Park City Film Series: 12th Annual Filmmakers Showcase

Written By Diana Whitten

On November 9th, the Park City Film Series presented the 12th Annual Filmmakers Showcase, curated by Park City resident and filmmaker Jill Orschel. It was an evening of and for Utah’s film lovers and filmmakers, and the affection for the annual event was palpable in the crowd, with raucous applause and whoops for artists presenting their work.

Now an institution, the event began twelve years ago when Jill was working as the weekend projectionist for the Jim Santy Auditorium.  She wanted to share her 16mm thesis film with family and friends on the big screen, and invited other local filmmakers to join her in showing work. They packed the house and a tradition was born.

As the Showcase grew, Jill took inspiration from her time at the Sundance Institute filmmakers labs to design a program that fosters risk and experimentation.  To curate the evenings, she casts a wide net, encouraging “radical inclusion” and participation from Utah filmmakers with finished shorts, works-in-progress, and clips of longer films. In her words, “I love that it is, first and foremost, about the people, not necessarily the films, although each year the program gets better and better. The art of it for me is putting each piece in an order with pacing, subject, tone, contrast, rhythm, intensity and space in mind. I try to create an arc so the program is a bit of a journey for the viewer and an enjoyable, thought-provoking experience.”

The result this year was a robust show of 20 documentaries, fictions, animations, and music videos, all with connection to Utah, and themes of “home” weaving throughout: themes of discovering and defining home, the adventures that take us far away, and the renewed perspectives of homecoming; also those displaced, and our earth as a home we are failing to preserve.

Many from the program, listed in full here, can be found and screened online. Some highlights: Radiowest’s “Serving Time” is a heartwarming portrait of a Utah State Prison program in which women transition back to society by working at a prison cafe that serves people on the outside; a cafe where desserts are cleverly categorized on the menu as “felonies.”  Brad Barber’s “States of America: Utah” – part of a larger series of short films about the 50 States – follows a Utah nomad exploring a life without obligation by living moneyless; the film focuses more on the compelling concept of finding home wherever you are than the nitty-gritty of how he finds lunch. Mia Li Cutler offers a delightful short animation simply entitled “Home,” of a girl on a search to find herself – all the more impressive in execution given her current 9th grade status.  Chris Simon and Jerry Dugan’s elegant “Homesteaders” illustrates a poignant poem by Linda Hussa about a young girl’s trade of innocence for survival as her family weathers a drought; and “Life Coach,” from Taylor Rees and Renan Ozturk, is a glimpse into a lifelong friendship of two climbers most at home in the mountains, as one of them feels a shift toward a new passion.

In introducing the evening, Jill observed that, “the world has gone crazy, and that light from the projector up there is projecting the world back, in poetic ways, human ways, comedic ways, and brutal ways.  We have so much to learn from this awesome thing called filmmaking.” Her curation was indeed a tribute to the many filmmakers in the room, whose work, by trade, aims to reconstruct reality – and dreams – in ways that reach others with new perspectives.

Filmmakers, check here soon for info on the 13th Annual Showcase…

Contributing writer, Diana Whitten, writes, makes art, and directs film.

Photography credit: Nan Chalat Noaker