Runnels County Film Festival auction raises thousands of dollars for the April festival

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

BALLINGER - On Saturday, the Runnels County Film Festival benefit auction, hosted by The Last Chapter Business Solutions and the Old Texas Theater, raised almost $4,500 for the upcoming festival.

The auction to benefit the Runnels County Film Festival was held on March 12 at the Old Texas Theater in Ballinger. Auction items ranged from a Dino the Dinosaur kiddie ride to autographed movie artwork, hand carved items, an authentic Brazilian hunting spear, rare comic books, and much more. Overall, there were 80 items in the auction. The festival will be held in Winters on April 29 & 30.

The Old Texas Theater is an integral part of Ballinger history and will soon be hosting their grand opening. The new proprietor, Leo Ashcraft, wanted to be part of the film festival auction and offered the use of the theater to festival organizers. The Last Chapter Business Solutions organized the event.

In all, 80 items were auctioned off to benefit the film festival that will be held April 29 and 30 in Winters. Jonathan Smith and Kellie Book of The Last Chapter Business Solutions, which is also known as The Pumpkin Patch, and Old Town Christmas, donated approximately 60 of the items in the auction. Smith and Book have hosted online auctions several times, but Smith says this was their first live auction, "Preparing for the auction was an experience I'll never forget. We have done many online auctions and a lot of times would just pick up the camera and start selling. But with the film festival benefit auction we had to think exactly what maybe the customers would want to be interested in and buy."

Kellie Book (L) and Jonathan Smith organized the Runnels County Film Festival benefit auction that was held on Saturday, March 12. Their business, The Last Chapter Business Solutions, donated approximately 60 of the items in the 80-item auction. Smith also performed auctioneer duties and Book did the bookkeeping for the auction. The Last Chapter holds a Pumpkin Patch and Old Town Christmas every year at their location on Highway 67 in Ballinger.

Local establishments, such as Ballinger Printing and Graphics, Walmart, Higginbotham Brothers, and The Coffee Haus also donated numerous items. Other items came from private collectors, such as autographed movie artwork from artists around the country, as well as limited edition and rare comic books from independent artists.

Movie director Shane Bradford, who shot the movie Country Club in Runnels County a little over a year ago also donated some autographed work. Other writers and directors such as Bill "Bloody Bill" Pon and Billy Blair donated autographed DVDs along with other items. The owner of The Gas Station in Bastrop, TX, Roy Rose, the place where much of the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed, attended the auction and donated a one-night stay at The Gas Station where folks go to live on the edge and maybe get some jerky. The location has several cabins and one central restroom. Make sure that you keep your eyes open if you head to the restroom after dark. You can find out more information by calling (512) 321-7297.

L-R: This photo, taken in February at the Cult Classic Convention in Bastrop, shows Roy Rose, Bill "Bloody Bill" Pon and Shane Bradford. Rose owns The Gas Station in Bastrop. The location was used in the filming of the 1974 cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Pon is an actor, writer, and director who has created such cult classics as Circus of the Dead. 
Shane Bradford filmed his movie Country Club in Runnels County and will start shooting the sequel to his film in October of this year. All three filmmakers donated numerous items to the Runnels County Film Festival benefit auction held at the Old Texas Theater.

Bradford spent a full day in the area as he scouted locations to film his upcoming sequel before speaking to the crowd at The Old Texas Theater, "We spent the day here and we love filming out here in this area. The people are great and we have incredible support from KRUN radio, the Jeff and Bill in the Morning Show, the Runnels County Register newspaper, and the people who allow us into their homes and businesses to film our movies.

The morning started off with Bradford, KRUN owner Jeff Smith, Bradford's wife, Jacklyn, and another festival organizer meeting at the KRUN radio station. From there, they visited The Last Chapter on Highway 67 where they spent two hours talking to Smith and Book. They were given the grand tour, including Smith detailing plans to expand the location. Currently, there are several Old West buildings, with the plan ultimately calling for 22 buildings. In the last few years The Last Chapter has hosted a massive pumpkin patch and Old Town Christmas, complete with a snow machine.

While touring the grounds of The Last Chapter, Bradford said that filmmaker Bill Pon was looking for a place to film a western-themed movie. Bradford took photos and immediately sent them to Pon who quickly jumped at the idea of filming at such an authentic Old West location.

The group left the Last Chapter around 11 a.m. and traveled to Miles to visit The Catch Pen, a location Bradford wants to use for several scenes in his upcoming movie. Bradford's parents, Betty and Wade Moyer, also joined the group at The Catch Pen. After visiting with owner Shelly Granzin, Bradford crossed the street to the Ideal grocery store and spoke with the owner about using that location in his movie as well.

Filmmaker Shane Bradford and his mother, Betty Moyer, pose for a photograph at the Runnels County Film Festival auction in the Old Texas Theater in Ballinger. Cinematographer Michael Murphy and actress Lisa Rae Bryant set up a photo op just inside the doors of the theater where you could select a wide range of backdrops. The festival's auction brought in almost $4,500.00.

After eating a hearty lunch at The Catch Pen and finishing up in Miles, which is on the Texas Film Commission's list of Film Friendly Cities, the group headed up the highway to Rowena, where they met up at Horny Toad Brewery with owner Mike McNeil. Bradford filmed numerous scenes at the brewery while making Country Club. Most of the afternoon was spent at the brewery as talk of the next movie was the major topic of conversation.

