It’s a wrap for another Zions Indie Film Festival
For the regular motorist driving by the SCERA Center for the Arts last Wednesday through Saturday, one might have thought there was some kind of party going on. They wouldn’t have been wrong.
It was the Zions Indie Film Festival, formerly the LDS Film Festival, that was not only a party and competition but a gathering of independent producers, directors, actors, creators and screenwriters all sharing their talents and ideas with an excited public.
The festival’s theme was “Gather. Celebrate. Connect.”
“These are words we have chosen to help guide and direct our thought, operations and mission at Zions Indie Film Festival. Everything we do and stand for as a festival can be summarized in these three words,” said Michelle Moore, co-owner.
The festival, which hosted nearly 6,000 attendees, offered more than 80 films, including short and full-length selections, panels and discussions, meet-and-greets and question-and-answer sessions.
The opening night premier Wednesday was “His Only Son” by Angel Studios, producers of “The Chosen,” a widely popular series of the life of Christ. “His Only Son” follows the daunting task of Old Testament prophet Abraham and the command to sacrifice his son Isaac. The show will open in nearly 1,800 theaters March 31 in time for Easter and Passover.
There were a few surprises and visitors to the festival as well. On Saturday, during some of the short films, actor Jon Voight showed up. He was supporting his son James Haven and his film “Court of Conscience,” in which Voight portrays a Catholic priest.
All of the films were rated either G, PG or PG-13, and for the first time a few came from foreign directors and producers.
For the first time at the festival, the public was able to view real table reads, with actors auditioning and interpreting parts for movies.
For extra fun, the festival celebrated the 10th Anniversary of “The Saratov Approach,” directed by Garrett Batty. The movie is about a real story of two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are kidnapped in Saratov, Russia.
“I was excited to be invited to show ‘The Saratov Approach’ at the 10 year anniversary of the film’s release. Coincidentally, it played on the exact day, marking 25 years since Elders Propst and Tuttle’s kidnapping,” Batty said. “To have them in attendance at ZIFF, along with the cast and crew, watching the film with a new audience is a moment many will never forget. I will say that that screening was surreal to be there with them on that special anniversary day.”
The film starred Corbin Allred, Maclain Nelson and Nikita Bogolyubov.
Upstairs at the SCERA were several panel discussions. On Friday, Marshall Moore, co-owner of the festival and former commissioner of the Utah Film Commission, was joined by Jeff Johnson, president of the Movie Picture Association of Utah, a volunteer group that promotes movies in Utah, and Virginia Pearce, the state film commissioner.
Pearce’s boss is Gov. Spencer Cox, and Johnson works with the Legislature seeking funding. “Our job is to go ask for money and to talk about the impact on Utah,” Johnson said.
Chatter at the festival was about Kevin Costner’s current film, “Horizon,” being shot in Southern Utah. Pearce noted that Costner communicates frequently with the film commission.
Currently, there are a number of regional commission offices and, according to Pearce, 22 counties that are film-ready. While incentives are much lower than many other states, he said, Utah’s are here to stay and will hopefully grow as Legislature realizes the money that is brought into the state even long after the actors and crews are gone — the popularity of East High from “High School Musical” is an example.
“It’s not money going into Hollywood’s pockets,” Johnson said. “It’s staying right here. We have to have incentives.”
It was noted the popular TV show “Yellowstone” was coming to Utah and ended up moving to Montana because of incentives. Legislatures need to not count the dollar return but the other returns brought to the state, according to Johnson.
At the end of the festival, there was an awards gala. The following are recipients:
Music video competition: Winner, “Ain’t Nobody Sees Them” from “Finding Patience – The Musical” by Angie Sue Staheli; 2nd Place, “Cultures” by Ryan Stream featuring Kelsey Marie Edwards; 3rd Place, “We Three Kings” by the Torch Family; Audience Choice Award, “Maybe This Time” by Tiffany Gale.
Short film competition: Winner, “Black Hole” by Brett Alan Calkins; 2nd Place, “Court of Conscience” by James Haven; 3rd Place (tie), “30 Meeting/30 Days” by Duane Andersen and “The Making of The Making of” by Kels Goodman; Audience Choice Award, “Fly” by Joe Quesada.
Documentary short film competition: Winner, “The Prayers of Both Could Not Be Answered” by Danny Drysdale; 2nd Place, “FOUND” by Angie Denison; 3rd Place, “544: A Civil Rights Story” by Loki Mulholland; Audience Choice Award, “Compassion Spreads Like Wildfire: The Vicki Minor Story” by Tucker Debevec.
Feature film: Winner, “Curse of Crom” by Rob York; 2nd Place, “Devil’s Men” by Dave Bresnahan; 3rd Place (tie), “The Carpenter” by Garrett Michael Batty and “The Stolen Valley” by Jesse Edwards; Audience Choice Award, “Devil’s Men” by Dave Bresnahan.
Documentary feature film: Winner, “Breaking Into Beautiful: the Kim White Story” by Dan Davis; 2nd Place, “Stewart Udall and The Politics of Beauty” by John E de Graaf; 3rd Place (tie), “A Long Way From Nowhere” by Paul Scheuring and Chris Ward and “Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” by Ashley Avis; Audience Choice Award, “Breaking Into Beautiful: the Kim White Story” by Dan Davis.
The Zions Spirit Award: “Breaking Into Beautiful: the Kim White Story” by Dan Davis.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Carole Mikita, who provided a platform in broadcast media for filmmakers to share their films and work on their storytelling.