The Charles B. Pierce Film Festival

Charles B. Pierce is pictured in this 1983 file photo by the Texarkana Gazette.

Charles B. Pierce is pictured in this 1983 file photo by the Texarkana Gazette.

A new film festival honoring independent filmmaker Charles B. Pierce (1938-2010), director of films such as The Legend of Boggy Creek, has been set for this summer in Texarkana. The deadline for entries is March 15. The Charles B. Pierce Film Festival is June 13-15. Both Texarkana,Texas Mayor Bob Bruggeman and Texarkana, Arkansas Mayor Wayne Smith officially proclaimed June 16 “Charles B. Pierce Day” in the two cities.

The goal of the festival is to “recognize and honor Pierce’s work as one of the founding fathers of independent film, offer other aspiring filmmakers a showcase for their work and vision and nurture the next generation of filmmakers through workshops and other programming that will engage, educate, inspire and enlighten.”

Artists may submit feature length (at least 60 minutes) films and videos in categories that include narrative, documentary, animation, horror and shorts ( no longer than 30 minutes). A special award will be given to the “Best Horror Film” to celebrate two of Pierce’s more popular films, The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town that Dreaded Sundown, both of which were shot in Arkansas.

As for some of Pierce’s most famous work, the Fouke monster played the lead in The Legend of Boggy Creek.  Though some might not be familiar with the character, he is the basis of one of the most famous legends in the state, something of a Southern Sasquatch. The report of a boggy“big-foot-type monster” terrorizing a rural home outside of Fouke spawned the documentary-style film by Pierce in the early 1970s. The film assured a place in folklore history for the Bigfoot look-a-like, which has allegedly been seen in and around the town since the 1940s. The low budget, campy movie earned cult status and the familiarity of this tale and the regular resurgence in the media of yeti, Bigfoot, and caveman-like characters keep the legend alive. The Fouke legend continued to spread beyond the original film via two sequels featuring the 7-foot-tall, ape-like creature that supposedly haunts the swampy Sulphur River bottoms of Miller County, south of Texarkana.

On another note, a film crew was in Texarkana last summer shooting a remake of the 1976 horror movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Pierce originally directed the movie, which was inspired by a series of murders that took place in Texarkana in the 1940s. Eerily, the only description of the killer was that he wore a plain pillowcase over his head, with eyeholes cut out. As to the premise of the remake, the scary story centers on a rural Texarkana town that was stalked by a serial killer in 1946. The maniac was never caught, and in 2013, he comes back. The film is being produced by Ryan Murphy ( Glee, American Horror Story)  and Jason Blum and being directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. The movie marks the directorial feature film debut of Gomez-Rejon, who has directed several episodes of American Horror Story.

For more details on the Charles B. Pierce Film Festival, visit charlesbpiercefilmfestival.org or email festival director Kirk Lohse at klohse@cableone.net or contact him at 903.277.1236.

Below is some copy on Pierce that is featured in the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, of which Pierce was inducted in 2010.

‘Although born in Hammon, Indiana, he and his family moved back to their hometown of Hampton, Arkansas, where he graduated in 1956. Pierce always had fond memories of his years growing up in Hampton and considered Arkansas his home state.  He forged lifetime bonds with his childhood friends in Hampton, such as his next-door neighbor Harry Thomason, who also works in films and TV. Pierce taught himself early to be a commercial artist.  From 1958-1968, he worked in radio and television throughout Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas by directing news, weather and commercials.  While running a small advertising studio in Texarkana and hosting a TV show for children as the character “Mayor Chuckles”, he began work on his first film – The Legend of Boggy Creek.   With a borrowed camera and nine high school students he began filming in Fouke, Arkansas, in the fall of 1971.  The film cost $160,000 to make and grossed over $25,000,000, becoming a cult phenomenon.

Some industry people called The Legend of Boggy Creek a fluke, but determined and with a strong drive, he decided to prove them wrong with his next film, the critically embraced Bootleggers.  His third film, Winterhawk was named “Bicentennial Picture of the Year” in 1976.  He continued with films such as The Winds of Autumn; the Town that Dreaded Sundown; Grayeagle; the Norseman; the Evictors; Sacred Ground and Hawkin.  He also wrote a story for Clint Eastwood, Sudden Impact, and coined the phrase that entered the national lexicon, “Go ahead make my day”.

Pierce received numerous awards and accolades such as “Outstanding Producer” in 1974 and the “American Bicentennial Salute” in 1976 for portraying Americana through Motion Pictures. He was presented a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Little Rock Film Festival, in 2008; this annual award now bears his name.’

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