While sitting on the balcony in the historic SCERA Center waiting for the curtains to rise, audience members are reminded of Hollywood of old, where filmmaking was an elite club and viewers watched movies alongside directors and producers.
The LDS Film Festival, started in 2001, remains true to its mission of providing a receptive, open atmosphere for filmmakers to “envision, create and illuminate.” The festival not only included movie showings, but also had Q&As with directors and local music artists who played before presentations.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the 24-hour filmmaking marathon. Anyone is allowed to participate in this competition, and this year 29 films were prepared. A week before the festival entrants were required to pay a $45 fee and had 24 hours to film a three-minute production.
The festival required filmmakers to use three things in their movies: the theme of anniversaries, a cake and the phrase “I really wanted to.” Other than these requirements, the films were entirely up to the director.
On the day the short films are shown everyone is given a card as they walk into the theater, where they vote for their favorites. The winners are then announced at the end of the festival and the money used for entry is divided up among the top three choices.
Darlene Kitchen has volunteered at the Film Festival for three years and said she is always most excited about this aspect of the festival.
“It’s great because absolutely anyone can do it,” Kitchen said. “Then you just have all your friends come out and vote for you!”
While the festival is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was important for the founders to create a place where good values and morals were included in the filmmaking process.
Nephi Jenks has worked with the LDS Film Festival for five years said that although the title may say LDS, the festival is open to many different genres.
“They try to put shows with values, but it doesn’t necessarily have to have an LDS message,” Jenks said. “While it isn’t strict to any genre the festival requires the movie to have a good, positive message.”
Amy Kenny, a writer and director at the festival, knew that she wanted to write a movie with a powerful message about family, but didn’t want to limit it to just LDS viewers. Kenny self-funded the project and shot “Forever Strong” in twelve days using an RED camera around Utah. Kenny is also showing “Forever Strong” at a Christian film festival next month in San Antonio.
“We wanted to unite Christians of all faiths,” Kenny said. “It was definitely a non-denominational project. Each time we worked we would always open with a prayer, not just by LDS people but by those of different faiths. We all got to feel miracles on the set.”