Support Short: The Davey Foundation’s Impact On Local Indie Film
Have you ever gone for a walk around your neighborhood and noticed a Little Free Library? Maybe you’ve even stopped to grab a free book or to finally donate that novel you’ve had on your shelf since 2015. It’s a win-win—you take what you need, and you give what you can.
Conceptually, The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists (The Davey Foundation, for short) works much the same way. They provide resources for up-and-coming filmmakers, from grants and fiscal support to free gear rentals and mentorship from experienced artists. Once involved, you might even have a chance to return the favor down the line.
“The more you can be involved in a community of filmmakers, the greater chances your film will be seen.”
The organization was founded in memory of David Fetzer, a Utah filmmaker who passed away at age 30 from an accidental prescription painkiller overdose. “David was always extremely generous with his time and energy toward any projects he felt were worth pursuing,” says Kenny Riches, experienced filmmaker (The Strongest Man, A Name Without a Place) and director of the foundation. “We started The Davey Foundation with the goal of carrying his legacy forward and helping people see their projects come to light.”
10 years later, it’s safe to say that Fetzer’s legacy is only growing. Since its inception in 2013, The Davey Foundation has supported more than 30 productions and dozens of filmmakers. Every year, they put out a national call in search of short film scripts to support. Each chosen script doesn’t just receive a grant for up to $5,000—it receives support and mentorship from professionals like Riches and an entire cohort of Davey alumni.
“After doing this for 10 years, we’ve built a network of Davey grantees that have all become really close, so everyone’s willing to help out where they can,” Riches says. Betsy Ross, Fetzer’s mother and one of the Davey founders, even calls the foundation their “little Davey family.”
This level of personalized support is especially unique due to The Davey Foundation’s specific focus on short films—a medium many indie filmmakers rely on to kickstart their careers. Even if script writers don’t receive a grant, The Davey Foundation is happy to loan equipment to locals in order to ease the financial burden of production. Their sound package includes an impressive array of microphones, and the lighting package has enough lights and stands to quite literally make a scene.
“There’s something shifting right now where we’re seeing more young filmmakers making an effort to connect and build something in Utah. [This is] something that I think really struggled before when Salt Lake was a little, sleepy town.”
Each summer, the foundation also hosts Davey Fest, an annual short film festival that highlights grant recipients, local filmmakers and other selected projects. Last year’s special 10-year-anniversary event featured Davey-supported films from the last decade and even one that made its world premiere: Gia-Rayne B. Harris and Joshua Nathan’s Cairn. The goal of the festival is all about fostering a strong community, Riches explains. “The more you can be involved in a community of filmmakers, the greater chances your film will be seen,” he says. “The foundation really helps to get that access.”
An experienced filmmaker and Sundance Film Festival alum himself, Riches knows how hard it can be to get started in the industry. Between The Davey Foundation and other organizations such as WZRDMedia, the Utah Film Center and the Utah Film Commission, he’s pretty confident about the future of film in the Beehive State.
“There’s something shifting right now where we’re seeing more young filmmakers making an effort to connect and build something in Utah. [This is] something that I think really struggled before when Salt Lake was a little, sleepy town,” Riches says. “It’s only going to get more active and interesting.”
Davey Fest will return this summer with a nationwide call for scripts opening shortly. For more information on grant opportunities, equipment rentals and upcoming events, visit daveyfilm.org.
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