By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD
Part I of “Lunch with Harriet” with Gregory Kallenberg told the story of how the Shreveport native did what he swore he would never do – move back home and raise his family here. With his creation of the Film Prize Foundation in 2012, Kallenberg has put Shreveport-Bossier City on the map as a destination for entrepreneurs, artists, and dreamers.
It told the story of “Film Prize Gregory.” But there’s another Gregory.
When Gregory Kallenberg flew back to Shreveport from a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2019, he was on top of the world.
The award-winning film director and producer had just given a massive presentation of Rational Middle: Immigration in the nation’s capital in front of a star-studded audience that embraced his documentary with a standing ovation. It was just one stop in a world-wide tour of his work.
“My head is huge,” Kallenberg recalls over our lunch at Frank’s Pizza Napoletana. “I’m so puffed up. We’re a national deal.
“You know that big, wide hallway in the (Shreveport Regional) airport? My ears are touching each wall, that’s how big my head is.”
Then someone recognizes him and shouts, “Hey, viva la Film Prize Guy!”
“Well, I’m back in Shreveport,” thought Kallenberg.
And thus began the theory of two different people.
“Film Prize Gregory rarely gets to hang out with Rational Gregory,” he says. “They live in two separate worlds.”
Film Prize Gregory is the one that is recognized all over Shreveport. He is the founder and executive director of the Film Prize Foundation, which now includes the Louisiana Film Prize, Startup Prize, Music Prize, Food Prize, Fashion Prize, Comedy Prize, Film Prize Junior, and Taco Wars.
What Kallenberg has been able to achieve with the Film Prize Foundation has resulted in millions of dollars of positive impact for Northwest Louisiana and the relocation of a number of filmmakers to this area. His goal of attracting innovative people and companies to this area is being realized.
And its impact has spread.
In 2021, the foundation launched Film Prize Junior New Mexico.
Conceived by Tobias Kallenberg (Gregory’s 23-year-old son) during the 2016-17 school year, Film Prize Junior teaches students the creative and collaborative craft of narrative storytelling while developing skills like teamwork, organization, and communication.
“Film Prize Junior is a free education program for middle school and high school kids,” explains Kallenberg. “It has kicked open a door for kids like I’ve never seen before. Watching these kids watching their film on the big screen, you see them transformed.
“One of the things I’m most prideful of, selfishly, is when a kid from Shreveport says, ‘I didn’t know there was anything like this here. I didn’t know I could do this in the town I live. Maybe I should think twice about going to LSUS, Centenary, or BPCC or joining the workforce.’”
With all of the success the Film Prize Foundation has had in highlighting the Shreveport-Bossier City area, that is not how Kallenberg makes his living. Since the foundation is a non-profit organization, it does not “pay the bills.”
“I’m not good at making money,” Kallenberg says with a laugh. “I’m good at helping facilitate a good time. And this town looks at these events as a good time.”
Kallenberg makes his living as a filmmaker, and his latest project is the brainchild of “Rational Gregory.”
Rational Middle is an award-winning collaborative effort that tackles important and controversial topics with the objective of bringing facts to the public through the mediums of documentary film, the written word, podcasts, and social media.
Some of the important and controversial topics Rational Middle has tackled include energy, immigration, and net zero.
In 2012, Rational Middle and Shell partnered to create the Rational Middle of Energy, an award-winning docuseries about the challenges posed by the need for an energy transition.
Rational Middle: Immigration is a collection of short films featuring experts from National Immigration Forum, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Bipartisan Policy Center, the Mexico Center, New American Economy, CATO Institute, and Americans for Prosperity. The episodes explore how to solve the immigration challenge and remake our economy while protecting American values, workers, and families.
Kallenberg’s latest project is Rational Middle: Net Zero, another collaboration between Rational Middle and Shell. The series explores the technologies, policies, and partnerships required to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
According to Rational Middle, “the hope is that these films can catalyze a conversation that leads to awareness and action to address the global challenge of climate change.”
In January, Kallenberg headlined the 16th annual William Ardis Jr. and Virginia Lomax Marbury Lecture Series where he screened episodes of Rational Middle: Net Zero and participated in a question-and-answer session. The lecture was sponsored by the Mr. and Mrs. Lue C. Napper Family and hosted by Louisiana Tech’s College of Business.
“Gregory’s talent and desire to promote healthy, solutions-oriented discussion surrounding our greatest challenges have combined to make an impact through Rational Middle,” said Dr. Chris Martin, Dean of the College of Business. “I know our students will benefit greatly from his knowledge, passion, and desire to have rational discussions about the future of our world, particularly as it relates to net zero.”
Both Rational Middle and the Film Prize Foundation reflect Kallenberg’s belief about making a difference in this world – it takes everyone.
It’s all tied together.
“We think about all of us because you’re not going to achieve a clean energy future without all of us, you’re not going to come up with a solution to immigration without all of us, and you’re not going to have a super fun taco festival without all of us,” says Kallenberg, whose daughter Daisy (21) is in art school in Austin.
Fortunately, that “super fun taco festival” takes place right here in Shreveport, one of the last places Kallenberg ever thought he would live.
“At the end of the day, there’s something very special here,” he says. “Something that doesn’t exist any other place.”
Contact Harriet at email@example.com