Bradford and his crew will start shooting his sequel to Country Club in October.

Around 4 p.m. everyone headed to the Old Texas Theater in Ballinger to help with final preparation for the auction. Smith, Book, and Ashcraft had everything well in hand. The live and online auction went from 5 p.m. until almost 8 p.m. It was originally scheduled to finish up at 7 p.m. but went longer due to over 100 people showing up in person to bid on the items. During the auction free beer was given out to patrons, courtesy of Leo Ashcraft and the theater.

Some items went for hundreds of dollars, including a Flinstone's Dino the Dinosaur kiddie ride, the coin-operated rides you'd see in front of supermarkets. Bradford himself bid on it and won it for $450. He decided to pay $500, "I want to support he film festival because they support us. They support independent film makers and thats' huge. Bill and Jeff are helping filmmakers bring our dreams come to life".

Jonathan Smith spoke about the work of getting everything together, "Gathering the items wasn't as hard as I thought. Once we got going everything seemed to fall into place. I've learned all the procedures and things to do from auction school. Everyone came together and it took not just Kellie and I, but our whole crew to make this as successful as it was. I was a little nervous at first being as this is the first one I have ever called with the audience present in front of me. Once we got started, about a quarter of the way in, everything seemed to fall into place and came together naturally. Miss Kellie has been the record keeper for all the online auctions and as it was a challenge running around and gathering winners names since we did not use buyer numbers. She still pulled it off with ease. Although we went into this knowing we were not going to receive any financial gain, we gained much more from the experience and the people and it was wonderful! I cannot thank Jeff and Bill and their film festival enough for allowing us the opportunity to host this auction for them."

The auction to benefit the Runnels County Film Festival was held on March 12 at the Old Texas Theater in Ballinger. Auction items ranged from a Dino the Dinosaur kiddie ride to autographed movie artwork, hand carved items, an authentic Brazilian hunting spear, rare comic books, and much more. Overall, there were 80 items in the auction, raising $4,432.00 for the festival.

Ashcraft, Smith, and Book donated all of the proceeds to the film festival, declining to take any commission, "We just want to help make the film festival successful," Smith said.

KRUN owner and general manager, Jeff Smith, spoke to the 100+ folks gathered at the theater, "The Runnels County Film Festival wants to thank everyone for coming here tonight. This will be our first film festival in this county, but it won't be our last. We couldn't start to be successful at this without the support of The Last Chapter, the Old Texas Theater, local businesses, and everyone here bidding on items to help us out. This show of support for the festival is heartwarming and we want to make it the best festival it can possibly be."

Smith also said that one anonymous founder of the festival was putting several thousand dollars into the festival, "He's putting $10,000 of his own money into the festival. Any money we bring in tonight also goes to the festival. So, if we bring in $5,000, the festival becomes a $15,000 festival. It's the same for money from sponsors and vendors. The money all goes back into the festival. Just through our sponsors we've brought in enough money to have live music ALL DAY on Saturday (April 30), from noon until the awards presentation at 6 p.m. We aren't here to make a profit, we're here to make a positive impact.

Smith also spoke of ensuring the festival continues well into the future, "We will keep building this festival. Eventually, we want to make it a 501c3 and endow it so that it will be held every year, even after we're gone. This year the festival is being held in Winters, next year we might hold it in Ballinger, or maybe Miles, or Rowena. We plan to hold it in a different location each year to bring attention to all of the communities in our county."

According to organizers the festival has over 30,000 visitors to it's Facebook page each week and has an extensive advertising campaign. The organizers said that the festival's website is receiving approximately 8,000 visits each day. One of the musical acts on the Saturday of the festival is Christopher Wright. The musician is based in Texas but his record label is in Nashville and his marketing team is helping to promote the film festival.

The auction ended up raising $4,432.00 for the festival.

After the auction, artists McKenna Kasowski and Jordan Tyler Haynes performed well into the night, courtesy of KRUN radio and the Runnels County Film Festival.

As for The Old Texas Theater, the food they served drew rave reviews from everyone who grabbed a bite to eat. Burgers, onion rings, southwest egg rolls, Philly cheese steak egg rolls, etc., filled plates. Ballinger Printing's Steve Gray commented on the onion rings, "If there is anyone with better onion rings than the Old Texas Theater, I haven't had them. Those onion rings was awesome."

Ashcraft spoke about the festival, "We really wanted to be part of the auction and help the festival out. Our grand opening is April 1st but we did this soft opening to be part of the auction and let people see what we're about when it comes to food and service."

The Runnels County Film Festival will be held April 29 & 30, in Winters, TX at the Winters Community Center. The festival will run from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on both days. On Saturday, there will be a VIP wrap party at Gypsy Threads, Tees & More in Winters. The wrap party is limited to 100 guests, the majority of which are sponsors, filmmakers, cinematographers, etc. There are a limited number of individual tickets on sale for $25 each. As of this article, there were 12 tickets remaining.

Sponsorships and vendor booths are still available. You can find out more information on the Runnels County Film Festival Facebook page, or by visiting RunnelsCountyFilmFestival.com. You can also email the festival organizers at info@RunnelsCountyFilmFestival.com or call Bill at 325-977-9707 or Jeff Smith at 325-276-0994.