Nineteen years ago, Dale Cole discovered that Bob and Judy Pest had been working with the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. 

Bob was on their board and Judy had been writing grants for the organization. So, Cole asked Bob if he thought a film festival could be a reality in Batesville.

Bob replied, only half jokingly, “you have a bank,” and so, the Ozark Foothills FilmFest, aka, “the smallest film festival in the country,” according to Judy Pest, was born.

In 2001, the work on creating a non-profit organization got underway. An initial board of directors was recruited that included, among others, Danny Dozier, Rob Grace, Ross Jones, and Bob’s colleagues at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, Jane Parker and Jennifer Methvin. 

The organization was incorporated with the state of Arkansas in June of 2001 and received nonprofit status from the IRS by the end of the year. The first film festival took place in the spring of 2002.

The next milestone was reached when the festival was awarded its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. 

That was the first year that the festival became eligible for funding from the National Endowment of the Arts. Then an even more surprising thing happened. Because the NEA strives for geographic parity, the agency wanted to award a second grant in Arkansas that year but did not have suitable applicants. 

“So we were approached and told that the NEA would consider a second proposal from us that year, which was not customary, but that it had to be for a different project than the film festival,” organizers said. 

Cole, CEO of First Community Bank, had spoken with Bob about creating a project for kids and teens. So when the opportunity for additional National Endowment of Arts funding arose, the T Tauri Movie Camp came to be

The festival supports and encourages Arkansas filmmakers and strives to serve the people of north-central Arkansas. 

In 2018 and 2019, Ozark Foothills FilmFest, Inc. presented the 18th annual FilmFest and the 15th annual T Tauri Movie Camp.

Bob once observed that one of the main reasons for the success of the organization was that his and Judy’s skill sets complemented each other. 

“Judy was the detail person, which is so important to success is securing grant funding, filing timely reports, scheduling, and logistics. Bob was the public face of the organization, the ‘front man.’ It was a powerful collaboration spurred by their enjoyment in working together and their passion for independent film.

Through the years, many agencies, businesses and individuals have stepped up to turn what film reviewer Philip Martin once called a ‘fever dream’ into reality. 

First Community Bank and the National Endowment for the Arts led the way and a long list of supporters followed. 

Judy has been presenting the film festival, with the help of a dedicated board of directors and numerous volunteers, since Bob became ill about nine years ago. 

With Bob’s passing, she’s decided to embark on a new adventure in western North Carolina, an area she and Bob visited often. 

And, who knows? Maybe Asheville could use a film festival.