Gregory Kallenberg, executive director of Prize Foundation, has some simple advice for anyone planning to take part in Prize Fest 2023, which will be Oct. 13-15 and Oct. 19-21 in downtown Shreveport.
“Come down. Stay late. Be loud,” he said. It’s that kind of support, Kallenberg said, that makes the festival a unique experience unlike any other in the country.
“The interactivity and the ability for someone to connect into the things that we are doing, and the ability for them to be a part of it, is something you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Prize Fest is two weekends of boisterous celebration of art, from music and fashion to film, food and comedy. In its 12th year, Prize Fest has come a long way since 415 tickets were sold for the inaugural Film Prize event.
“Last year, we edged up close to 4,000 tickets,” Kallenberg said. “So, 10x over 12 years, and you had the pandemic in the middle there.”
That growth is, in part, cultivated by Kallenberg and his Prize Foundation team, “It is something that is certainly deliberate in that we don’t rest on our laurels,” he said. “We are constantly moving forward. We want constant improvement. I want to be one of the best, nationally and internationally.”
But Kallenberg said Prize Fest also has taken on a life of its own through the culture it both celebrates and creates.
“I would love to tell you I am the genius who organized all this and created all this growth around it and all the excitement, but it’s not true,” Kallenberg said. “What has happened is the community has embraced this and built this into their ethos. What’s important about that is you now hear people who will tell me that they are bringing in their cousin from Phoenix, or the family’s coming in from Los Angeles, or a best friend is coming from Minneapolis. It yields about 25 percent to 30 percent of the people coming from way out of town to Shreveport, La., for essentially two weekends of a cultural festival.
“That is something that I think even in my drunkest moments I could not have prognosticated. The community is why this thing beats as loudly as it does.”
It’s a symbiotic relationship between a creation and its creator. “We’re always there throwing a little fuel on that fire,” Kallenberg said. “We beat our chests. We shine bright lights. We shoot off confetti cannons. We take tequila shots. But I am so proud of the group that stands in front of us. They know the cheer before we know it. It’s beautiful thing that’s also been built by the community.”
Prize Fest’s first weekend features the Music Prize Discover Showcase on Oct. 13 and 14 and the Fashion Prize Runway Brunch on Oct. 15.
“We’ve gone from 11 bands to 12 bands,” Kallenberg said. “We’re growing incrementally. We still have MPCon, which is bringing these acts to Shreveport for two days, letting them reconnect with our music history.
“Fashion Prize is still the best way to land your plane after the first weekend of Prize Fest. It’s a boozy brunch with some of the most incredible independent fashion on the planet, right here in Shreveport.”
The second weekend includes the Food Prize Battle for the Golden Fork on Oct. 20, the Comedy Prize Standup Night Oct. 21 and Film Prize Oct. 19-21.
“When you look at Film Prize, it’s the elevation of talent, with a strong emphasis on local talent,” he added. “If we want to be proud of who we are and what we are capable of and what we can do creatively, Film Prize shines a light like no other light.”
Each weekend features new activities for festival-goers to enjoy. “After Comedy Prize we do a party called the Heaven and Hell party that’s kind of infamous,” Kallenberg said. “What we are doing this year is the celebrity chefs that are coming in for Food Prize – like Tristan Epps, who won “Chopped; Aquino West,” who is a James Beard Chef nominee; Josh Harmon, who is one of Eater magazine’s Chefs of the Year in Texas – they’re coming in and doing an Asian food popup. It’s open to the community. It’s a fundraiser for the Prize. Everything’s going to be super affordable and super fun. The idea is really to get the creative spirits down in one place.”
Film Prize is adding Prize Island in the middle of Texas Street. “Prize Island is a VIP section for people who don’t have VIP passes,” Kallenberg said.
“It’s a VIP for the people type of thing. We are creating an island in the middle of Texas Street. The island will have its own programming. Cayman Jack will be doing tastings. We’ll have music out there and really create something that’s intimate and fun for the entire community.”
