'Oklahoma runs deep in my veins'

Filmmaking in Oklahoma will get its chance in the limelight as the 2018 Red Dirt International Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday. The festival will continue through Saturday, as the Stillwater Public Library, the Wes Watkins Center and other locations on Oklahoma State University’s campus will play host to this year’s festival.

Among films in this year’s festival include “Sweet Dreams Do Come True,” a documentary about legendary country singer/songwriter Verlon Thompson. Thompson has more than 30 years as a professional songwriter, and performed alongside longtime friend Guy Clark, as well as performers such as Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Rogers, Trisha Yearwood and many more.

Filmmaker Brent Simonds, a 1983 graduate of Oklahoma State University, current Illinois State professor and the director of “Sweet Dreams Do Come True,” first met Thompson in 2012 after Jack Secord, a friend of Simonds, told him about the legendary songwriter. Secord has participated in a guitar camp called Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch for many years, and took a songwriting class taught by Thompson and Clark.

Simonds met Clark for the first time in 2012, when Thompson performed at an acoustic jam hosted each year in Illinois by Secord. Simonds make a short film about the acoustic jam, which Verlon was complimentary of. In 2014, Simonds was listening to one of Thompson’s live performances and realized Thompson had a strong storytelling ability in his songs. He set out to try to capture this story into a documentary, although Thompson didn’t take to the idea at first.

Thompson said the concept of doing a documentary might be too invasive of his personal life, but after Simonds met Thompson’s parents, that sealed the deal.

“Culturally, I knew who they were. They were like everybody from my parents’ generation, so we just hit it off,” Simonds said. “I was then driving home the next day when Verlon called me and said, “Man, I just got off the phone with my parents, and they just love you.” Then he told me I was the only guy he trusted to do this, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ From then on, Verlon was all in.”

Once Thompson was on board with having the documentary made, Simonds put in a lot of hours toward researching and going to locations even Thompson hadn’t been to in years. Simonds said Thompson’s story attracted him because of some songwriters potentially not getting the recognition they deserve, and that Thompson’s story was worth telling.

“Songwriters tend to be somewhat anonymous. I think people, if they don’t know him specifically, but they see his story and what he’s done, they’ll just be really wowed by what he’s done,” Simonds said.

“I think if you just love music, and you just want to hear a nice story. I think it’s uniquely told. It’s a concert film, performance film, memoir and a biographical documentary all kind of rolled up into one. It’s music from top to bottom, and music really carries the narrative thread.”

Thompson had seen parts of the film as they were completed, but will see the film in its entirety during its premier on Saturday. Thompson said he is most proud of the fact his family will be featured, and that he his proud it will debut in his home state.

“To tell you the truth, I’m nervous. There’s going to be a lot of my friends coming from all different parts of the country,” Thompson said. “A lot of my family will be there. I guess I’m just most proud that it shows my family. It shows my mom and dad, and they’re going to get to be there. My brother’s in it, and he’s such an unsung hero in this whole story, so he’ll be there. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Just the effect I hope it will have on my family.

“It’s great. I guess you could call it the world premier. And to have it there in my home state at such a respected festival and in that setting, it’s very flattering. Like I said, I’m nervous and proud and scared all at the same time.”

The film is up for best feature-length documentary at the Red Dirt International Film Festival, and Simonds has also received an award of excellence from the Broadcast Education Association, and has gotten the film into other festivals such as Muskogee’s Bare Bones. It will be shown at 2 p.m. on Saturday in OSU’s Little Theatre.

Thompson has been an ambassador for Oklahoma, giving praise to the Sooner State through song. Having his film debut in Oklahoma makes it even more special for him.

“I’m really proud that this is going to debut in my home state,” Thompson said. “Oklahoma runs deep in my veins, and I’m glad we get to debut it in Stillwater.”Filmmaking in Oklahoma will get its chance in the limelight as the 2018 Red Dirt International Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday. The festival will continue through Saturday, as the Stillwater Public Library, the Wes Watkins Center and other locations on Oklahoma State University’s campus will play host to this year’s festival.

Among films in this year’s festival include “Sweet Dreams Do Come True,” a documentary about legendary country singer/songwriter Verlon Thompson. Thompson has more than 30 years as a professional songwriter, and performed alongside longtime friend Guy Clark, as well as performers such as Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Rogers, Trisha Yearwood and many more.

Filmmaker Brent Simonds, a 1983 graduate of Oklahoma State University, current Illinois State professor and the director of “Sweet Dreams Do Come True,” first met Thompson in 2012 after Jack Secord, a friend of Simonds, told him about the legendary songwriter. Secord has participated in a guitar camp called Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch for many years, and took a songwriting class taught by Thompson and Clark.

Simonds met Clark for the first time in 2012, when Thompson performed at an acoustic jam hosted each year in Illinois by Secord. Simonds make a short film about the acoustic jam, which Verlon was complimentary of. In 2014, Simonds was listening to one of Thompson’s live performances and realized Thompson had a strong storytelling ability in his songs. He set out to try to capture this story into a documentary, although Thompson didn’t take to the idea at first.

Thompson said the concept of doing a documentary might be too invasive of his personal life, but after Simonds met Thompson’s parents, that sealed the deal.

“Culturally, I knew who they were. They were like everybody from my parents’ generation, so we just hit it off,” Simonds said. “I was then driving home the next day when Verlon called me and said, “Man, I just got off the phone with my parents, and they just love you.” Then he told me I was the only guy he trusted to do this, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ From then on, Verlon was all in.”

Once Thompson was on board with having the documentary made, Simonds put in a lot of hours toward researching and going to locations even Thompson hadn’t been to in years. Simonds said Thompson’s story attracted him because of some songwriters potentially not getting the recognition they deserve, and that Thompson’s story was worth telling.

“Songwriters tend to be somewhat anonymous. I think people, if they don’t know him specifically, but they see his story and what he’s done, they’ll just be really wowed by what he’s done,” Simonds said.

“I think if you just love music, and you just want to hear a nice story. I think it’s uniquely told. It’s a concert film, performance film, memoir and a biographical documentary all kind of rolled up into one. It’s music from top to bottom, and music really carries the narrative thread.”

Thompson had seen parts of the film as they were completed, but will see the film in its entirety during its premier on Saturday. Thompson said he is most proud of the fact his family will be featured, and that he his proud it will debut in his home state.

“To tell you the truth, I’m nervous. There’s going to be a lot of my friends coming from all different parts of the country,” Thompson said. “A lot of my family will be there. I guess I’m just most proud that it shows my family. It shows my mom and dad, and they’re going to get to be there. My brother’s in it, and he’s such an unsung hero in this whole story, so he’ll be there. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Just the effect I hope it will have on my family.

“It’s great. I guess you could call it the world premier. And to have it there in my home state at such a respected festival and in that setting, it’s very flattering. Like I said, I’m nervous and proud and scared all at the same time.”

The film is up for best feature-length documentary at the Red Dirt International Film Festival, and Simonds has also received an award of excellence from the Broadcast Education Association, and has gotten the film into other festivals such as Muskogee’s Bare Bones. It will be shown at 2 p.m. on Saturday in OSU’s Little Theatre.

Thompson has been an ambassador for Oklahoma, giving praise to the Sooner State through song. Having his film debut in Oklahoma makes it even more special for him.

“I’m really proud that this is going to debut in my home state,” Thompson said. “Oklahoma runs deep in my veins, and I’m glad we get to debut it in Stillwater.”