Come Check Us Out!

By Elizabeth Latenser

Photo: Utah Film Commission on Main/ Courtesy of the Utah Film Commission

And While You are Here, Ask Me Anything!

In a new twist, artists were asked to join Robert Redford on stage during the Sundance Film Festival’s opening day press conference to discuss the impact Sundance Institute’s labs have had on their career.  One of those artists was Sydney Freeland who is back in Utah with her film Deidra & Laney Rob a Train which was filmed in Heber City.  We had the pleasure of working with her and supporting the project though our film incentives program so naturally it was exciting to see her film get into Sundance.

Earlier this month, Freeland told the Deseret News about filming in Utah:
“We looked all over the country and even in Canada, but ultimately Utah was the one place that had all the elements we were looking for.”

We agree that Utah is a great place to film and we are focusing our efforts during the Festival to sharing our story. Today through January 26, we will be hosting a series of discussions on timely industry topics and resources we offer artists.  Everything is on the table for discussion: finances, locations, casting, digital creators, equipment and more. Plus it’s a chance to connect directly with the Film Commissioner Virginia Pearce.   For those who are in Park City, stop by our space at 625 Main Street to have “Coffee with the Commish” or start your own conversations with other artists or attendees in our venue.  For a full schedule of events, visit our activation page:

Utah Film Commission on Main will transport you to far corners of the state and conjure up nostalgic feelings for Utah’s rich cinematic history. The wall graphics were designed by Shaylee Read, Creative and Design Lead for the Utah Office of Tourism who researched museum displays for inspiration.  Playing off the Film Commission’s tagline “The Story is Utah” she created a meandering timeline of some of the most iconic movies filmed in the Beehive State from 1920’s Westerns to the films screening at the Sundance Film Festival today. The black ink helps the colorful film stills pop and the retro typography helps start the walk down memory lane.  

When asked how the design looked when built to scale Shaylee said, “I was excited to see the final design and surprised to see how large it is in real life.  The whole space is very striking but when people enter the room you can see their eyes immediately go to the wall.”  She also elaborated on why she loved this project, “Leading up to Sundance I was surprised to learn just how many films were made in Utah.  It makes me proud of where I live.  I love helping promote Utah through my work and overall love promoting unique experiences through tourism.”

For those of you who are not at Sundance but want to follow the action, check out the Utah Film Commission’s Facebook page, Instagram and Snapchat. Or if you are curious about how we might be able to help your next project, review our incentives page here:

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Changing the World Through Film

By Elizabeth Latenser
Photo: A film still from 
Chasing Coral in Sundance Institute’s ‘New Climate’ Initiative. Photo courtesy of: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

This Thursday the Sundance Film Festival will kick off with 4 films from different categories as it has done for many years.  But what is new this year is that one film, An Inconvenient Sequel is part of a newly created initiative to highlight issues relating to climate change.  It marks the first time the Festival has focused their efforts to highlight a specific cause.

Utah has long been known for its pristine landscapes.  The tourism and film industries benefit greatly from its unique ecosystems: the fresh snow-capped mountain scapes to the rushing river waters to the Mars-like red rock formations of southern Utah. We’re proud that Sundance Institute has chosen to continue to encourage discussion and dialogue about how best to protect the wild places around us.  

When asked why they added this new climate focus, Trevor Groth, director of programming told the New York Times: “To change the world.”  And John Cooper, the director of the Sundance Film Festival added “or die trying.”

Founder and President of Sundance Institute, Robert Redford has long stated that the Festival is a platform for discussion and it’s important that they stay neutral on political issues.  Though this issue of environmental protection is a threat much too great to ignore.  He said:

“I believe that storytelling is the greatest platform for getting people to care and take action on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Amid escalating threats to our environment, independent perspectives are adding the depth and dimension needed for us to find common ground and real solutions.”

The New Climate initiative includes 14 documentaries, short films and virtual reality experiences across the Festival’s categories, and marks the first time that Festival programmers have focused efforts to highlight a specific cause.  To see the full lineup of New Climate films and projects here.

Many of these releases are greatly anticipated by nature lovers and film lovers alike.  If anyone needs a needs a boost to get through the next few days before the Festival starts, check out the 2016 Sundance Film Festival’s 10 Days of Different video to prepare for the innovation and artistry you can experience very soon.

To see our list of films shot in Utah and marvel at the sheer diversity of Utah landscapes featured:

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Thelma & Louise

By Elizabeth Latenser

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

Somebody said get a life…so they did

The story of meek housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) and her independent friend Louise (Susan Sarandon) who embarked on a road trip that turned into a run from the law, took critics and audiences by storm in 1991.  Not only was the story line a little radical for the time, it had two female lead characters who were slightly older than what Hollywood typically featured and a bold ending that many didn’t see coming.  Check out the original trailer for a walk down memory lane.

