Utah is no slouch when it comes to the world of making movies. From the John Wayne westerns of the 1950s to the annual Sundance Film Festival, the Beehive State has been playing nice with Hollywood for almost as long as movies have existed. So why is it so hard for Utah filmmakers and actors to catch a break? Local producer/actor Jack Diamond had this same question. Along with Chase Weston, Diamond created the Who Likes Short Shorts? Film Festival in 2010, which is an avenue for local filmmakers to distribute their work to a wider audience. SLUG sat down and talked with Diamond about the festival, the local film scene and why a career in film is much more validating than a career as a customer service supervisor servicing senior supervisors.
SLUG: How did the WLSS Film Festival start?
Diamond: I’ve been a local filmmaker for a few years, and it was always difficult to get my work seen, even with Sundance out there. Sundance touts itself as an avenue for independent locals, but how underground can you be when Coke is one of your sponsors? It just wasn’t what local filmmakers needed. So I thought, I’ve got content and I know a few other local filmmakers. What if we took our content and started a biannual film festival? It’s snowballed from there. We’ve been able to raise the bar on local independent filmmaking. We interview our winners and get them on TV, which makes it more rewarding to put out good films.
SLUG: Why short films as opposed to longer, feature-length films?
Diamond: The majority of local independent filmmakers’ work consists of short films, and we want to screen as many of them as possible. We also want the festival to show as many films as possible. It’s also important to us for our audience to see a wide range of independent films, which makes shorts a natural fit.
SLUG: How many films will you be showing at the festival?
Diamond: There are three different screenings over the course of the festival. One consists of the films that have won at our previous festivals. We also have a screening for what we’re calling “Board Shorts,” which are short films that take 18 to 20 minutes to tell a story. We have about four or five films in that category. Then the spring screening will be dedicated to screening the “shorter” short films, which should consist of about 20 to 25 films.
SLUG: What can attendees look forward to this year?
Diamond: An hour before we open the doors we have a pre-screening meet and greet where we have pictures and giveaways, followed by the Board Shorts screening. The next day we have a Q&A with local filmmakers, which is a chance for new filmmakers to talk with people like Utah film commissioner Marshall Moore and John Corser from FilmUtah. These are the people that help get local filmmakers started. After that is a screening of past award winners, and our Spring screening for this year. We close the festival with an awards ceremony where we honor the best submissions of the year.
SLUG: How does the WLSS film festival compare to other festivals like Sundance or Slamdance?
Diamond: Marshall Moore told me that there are 27 festivals in Utah, but there is nothing like this. I’ve worked for Sundance. I’ve worked for Slamdance. I’ve attended 15 other festivals, and there truly is nothing like this. From what I’ve seen behind the scenes at Sundance, I feel very confident that our film festival is better. I like to think that we’ve captured the spirit of what Sundance used to be, and I’d like to keep that pure. We might not have the size of Sundance, but we certainly have the quality. We are what we say we are. We’re a local independent film festival geared towards promoting local independent filmmakers.