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Utah International Film Festival returns, with events in American Fork and Vineyard

By Nichole Whiteley - Special to the Daily Herald | Feb 11, 2024

Courtesy Utah International Film Festival

A scene from the award ceremony during the 2018 Utah International Film Festival. This year's festival runs Monday through Saturday, Feb. 12-17, 2024.

This week from Monday through Saturday, the Utah International Film Festival will feature over 70 films and screenplays created by Utah residents and filmmakers from around the world. The event will commence at 10 a.m. each day and go until 9 p.m. with films and screenplays being shown at Maven Cinemas in American Fork and live events and workshops being held at Enigma 3 in Vineyard.

What used to be a one-day film festival has shifted over the years into a weeklong celebration of unique films and upcoming screenwriters and actors. This week marks 13 years of hosting the Utah International Film Festival, which is run entirely by volunteers who work throughout the year to prepare for the event.

“It’s a big labor of love. All the money that is raised goes back into the festival itself,” said Warren Workman, volunteer publicist for the festival.

The first day of the film festival will kick off with the world premieres of “The Cold Ground” and “Renaissance Kid,” which Workman said have been “highly anticipated” films.

Over 1,200 films created over the past year were submitted from around the world and narrowed down to the ones many will get to see this week.

While many screenwriters and actors are local Utahns, Workman said they will be showing many European, Mexican and Asian films, and many of the filmmakers will be traveling to Utah for the showings of their films.

“The biggest thing about a film festival is the opportunity to meet the filmmakers that are showing the movies that you’re seeing on the big screen,” Workman said.

But this event is not one for those looking for the next big Marvel movie. “This is for general audiences,” Workman said. “If you are interested in movies at all, especially independent movies made in Utah, this is a fun event to come to. Whether you just want to watch the movies and enjoy the final product or learn what goes into making them from the very beginning, we have something for people who are interested in that.”

There are a variety of movies ranging from 15-minute shorts to 90-minute feature films, and they are sectioned into themes for the festival.

“People who are coming this year are going to notice a prevailing theme with mental health and mental well-being kind of permeating throughout the whole festival,” Workman said. “That was not intentional, but it just kind of happened from the films that have been coming through.”

Festival organizers decided after seeing the constant theme of mental health awareness in films that they would embrace it for the festival, he explained.

In addition to the films, there are many live events to attend including panel discussions, workshops, socials and an award ceremony at the end of the week.

“What makes the Utah International Film Festival different is we actually focus a lot on the industry as a whole,” Workman said. “We have tons of workshops and panels and parties meant to help educate everybody as to what goes into making a movie.”

Experts in the field, including directors, screenwriters, actors, and camera and light operators, will be teaching people at all skill levels about each element of movie production.

A press release for this year’s festival states, “Notable highlights include the ‘Pitch Bootcamp,’ where aspiring screenwriters can learn the art of effectively pitching their screenplay to producers. Another exciting offering is the ‘Intro Guide to Professional Acting,’ providing invaluable insights and steps for aspiring thespians to turn their cinematic dreams into reality.”

The award show, held on the last night of the festival, is where the films that have won, through the voting of those who view the films and volunteer judges, will be announced. The event is a “Golden Globe-style award show” and is open to everyone, but tickets always sell out, according to Workman.

“It’s the closest thing we have to the Oscars in Utah,” he said. People get to dress up fancy, walk on the red carpet and be interviewed, he explained.

“The award show is a great way to get dressed up and feel like a big shot, like a big ol’ movie star or a famous director — walk down that red carpet and maybe win an award or at least cheer on the people who are winning an award,” Workman said.

Tickets to see the films and attend the events can be purchased at https://utahfilmfestival.eventive.org/schedule.


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