest, a lesbian/gay showcase that attracts about 42,000 people, making it the largest film festival in Southern California. Then in 2002 he was marketing coordinator for the Los Angeles Film Festival, which draws about 35,000 people...
“But this would not be the Dogpatch Film Festival. Wichita has a lot of resources to throw a world-class event. If the city can host Pavarotti, Domingo and Cher in the same year, there’s no reason it can’t do a great film festival,” he said...
Mayor Bob Knight is intrigued by the idea. “From the snippets I’ve hear, it’s certainly worth exploring. I think the more options for entertainment and culture we have for residents, the higher the quality of life in the community,” Knight said.
Gruver, who has been back in Wichita since last summer, said he’s up to the challenge. “Film as an art form is so accessible. It’s such an easy thing for people to get into. Yes, the audience is here,” he said.
Gruver has organized an 11-member board representing a cross-section of business, civic and philanthropic leaders.And they have all been enthusiastic, he said – even when he told them that they would have to be an active, fund-raising board.
“No festival supports itself by ticket sales. You must have grants and corporate underwriting. I don’t consider that a subsidy. That’s just he way the film festival business is done,” Gruver said...
Gruver, whose personal goal is to be “the best Navajo producer” in the business, was born in Topeka and reared in Wichita. He graduated from Northwest High School in 1990 and attended Brigham Young University, where his interest in film was sparked. “Brigham Young was only 20 miles away from Sundance. It way my first taste. I sneaked into a Miramax party and talked with Samuel L. Jackson, who listened to me like an equal.”
At 23, Gruver joined the animation wing of Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio.Then he moved into film producing and has produced three short films in the past three years. One of them, “ The Moment After,” is a 13-minute drama written by, directed and starring Gerard McCulloch that is now making the festival circuit.
Gruver is open to suggestions for a name for the festival. “I know for sure it won’t be Wichita International Film Festival. That’s too ordinary, too dull, too de ja vu of events all over the country.”
Interestingly, while Sundance has all the glamour and cachet, Gruver would rather patter Wichita’s festival after Telluride.“I don’t want to become the Sundance or the Tribeca of the Midwest. I don’t want to be a film market where deals are made,” Gruver said. “I want it to be done for the love of film, for the audience.”