Thelma and Louise is one of the most iconic films to be shot in Utah.  Along with early Westerns that courted the movie industry for a specific look at the West, this groundbreaking film solidified the Beehive state as a place to create a different type of film with the help of Utah’s scenic versatility and production power.  New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote in 1991, “‘Thelma and Louise’ is greatly enhanced by a tough, galvanizing country-tinged score, and by Adrian Biddle’s glorious cinematography, which gives a physical dimension to the film’s underlying thought that life can be richer than one may have previously realized. At the story’s end, as Thelma and Louise make their way through Monument Valley and to the Grand Canyon, the film truly lives up to its scenery.”

The scenery and setting of the gorgeous Southwest is a constant presence once the friends hit the road.  Sarandon told Harper’s Bazaar about filming in Utah, “It was a beautiful, beautiful place to be working. I felt like John Wayne. And we didn’t shoot at the Grand Canyon—it was in Utah, in Moab. The joke for a while was that there was only going to be a voice-over of us because of these amazing shots they were getting all the time.”

The film’s poster features Monument Valley and key scenes were filmed in the La Sal Mountain, Arches National Park and Canyonlands.  The final scene which is supposed to take place in the Grand Canyon actually takes place at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.  People flock to Southern Utah to take a “Thelma and Louise selfie” and even organize their own version of the infamous road trip with friends.

Critic Roger Ebert reviewed the film, gave it 3 and a half stars and said, “When I saw the movie, about seven weeks ago, I reacted to it strongly. It had the kind of passion and energy I remembered from the rebel movies of the late ’60s and early ’70s.”  Audiences can agree that ‘almost’ getting 4 stars from one of the most well respected critics is high praise and the mark of a great story.

Thelma and Louise was and is a great story and one that was written at odd hours by a tenacious music video line producer. Callie Khouri was 30 at the time and had never written a screenplay.  She was working in Los Angeles and after being the victim of two violent robberies channeled some of her personal experience and personality into the story.  On a drive home one evening she had a stroke of clarity where the story of Thelma and Louise came to life.  

The film’s writer Khouri told Vanity Fair: “Out of nowhere I thought, Two women go on a crime spree. That one sentence! I felt the character arcs—I saw the whole movie, I saw, in a flash, where those women started and where they ended up. Through a series of accidents, they would go from being invisible to being too big for their world to contain, because they’d stopped cooperating with things that were absolutely preposterous, and just became themselves.”

Khouri wrote the screenplay in her off hours and typed it out on her office computer during the day.  All that hard work paid off.  According to the Atlantic: In 1992, screenwriter Callie Khouri became one of a handful of women to win an Academy Award for best original screenplay, and Thelma & Louise earned more than $45 million at the U.S. box office. Sarandon and Davis were each nominated in the Best Actress category, and director Ridley Scott was nominated for Best Director.

Thelma and Louise just celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016 and Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon reflected on the impact and making of the film. The duo cover female representation in Hollywood, the surprise reactions to the film and some scoop on that infamous ending. For true fans this reunion will feel like having coffee with an old friend. And for people who just can’t believe the film ended the way it did, check out James Corden’s alternate endings to the film.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Young Stars and Bright Futures

By Elizabeth Latenser

Forbes just released its 30 under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment list and it’s worth noting that digital stars make up 13% of this year’s roster.  That fact highlights that social media platforms are a solid pathway to reach audiences and gain fame along the way.  Though the large majority of people on this list are actors it’s interesting to see digital stars rising in the ranks.

RJ Cyler at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

RJ Cyler at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

Take a look at the full 30 under 30 list here.  You will see a few familiar faces in the line up of people who have recently visited or worked in Utah:

  • Evan Rachel Wood who stars as Dolores Abernathy in HBO’s Westworld which has filmed in Utah. The sci-fi series was an instant hit, becoming HBO’s most-watched debut season ever.
  • Kiersey Clemons who burst on to the scene at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Dope.  
  • Emory Cohen starred in Brooklyn which went on to be nominated for an Oscar after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. He acted alongside Saoirse Ronan who is an alum of the 30 under 30 list.
  • RJ Cyler starred in another Sundance favorite Me and Earl and the Dying Girl which went on to win the Grand Jury Prize.
  • Lucas Hedges who stars in Sundance hit Manchester by the Sea which is nominated for an Oscar.
  • Margot Robbie who starred in Z for Zachariah at the Sundance Film Festival where some critics argue what when she really became a true movie star.

Congrats to everyone who made the list.  We cannot wait to see what happens next in your bright careers!

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

New Year, New Look at Utah

By Elizabeth Latenser
Photo Courtesy: Salt Lake Tribune

Happy New Year! No matter what your stance is on making a new year’s resolution, we can all agree that a little adventure is good for the soul. For those of us lucky enough to live in Utah, we are a stone’s throw away from some of the most amazing places on the planet.

So take a look through the Salt Lake Tribune’s bucket list of great places to explore, check out our Utah Film Commission look book, browse the Utah Office of Tourism’s inspiration page or poll your friends to make your own list. Let’s resolve to explore 17 new places in 2017 or go back to a place you have already visited but in a new season.  As we know so many gorgeous places look and feel totally different depending on the temperature.

Cheers to a new year full of adventure!

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.