by haley ragsdale | photos provided by maxwell filmworks
Midland is miles from Hollywood, but for filmmakers Matt and Katie Maxwell, it’s proved to be the perfect spot for their first feature length documentary. “We wanted to be storytellers, whether that’s in Hollywood or far West Texas,” Katie Maxwell said. Their first film is titled ‘Finding Home in Boomtown’ and chronicles the story of John-Mark and Briana Echols as they sell their home and begin the process of creating a tiny house community for the homeless in Midland. “Without giving too much away, when the movie begins, we see John-Mark and Briana and their 18-month-old daughter, sell everything they have, leave their brand-new home and move into a 300 square foot RV,” Katie said.
Matt & Katie Maxwell
The documentary follows the couple as they travel to Austin and live in the RV for four months as they train and work at Community First, a proven model of tiny homes for the homeless. “Their Christian faith drives them to make these major life changes and start the nonprofit, The Field’s Edge, with the hopes of building Midland’s first tiny house community,” she explained. The film contrasts the opulent lifestyle of many Midlanders with the harsh reality that many others who call Midland home also face. Victoria Printz, a well-known realtor, and Holly, a local homeless woman, represent these drastic perspectives and bring lots of heart to the story. “The film really chronicles what finding home means to the Echols,” Maxwell said.
Katie and Matt are both Texas natives. After they married, they moved to LA to work in the TV and film industry. Matt’s artistic nature comes from his father who is a sculptor and painter and his mother who is a fine artist. “We were actually married at the base of one of his dad’s amazing sculptures. Matt can’t draw more than stick figures, but has always loved art in the form of cameras and technology,” she said. The couple started their career out at the very bottom working in TV and film. “I even worked in the cliched mailroom,” Katie said.
Matt worked as a production assistant on several series and began to climb the ladder. “You might remember the show, Wipeout, Matt worked on that show for three seasons,” she said. Matt then began work with the award-winning Kennedy/Marshall production company, that Katie explained has worked with Steven Spielberg on E.T and Jason Borne series. Matt while on the set of Wipeout
Katie was working in a nonprofit and while Matt’s career was taking off in Hollywood, the couple soon decided California wasn’t where they wanted to start a family. “We knew men who worked in the industry and they didn’t see their families for months at a time and we thought that might be the direction we were headed,” she said. They started searching for jobs in Texas, and Golf Course Church of Christ in Midland, was looking for someone to be a storyteller for the church through film and media.
“It was an odd time to leave Hollywood right when Matt was gaining traction in the camera departments of feature films. He went on an interview at Golf Course Church of Christ and we made the move to Midland.” After discovering there was a need in Midland for film services like, wedding videos and commercials, Maxwell Filmworks was born. Also born since the couple made the move to Midland, are sons Henry, 5 and Riggs, 2.
In the fall of 2016, Matt began a graduate program to earn his Masters of Arts in Documentary Filmmaking and for his first project he was tasked with filming a short story. “We had filmed John-Mark and Briana’s wedding, and we knew they wanted to start this tiny house community and Matt thought that would be a great idea for his first project,” Katie said. “Matt’s professor loved the short story, but said you can’t stop now this is too good, keep going!” What began as a semester of work on the Echols, and their dream of a tiny house community, turned into two years of filming. “It’s filmed in the style of cinéma-vérité, so the story unfolds as it goes along. We started filming over two years ago and we did not know what was going to happen. Several significant events happened during filming, which made for some fun, sometimes emotional moments in the film,” she explained.
Matt & Katie Maxwell with sons Henry & Riggs
Since filming wrapped, the couple began turning their lengthy project into a feature length 78-minute documentary. “We are just learning as we go. It’s truly been such a humbling experience with all the support from the community. In September, we started fundraising to help fund professional editors for the film. Over the last 6 months, we raised 35 thousand and we were able to hire an art director, sound editor, color editor, and original composition for the film,” she said.
The Echols interview
Once finished, they started submitting their film for consideration at film festivals throughout the country. “I am so proud to announce we were selected to premiere our film at Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado,” Maxwell said. Mountainfilm held 3 screenings of Finding Home in Boomtown, each time to a sold-out crowd. Q&A’s were held after each screening, with similar questions and remarks, “How can I bring this film to my town?” “I found myself crying and laughing!” “I’m so impressed that Midland is supporting this courageous effort!” “I wish my community would do the same.” The team is optimistic that these positive remarks will be echoed at future screenings. The film has also been accepted to the South Texas International Film Festival in September as a “Texas Feature.” The Maxwells hope to show their film at other film festivals across the country with the ultimate goal for the documentary to be distributed by PBS or even Netflix. “It was just such a lofty goal to finish the film and then to get into a film festival we are just over the moon,” she said.
You might be wondering what’s next for these Midland Filmmakers? “Well, we are going to catch our breath, there is definitely some fatigue with a project this length, I was pregnant when we started this and we have just learned so much along the way. We will see, we may want to dip our toes back into the water,” she said. A Midland Premiere for Finding Home in Boomtown is set for Thursday, October 17, 7:00 pm at the Yucca Theatre. †
For more information please contact Katie Maxwell at [email protected]
And for more information on the non-profit The Field’s Edge please visit thefieldsedge.org
For updates, you can follow them @findinghomeinboomtown