The Stories We Still Need: Queer Filmmaking in Utah
When you hear the phrase “Salt Lake film community,” you might think of screenings at Broadway Centre Cinemas or local film festivals like Damn These Heels. What you may not think of is our thriving ecosystem of independent filmmakers, inside of which a community of LGBTQ+ creators are finding the support they need to share their visions. I was able to borrow some time from two such talents and get a brief snapshot inside SLC’s queer, independent film community.
The Crimson Bounder
As a kid, Ash Anderson always wanted to be the hero. Years later, in late 2021, that wish would come true after Anderson saw a casting call for a local, LGBTQ+ swashbuckler short film, The Crimson Bounder. A quick slide into the DMs and a whole lot of daydreaming later, they were learning fencing essentials and choreography every Sunday in preparation for their lead role as Mercedes Hawkins, the titular Crimson Bounder.
“As an adult, I still hold onto those childhood fantasies and want to be the hero even though my general appearance typecasts me in more naive, ingénue roles,” Anderson says. “In [Bounder], I finally got to step into a role that held the energy I want people to see in me.”
As a self-proclaimed “extremely late bloomer,” Anderson finds that queer media helps illuminate the path toward uncovering their identity. “I’ve talked with a lot of other late bloomers who feel passionate about making the stories we needed as adolescents because, in a way, they are the stories we still need as queer adults,” says Anderson. “Queer, indie films show that we exist, there are thousands of ways to navigate and understand your identity and that you are not alone in that journey.”
Amidst self-tape submissions, Anderson recently wrapped production on two more LGBTQ+ short films—one of which they wrote—and is also currently working on two feature-length scripts. Watch The Crimson Bounder on YouTube @theaudbrothers, and follow Anderson on their Instagram at @littlepixiegirl.
Let It Sink In
With his recent short film Let It Sink In—inspired by queer cult classic The Lost Boys (dir. Joel Schumacher)— local director Abe Francis is reclaiming the punk vampire as an inherently queer figure. As part of that effort, he made it a priority to highlight diversity both in front of and behind the camera. “The best part of being a queer filmmaker in Utah is finding my place within the community and helping others feel seen,” he says. “By making my films, I’m showing members of the community that it’s ok to be different, that there’s room in Utah for all of us.”
Francis’ films aim to reject the notion that Utah is unwelcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, but it isn’t always easy to accomplish that goal. “When booking locations or screenings, we have to be hyper-vigilant and communicate that our film is queer for safety reasons. With so many violent attacks against our community, we are constantly aware that we may be subject to protest.”
Despite the risk of opposition, the queer filmmaking community persists. For Francis, it’s a matter of personal importance as well: His films are an outlet for expressing his bisexuality. “In the past, the portrayal of bi men was always ‘gay men in denial,’ but bi men also deserve a place in the community, and queer indie films can make that happen,” says Francis.