Baylor alumnus’ film is featured at Deep in the Heart Film Festival

By Lily Nussbaum | Arts and Life Intern

Every July, filmmakers and moviegoers alike gather at the historic Hippodrome Theatre for the Deep in the Heart Film Festival. This past summer, Baylor University alumnus Daniel Pennington’s film was one of 160 projects featured.

The Deep in the Heart Film Festival is a three-day celebration and exhibition of independent films. Projects shown include short films, music videos, screenplays and feature films. Featured on Moviemaker’s “20 Great Festivals for First-Time Movie-Makers” and FilmFreeway’s “Top 100,” the festival has grown since it first began six years ago.

“If something feels local and near to you, you don’t know that it’s actually beneficial and good,” Samuel Thomas, creative director of the Deep in the Heart Film Festival, said. “We are well-known and recognized not only with locals but also with the U.S. and internationally.”

Pennington said he has always loved movies and grew up memorizing and quoting them. He said that during his time at Baylor, he found the kind of stories he wanted to tell.

In his first non-Baylor film festival debut with “Mac and Cheese,” Pennington said he tells the story of one man’s desire to play the superhero. The man’s choice appears morally righteous, but it becomes twisted as the film progresses. The film ultimately questions the ethics of heroism.

“What if you really want to do something with your life, but it’s going to have negative impacts on others?” Pennington said. “How do you weigh out which is right and which is wrong?”

Pennington wrote, directed and edited “Mac and Cheese,” but he said his favorite role to assume was directing, with writing coming in as a close second.

“I love working with actors,” Pennington said. “I love the process of collaboration. I love the problem-solving.”

Fellow Baylor University alumna Sarah Allen collaborated on films with Pennington throughout their four years of college. She said she first saw the screenplay in its early stages and commandeered the role of assistant director when production began.

“He didn’t really even ask,” Allen said. ” It was just assumed that I would help on his set because we always just help on each other’s sets.”

Allen said Pennington’s sets are always a good balance of fun and work. She said he tends to focus on his actors and the details of set design; Allen said such attention stems from a steadily growing confidence Pennington gained in his own artistic vision.

“By the time he was making ‘Mac and Cheese,’ he knew exactly what his vision was,” Allen said. “He knew how to execute it, and he wasn’t going to let it go.”

Maverick Moore, a senior lecturer within the Department of Film and Digital Media, assisted Pennington during development, production and editing. He said sometimes there is a lack of consideration when a cheap and quick alternative tempts film students. However, in Pennington’s film, he said he noticed a distinct creative voice.

“It had a really thoughtful and precise vision,” Moore said. “You could tell that every shot, every choice was deliberate, and it was directed in a way that was informed and assured.”

In addition to teaching at Baylor, Moore serves as a short film programmer for the Deep in the Heart Film Festival. When programming, Moore and his colleagues sort through over 600 submissions in search of a story.

“You see so much stuff, and you’re always looking for something that you remember, that kind of jumps out at you,” Moore said. “This one jumped out to me.”