Prize Fest is formally adding a new competition to this year’s lineup. Photographers are invited to compete for the Golden Lens. Last year, the Prize Foundation sponsored an unofficial Golden Lens competition with Bossier Parish Community College. Photographs must be taken between Sept. 30 and Oct. 22 in downtown Shreveport or downtown Bossier City to be eligible for the competition.
“You can shoot on the river,” Kallenberg said. “You can shoot architecture. You can shoot festivals, whatever you want to shoot. We are going to make that a formal part of what we do here at the Prize Foundation. Again, to give everyone the opportunity to connect with creativity, to community, to show us off in our best light.”
Kallenberg said he is most proud of the impact Prize Fest has had beyond hosting one of Shreveport’s biggest parties every year.
“There is a model here (for) economic development,” he said. “These filmmakers being in place and doing what they do – eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, hire local workers – but also create the opportunity for a home for these people. As much as I want to have a great festival – I want a lot of people down there – I want people to understand its value, too. We are helping to create a place where people feel comfortable and understand that Shreveport is a place where they can do business.
“Our proof is in our pudding. We have put our money where our mouth is, and we have created results. We cheer for everybody. At the same time, there is this incredible velocity that is in this organization. It’s not about putting on competitions. The competition is just the kernel that’s in the middle of something that’s a lot more mystical, and a lot more high-minded. I can point to filmmakers who have moved to town because of Film Prize. I can say it every year. To us, it is one of those things where we like it when people benchmark us. And we like it when we are challenged to show off our results. We are very proud of those things.”
Kallenberg also knows that the Prize Foundation doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
“I am not sure I could do this anywhere but Shreveport, Louisiana,” he said. “Shreveport and Bossier have shown me they are a community that will lift something like this up because it makes us all look good. What’s beautiful about Prize Fest as an all-encompassing thing is that what it does is shine a light on our community that we can all dance in. There no part of Prize Fest that people can’t connect with.”
Before the first Film Prize event 12 years ago, then-Mayor Cedric Glover compared the idea to bringing South by Southwest to Shreveport. It’s a comparison Kallenberg embraced and continues to embrace while continuing to forge something unique for Shreveport.
“I am still involved in South by Southwest, and I will never resist them,” Kallenberg said of the comparison. “I appreciate that part of my DNA is one of the greatest festivals on the planet – South by Southwest. It was a catalyst for growth. It celebrates art and science and talent and has helped create what Austin is. It’s an acknowledgement of my past and how important it is.
“I have a hard time comparing us to anything. It’s not that I don’t want to. I don’t have anything out there that stands with us. We want to be like them, but better. What the community, this organic approach, and the festival itself have built is something that stands apart from everything.”EVENTS SCHEDULE
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13
Music Prize Showdown: Night 1
Prize Garage, 211 Market Street (6 p.m. – 11 p.m.)
The first six finalists for Music Prize 2023 bring down the house for the first night of live music. See at least three bands, and you can vote for the Audience Choice winner! Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1
Music Prize Showdown: Night 2
Prize Garage, 211 Market Street (6 p.m. – 11 p.m.)
The remaining six finalists for Music Prize 2023 bring down the house for the final night of live music. See at least three bands, and you can vote for the Audience Choice winner! Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m.
Music + Fashion Late Night Party
Stray Cat Bar, 222 Travis Street (11 p.m. – 2 a.m.)
Celebrate the winners of Music Prize and get ramped up for Fashion Prize at this Saturday night party at Stray Cat, featuring drink specials, music and camaraderie late into the night, immediately following the announcement of the winners!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15
Fashion Prize Showcase and Runway Brunch
Phoenix Nightclub, 400 Commerce Street (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Five fashion designers from across the country debut their collections live on the runway to win the grand prize of $2,500 cash. Featuring a special brunch for all Fashion Prize passholders by Chef Anthony Felan of Fat Calf Brasserie. (Fashion VIP passholders have early access at 10 a.m.)
