Star Hall was packed for a premiere on Saturday, Nov. 9, but this was no Hollywood red carpet. Instead, 10 teams of local residents screened their own short films created as part of the Moab Showdown 49-Hour Short Film Competition.
“I’m so floored by the community coming out for this event, making Star Hall standing-room-only,” said Bega Metzner, Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission director.
Metzner said she came up with the idea for the competition a year ago when thinking of ways to celebrate the commission’s 70th anniversary. The film commission, founded in 1949, is now the longest-running film commission in the world.
After the kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 7, the filmmaking teams had exactly 49 hours to write, shoot and edit a two- to eight-minute film. The teams included families, professionals and student groups.
Elizabeth Byrd participated in the competition with her husband, Mike, and 11-year-old son to create a short film entitled “Walls,” which took home the Audience Choice prize.
“My son Bryce loves film and wants to get involved in film professionally,” Byrd said. “He was so excited to participate, and my husband and I were his support crew. It was a great collaboration between all three of us in the family.”
The 10 teams were assigned a random genre and were required to use a prop and a line of dialogue: “What would Charlie think?”
“We definitely loved how the Showdown had restrictions and deadlines,” Byrd said.
“We had some tired and emotional moments when we were facing our deadline and having to put together a whole movie, but it was very motivating,” she said.
The film commission worked to pre-permit over 40 locations with a number of land use agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, Dead Horse State Park, the Manti-La Sal National Forest, the School and Institutional Trusts Land Administration, Moab City Parks and Recreation Department, Arches National Park and a number private properties and local businesses.
“There’s no other competition that goes out and gets permits to film in beautiful locations like this, but they’re part of why Moab is so desirable for filmmaking,” said Metzner.
“It’s definitely so inspiring to be able to make a film in Moab, where so many famous films have been shot,” Byrd agreed..
The winning teams were chosen from four different skill categories: professional, amateur, high school and middle school were chosen during the Showdown Premiere Screening on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Star Hall. Over 300 people attended.
“The judges told me they had a very hard time choosing,” said Metzner. The evening’s panel of judges was comprised of Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus, Utah Film Commission Production Manager Derek Mellus, Utah Film Center Director of External Relations Mariah Mellus, filmmaker Amy Redford and Utah Film Commission Director Virginia Pearce.
Metzner was particularly excited by the young people who participated in the competition. The film commission hosted a Filmmaking Bootcamp with the Salt Lake City-based media group Spy Hop this fall for Grand County young people, followed up with a series of mentorship meetings with film industry professionals.
“We had the idea to combine this youth work with the runup to the film competition so that some of these middle and high school students could be inspired through the filmmaking bootcamp to enter the competition,” Metzner said.
Byrd pointed to the mentorship meetings as crucial to encouraging her son to explore filmmaking.
“Bryce is homeschooled, and he jumped on the film mentorship meetings at the high school,” Byrd said.
“My own son entered with a group of his friends and it was amazing to see what they came up with,” Metzner said, adding that now the youth groups are talking about doing more film projects on their own.
“Educating young people here about the fact that there is this local film industry that is accessible to them is so crucial and important,” Metzner said.
All films will be viewable online and will be posted on the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Facebook at www.facebook.com/filmmoab.
After such a successful debut event, many are asking Metzner if the competition will be an annual occurrence.
“I feel like I haven't even come up for air yet after this one! We shall see,” she said.
“Having people approach me after this weekend to ask how to expand and build on this event is wonderful. It’s just amazing to be able to have this feeling of community involvement and support.”
Showdown Film Entries
“The Man Who Shot First” (Genre: Spy/Espionage), featuring Brendon Henderson, Wyatt Brown, Gillian Sanville, Garrett Brown and Kord Jackson (First place winner in the Professional category).
“It's All Been Done” (Genre: Mock-umentary), featuring Mark Brown (Second place winner in the Professional category).
“Walls” (Genre: Politics), featuring Bryce Byrd, Elizabeth Byrd, Mike Byrd, Lena Powell, JJ Naico. (First place winner in the Amateur category).
“Crust” (Genre: Horror), featuring Sam Newman and Maggie McGuire (Second place winner in the Amateur category).
“Road Song” (Genre: Road Movie), featuring Jamie Teer and Michael Golom.
“Colony 5” (Genre: Apocalypse), featuring Ashly Hunter, Bart Leavitt, Sharon Leavitt, Gail Leavitt, Haylee Hunter, Samantha Hunter and Zach Cook.
“Aversion Unknown” (Genre: Disaster), featuring Nathan Wynn, Denise Felaar, Robert Martin, Doug Evans, Zachary LaMarche and Emerson Wirginis.
“Starman” (Genre: Sci-Fi), featuring Zachary Ainge-Baggett, Ty Martinez, Joel Martineau and John Martineau (First place winner in the High School category).
“Crooked Fairies” (Genre: Film Noir), featuring Rowan Phillips, Silver Turner, Liam Knowles, Oran Moore, Austin Marques (First place winner in the Middle School category).
“School Rules Compliance Officers - SRCOs” (Genre: Coming of Age), featuring David Olsen, Anthony Militano, Liam Clark, Kian Woodard, Aiden Gordon, Nick Hren, Brandon Stutes, Anthony Lee, Dominick Chacon, Taylen Hickman, Lucas Caylor, Andelin Jenisini, Chloe Skowbo, Jordan Bell, Kenadie Stocks, Yasmin Lovato, Josie LaMarche, Cari Caylor, Erik Secrist, Celeste Farnsworth, Alina Murdock (Second place winner in the Middle School category).
Publishers’ note: Our managing editor, Maggie McGuire, competed in this event and had a wonderful time.