Salt Lake City Film Festival, Part I: Go to There
Four years ago, a couple of our city’s more magical minds created a film festival. Matt Whittaker and Chris Bradshaw took zero dollars and creative sense, and manifested SLCFF with the intention of celebrating and empowering the independent filmmaker. This year, said small festival received more submissions than they knew what to do with.
Having shown doozies like Best Worst Movie, Subway Preacher, and Sons of Perdition in the past, we think momentum will take hold over the next few years. For our part, we’re pushing for some serious local attendance, which shouldn’t be difficult, given that films will be playing at Tower Theater, Broadway Theater, and Brewvies. This sort of local brilliance requires support, and the SLCFF crew is clearly shouldering a massive portion of the effort to make our city a super-duper hub of COLLECTIVE individuality. Now you do your part. Attend the festival, see the shows, and bow humbly to these creative and motivated top-shelf peeps. We tossed a few questions at Matt [ husband of Megan, drummer extraordinaire, lover of fine burritos], and he spoke…
How’d this party get started? Who started it? And are you hoping it will last forever? Truthfully, I’m not really sure anymore. We must have been smoking copious amounts of weed at the time because nobody on planet Earth would willingly subject themselves to this type of torture. Actually…I take that back. Bottom line: it really is a party (or at least that is our intention). It’s a celebration of film, community, and the independent filmmaker. Chris Bradshaw and I started the festival back in late 2008 with the hope that it would grow, and (little did we know) grow it would. We went from no money to run things and 100 submissions to no money and 400 submissions. Fortunately, we have a great team of people who begrudgingly work for free…ourselves included. We’re now in the 4th year and are finally an operational, nonprofit organization. In terms of longevity, yes, I would love to see this last long into the future, but that will continue to depend on our offerings and the support of the community.
What’s your role in the SLCFF? Are you good at it? I’m the Executive Director, but I wear a number of other administrative and artistic hats. Running a grassroots nonprofit is a lot like dementia, in that you never know what you were doing just moments after doing it…and you tend to yell at walls, which at times double as staff. So, am I good at it? I like to think so. But I also like to think that I have what it takes to win Powerball. So yeah. There’s that.
How have people received the film fest? First and foremost, we have seen a very good reception of the festival over the past 4 years. There are so many awesome people in this town who give so much of their time and money with literally no pretense, no unrealistic expectations, and no…well, no crap. For me personally however, there was a distinct myth that was quickly debunked in terms of my understanding of the nonprofit arts community. In other words, holy crap what a competitive mess. I’m amazed by how much resistance exists in the film community regarding market share. Yes, I said it. I said market share. Everyone wants an exclusive piece of the pie. We at the SLCFF, on the other hand, really just want to be an ingredient.
Do you have any favorites/stand-out films from SLCFF's past? We have been so fortunate to receive some of the best independent films out there. For example, in 2009 we screened the wildly successful film, Best Worst Movie. In 2010, we opened the festival with Cleanflix, in addition to screening the critically-acclaimed film, Sons of Perdition, which later went on to be picked up by the Oprah Network. In 2011, we had a truly independent line-up of films, like Silver Tongues and Subway Preacher. Both are amazing films. This is only a few of many that deserve praise.
Where are you hoping this thing will go? This thing has never been about how far we can take it. Rather, it’s been more about how far does the community want to see it go. We have recently appointed a Board of Directors and are sorting out all the exciting administrative details of running a successful nonprofit, which adds a whole new layer of complexity, stress, and long-term benefits to the organization. As we move into the future, we’re convinced that this festival has all the trappings of something potentially very big. I’m hoping to see that vision come to fruition whether it takes another couple of years or a decade.
Have you seen [festival opener] Duck Beach to Eternity? What’s your opinion on showing a film about the Mormons to the Mormons? I have seen the film and it is fantastic! Showing a film to Mormons about Mormons sounds limiting. I see it as adding a new layer of depth to a misunderstood sub-culture of Mormon youth. I’m not saying that people are going to walk away from this film as a newly enlightened people. I will say, however, that people will likely walk away with a new perspective from the outside looking in, as well as the inside looking out. Will eyebrows be raised? Sure. Will this lead to conversation? Absolutely! And all the better. We chose this film to open the festival for that exact reason.
Why Salt Lake? Salt Lake City is so vibrant. I once overheard some crap captain say to his friend how, upon arriving to Salt Lake International, he wished he could just skip over Salt Lake and get right up to Park City because Salt Lake was a bust. First off, bud, f**k you. Secondly, chief, f**k you. Lastly, bro, you are so squarely mistaken that I could puke. I just wish this guy could see this amazing photo of Main Street back in the early 50′s. What an amazing town! What a destination! We just need to commit to bringing the best of the best into the city. I’m not just talking about films, I’m talking about everything. Salt Lake is poised to once again be a cultural, commercial, and artistic epicenter. The SLCFF doesn’t want to influence Salt Lake City, we want to be a part of the big picture. I want to be able to reference the same kind of photo with the only difference being that it’s not a romanticized past, but rather, a perfect present and future. I hope that makes sense.
Never said better. Be a good local...attend the SLCFF September 20th – 23rd. Showtimes, tickets, and info here.