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19
Film Prize Screenings Begin
Robinson, Artstation, Underground (First screening 11 a.m., last 6 p.m.)
Be the first to see the Top 20 films competing for the up to $50,000 cash prize. The 20 films are separated into two slates of 10 films each. You must watch all 20 short films to vote.
Film Prize Red Carpet Event (Free)
Prize Island, 700 Block of Texas Street (7 p.m. – 10 p.m.)
Join the filmmakers and the stars of this year’s Louisiana Film Prize on the red carpet. This event, open to all, will feature photographers, a filmmaker speed date, big toast with special drinks and more, all in the middle of Texas Street in downtown Shreveport.
Red Carpet Afterglow Party (Free)
Pepito XO Restaurant, 706 Texas Street (10 p.m. - midnight)
The party doesn’t stop after the red carpet cameras stop clicking! Join us into the night with special drinks, mocktails and a quick-service evening menu from Pepito XO just steps away from the red carpet!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20
Film Prize Screenings Continue
All Film Screening Venues (First screening at 9 a.m., last at 9 p.m.)
Watch the Top 20 films competing for the up to $50,000 cash prize! You must watch all 20 films to vote.
Prize Fest VIP Lounge Opens
Artspace Shreveport, 710 Texas Street (11a.m. – 11 p.m.)
Film Prize VIP Passholders, artists and judges can enjoy an open bar, exciting chef-curated meals, cushy lounge spaces, special desserts and more! This is the place to be when you’re not in line for movies or at a Prize event!
Food Prize Come and Get It! Dining Experience
Prize Garage, 211 Market Street (7 p.m. – 11 p.m.)
Come and Get It! is the premier food event at Prize Fest which features the six finalist local chefs creating one-of-a-kind dishes where you get to judge the winners! All this plus a cocktail competition, desserts and valet parking. It’s a recipe for a night to remember!
Triple Threat: A Performing Arts Party (Free)
Location TBD (7 p.m. – 11 p.m.)
Join us for a celebration of all things acting. You do not have to be working in film to attend! Film actors, theatre actors, dancers, musicians, puppeteers, acrobats, singers, etc. If you are a performing artist, you’re invited!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21
Film Prize Screenings Continue
All Film Screening Venues (First screening at 9 a.m., final screening at 6 p.m.)
Watch the Top 20 films competing for the up-to-$50,000 cash prize! You must watch all 20 films to vote.
Film Prize University: Film Industry Panels (Free)
Robinson Film Center, 2nd Floor (10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)
Industry film producers and heavy hitters talk film with the public at this free Prize Fest event. Filmmakers and film lovers alike are invited to listen and engage with the panelists.
Comedy Prize Standup Showdown
Prize Garage, 211 Market Street (7 p.m. – 9 p.m.)
Seven comedians from across the country make you laugh out loud at the third annual Comedy Prize event! This event is uncensored and not recommended for younger Prizers. Arrive early to get your drinks and get in line to enter because seating is firstcome, first-served!
Food Prize Celebrity Chef Food Truck Takeover (Free)
Stray Cat Bar, 222 Travis Street (9 p.m. – sellout)
Celebrity chef judges from Food Prize take over a local food truck to create special dishes for this one-night-only Asian-inspired food truck experience. The truck will be parked outside of Stray Cat and the Remington Suite Hotel on Travis Street.
Big Exhale Prize Fest Closing Toast
Stray Cat Bar, 222 Travis Street (10 p.m.)
Come celebrate the biggest, baddest barbaric YAWP ever as we bring home the final night of Prize Fest celebration.
Prize Fest’s Famous Heaven & Hell Closing Party
Stray Cat Bar, 222 Travis Street (9 p.m. – until)
The now-famous Heaven & Hell party is back! Choose the light or the dark at this themed Halloween preparty and closing party for all things Prize Fest. Costumes are encouraged! Badgeholders are allowed free and priority entry. All others must pay cover charge.