Makona Film Fest: A Showcase of Texas Talent

Issue 25: February 28, 2024

This past Monday, February 26 was the 3rd Annual Makona Film Fest. Every year they ask filmmakers all around Texas to submit a short film of any genre. Each year, the festival organizers meticulously curate a selection from the multitude of submissions, promising attendees an immersive night filled with cinematic delights.

In this article, I delve into the essence of the festival, sharing insights into my top three favorite films showcased during the event. Furthermore, I offer a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes journey of crafting The Lady in Black, the submission in which I participated. To cap it off, I present an exclusive interview with Gabe Pyenta, one of the talented directors of The Lady in Black, providing a deeper understanding of the creative process and inspiration behind the film.

Top Three Films

Now I am going to talk about my favorite three films in no particular order. Spoilers below!

Great Day for A Swim

Great Day for A Swim was a film written by Jordan Mackey and Directed by Jordan Makey and Noah Wagner. It’s a film about a man who is having a weird conversation about pooping in pools with his friend, until it is revealed that Noah’s character actually killed himself and was a spirit talking to him. The rest of the film is Jordan’s character talking about the grief he has felt since Noah’s character killed himself. The whole film deals with overcoming the loss of a loved one and how you need to move on and continue to live your life while you still can.

Please note that the film deals with heavy topics such as suicide. You can watch it here on YouTube:


Intrusion was a horror film by Nicolas Clarke and was absolutely thrilling. It deals with this woman who is trying to avoid this shadow figure. We never get to see this figure until very end which adds to the suspense. You are scared because you are imagining what might be there. I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time. Also, the camera quality was amazing! It looked Hollywood level quality.

You can watch it here on YouTube:

No Names

No Names was a comedy film done by LCHS. It is about this kid who thinks this girl is cute but is too scared to talk to her. He then finds a Bop It! toy that sends him back in time, so he gets unlimited chances to talk to the girl. We see a montage of hilarious encounters of him trying to woo the girl. Then he finally sits down and has a heart-to-heart conversation with her about soul mates. He thinks they are found, and she thinks they are made. It is a heartwarming comedy about love.

My Process

Participating in the creation of The Lady in Black for the Makona Film Festival was a thrilling and unique journey. Prior to this, my only experience with filmmaking was a brief 5-minute skit I made back in 8th grade. While my interest in filmmaking persisted, the right opportunity had never presented itself until the Makona Film Festival emerged.

When I heard that Gabe Pyenta and Bethany Guzman were contemplating submissions, I seized the moment and expressed my eagerness to contribute. Fortunately, they welcomed me aboard, marking the beginning of an exciting collaboration. Our main challenge was the tight timeline we imposed on ourselves—deciding to undertake this endeavor just a week before the submission deadline. In that short span, we had to conceive an idea, shoot it, edit it, and submit it.

The concept for the movie took shape when Gabe and Bethany heard about the ghost fittingly named “The Lady in Black” that was rumored to inhabit downstairs in the theater. Realizing the ghost lacked an origin story, Gabe’s creative wheels started turning. With Bethany’s suggestion of incorporating a time-loop element and assistance from Gabe’s brother, we formulated the story.

Getting actors proved effortless, thanks to us being in theatre, we had plenty of actors lying around. Gabe, having previous filmmaking experience, provided access to a range of filming equipment, including a high-quality camera. Witnessing the meticulous camera work and clever tricks employed during filming was a highlight of the process.

Although my on-camera role was limited to a single scene, being involved from the project’s inception and witnessing the transformation of an idea into a cinematic reality was truly gratifying. Despite the time constraints, we managed to deliver a commendable production over a few intense days. Looking ahead, I plan to start the process earlier next year, to give me more time to work. Reflecting on our collective achievement, I am genuinely proud of what we accomplished.

Interview with Gabe Pyenta

Can you tell the readers the inspiration behind the film? What motivated you to do this?

Originally, I wasn’t planning on making a film. However, Bethany Guzman came up to me and asked if I would want to make a film with her. She even had a very interesting idea for a coffee date time loop film, but we couldn’t develop it into something more. Plus, finding a coffee shop and getting permission would take a while. When discussing different film ideas with some friends in the theater, we got on the topic of horror, which led to the discussion of the supposed spirit that haunts the downstairs of Ryan’s Little Theatre, known as the Lady in Black. However, there didn’t seem to be a lot of information about her, and we also had full access to the theatre. So, I wrote a quick script and it turned out to be the film we went with.

Could you briefly walk us through your process from the idea to the final product?

At first, I just wanted it to be a creepy film, nothing complex or anything. However, when I sent my script to my friends and brothers, they said it was lacking a story and meaning. So, they helped develop a narrative to it, giving it a life and a purpose. We ended up making an origin story for the Lady in Black. Throughout filming and editing, I was given suggestions and changes that people thought would be neat. So, it kept changing, but I am really happy with how it turned out in the end.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

The lack of time was our biggest enemy in all of this. We had only a week to film, edit, and submit the film. On top of that, everyone and myself are busy. We’ve got school, jobs, and our own lives we have to tend to. We ended up filming everything in only one night, and then I spent any and all the free time I had editing. There was not much sleep that week, many late nights. But, in the end, it all paid off, and we earned a first-place winning film.

How does it feel to have your film in the Makona Film Festival?

It’s exciting! I feel the best part of it all is seeing everyone else’s reactions to something I’ve made and put many hours into. I also enjoyed seeing my peer’s reactions as well, for some of them hadn’t seen it yet until the festival. They showed a lot of passion and excitement to be a part of it and help out. Some have never been to a film festival, but always want to be. The fact that I could contribute to that and help give that to them is very satisfying.

What advice would you give someone wanting to submit a film to the next Makona Film Festival?

Just go for it! Many people might feel nervous to put their work out there in front of everyone. Instead of getting trapped in these thoughts, channel them in a positive energy that drives you to make a film of your calling. You don’t need a high-budget camera, microphone, or editing program to make a good film. If you have the love and passion for it, then your film will be perfect. Everyone has to start somewhere. In the end, however, it’s all about having fun.

Makona Film Festival was an amazing experience. I had fun creating the film and seeing everyone else’s films. I want to congratulate everyone who submitted a film because they were all great. I also want to thank Makona, they made it such a pleasant experience and I know I will be doing something next year for it.