MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Pop the popcorn and silence your cell phones. The 18th annual Myrtle Beach Film Festival is hitting the big screens. 

Known to be the Sundance of the East Coast, MBIFF screens 63 films from filmmakers around the world. 

The total number of submissions received each year is under wraps, but founder and director Jerry Dalton said the films this week are the cream of the crop and that many filmmakers dream of seeing their work on the big screen. 

“Very few make it to a big screen. Very few movies make it to a big screen,” Dalton said. “It’s the World Series. It’s the Super Bowl.”

Dalton said there are a variety of films each year, including comedies, dramas and even the occasional musical. However, what fascinates him most is the way that art imitates life.

“When things aren’t going so well in the world, the films reflect that. When things are going well and people’s got more optimism, the films reflect that,” Dalton said. “It’s funny how art imitates society.”

It is a big honor to have a film shown at MBIFF. One filmmaker, Eric Downs, is making a big trip: 4,615 miles from Alaska to be exact. 

“It’s great to be in a place like Myrtle Beach, which is so far from Alaska,” Downs said. “That was always my goal of narrative storytelling, to try to reach a wider audience.”

He will be screening his Alaskan adventure film, “A Dreamer’s Search.” The film follows the true story of New York City artist Rockwell Kent’s 1918 adventure on a remote island in Alaska.  

Downs’ films and the others at the festival are huge undertakings. 

“These films, they’re $1 million, $2 million, $5 million, $10 million dollar budgets,” Dalton said. “They’re people’s life’s work. They’ve mortgaged their homes to make these films. It’s not something small.”

He said there is one big reason the artists do it. 

“Passion.” Dalton said. “If a person doesn’t understand passion, you can’t explain it.”

“It takes a lot of courage because it’s not like your typical investment where there’s a financial return on that investment,” Downs said. “You’re really investing in yourself.”

The festival opens Tuesday and runs through Saturday at Grand 14 in the Market Common. Tickets are $15 per film block. 

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Taylor Maresca is the weekend morning anchor and morning reporter at News13. She joined the team in June 2022 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Taylor is from Houston. Follow Taylor on Twitter and read more of her work here.