Another nine days in the heart of the Beehive State – otherwise known as Utah. And that nickname is apt, as we’ve been as busy as bees over this past week-plus – taking in over 100 feature and short films, music videos, web-series and more, at the 3rd annual Filmquest.
Filmquest is the second largest film festival in Utah (following Sundance) and was named one of the top 50 festivals worth the price of admission – by MovieMaker Magazine in 2015.
For those not in the know, it’s a genre film festival – focusing on horror, fantasy and sci-fi product. It was nine glorious days of amazing films, networking opportunities to die for, parties, booze, panels, walks down the red carpet and even some quality time with He-Man (see photo below).
Among the many extras (beyond the films) offered throughout the festival; a screenwriting workshop hosted by Randy “Crit” Killen, an in-depth exploration and screening of Hitchcock’s Psycho with Professor of Digital Media/Cinema at Utah Valley University – Alex Nibley, panels on minorities and women in genre films and a live space opera with Space Venture Coalition.
In addition to these goodies, there were after-parties, bowling excursions and laser-tag fun, a tour of Park City Film Studios, and a live reading of Shakespeare’s Star Wars.
So the bottom line is that Filmquest is more than just sitting in a darkened theatre – although that is first and foremost why we’re all there. It’s an exhausting, exhilarating and well-rounded journey into all aspects of genre film.
With that info out of the way – here’s what you really want to know; the festival’s lucky winners!
The horror/sci-fi/thriller Shortwave took home the most awards with 4 wins – Best Feature Director (Ryan Gregory Phillips), Best Actress in a Feature (Juanita Ringeling), Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
In second place with 3 total wins, Bear With Us – Best Feature Film, Best Supporting Actress in a Feature (Alex McKenna) and Best Supporting Actor in a Feature (American Horror Story: Hotel’s Cheyenne Jackson).
Tied for second place; with 3 wins, the sci-fi thriller Virtual Revolution – Best Score (for writer/director Guy-Roger Duvert), Best Visual Effects and Best Production Design/Art Direction.
For all of the nominees and winners at this year’s Filmquest (as well as all of the info for the festival), you can check out their website at www.filmquestfest.com.
And here’s a complete list of the winners:
Best Makeup: When Susurrus Stirs
Best Visual Effects: Virtual Revolution
Best Costumes: The Sun Devil and the Princess
Best Production Design/Art Direction: Virtual Revolution
Best Editing: Man vs. Snake
Best Sound: Shortwave
Best Score: Virtual Revolution
Best Cinematography: Shortwave
Best Documentary Film: The Blackout Experiments
Best Screenplay – Short: Ryan Spindell – The Babysitter Murders
Best Screenplay – Feature: Nick Chakwin & David Guglielmo – No Way to Live
Best Supporting Actress – Short: Catherine Parker – Move Me
Best Supporting Actor – Short: Lee Boxleitner – Die! Sitter! Die! Rupert
Best Supporting Actress – Feature: Alex McKenna – Bear With Us
Best Supporting Actor – Feature: Cheyenne Jackson – Bear With Us
Best Actress – Short: Carole Brana – Replika
Best Actor – Short: George Blagden – Blight
Best Actress – Feature: Juanita Ringeling – Shortwave
Best Actor – Feature: Edmund Kingsley – Capsule
Best Director – Short: Justin Harding – Kookie
Best Director – Feature: Ryan Gregory Phillips – Shortwave
Best Filmquest Express Film: Strange Brood
Best Fantastic Short Film: The Session
Best Youth Film: Ellie
Best Commercial: Link: Shadow of Light
Best Web Series: Ren: The Girl with the Mark
Best Music Video: Through My Street
Best Animated Film: Taking the Plunge
Best Student Film: Karkass Karts
Best Sci-Fi Short Film: Indigo
Best Horror Short Film: The Babysitter Murders
Best Fantasy Short Film: Move Me
Best Comedy Short Film: Portal to Hell!!!
Best Foreign Film: The Fostering (review)
Best Feature Film: Bear With Us
Best Unproduced Screenplay – Short: A.J. Briones – Apt. 215
Best Unproduced Screenplay – Feature: Ryan LaPlante – Redcap Towing
And for your convenience and enjoyment, I’m listing my top five features and top ten short films (as well as short film honorable mentions). Lots of quality at this year’s fest, so this wasn’t as easy as you might think.
Top TEN Short Films (in order of preference): Quenottes (Pearlies), Sing for Your Supper, Replika, The Babysitter Murders, 20 Matches, How Deep Can I Go?, Gwilliam, Genghis Kahn Conquers the Moon, Die! Sitter! Die! Rupert, Manoman
ELEVEN Short Film Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): A King’s Betrayal, Bionic Girl, Brentwood Strangler, Goblin Queen, Indigo, Kookie, Lure, Martian American, Night of the Slasher, They Will All Die in Space, When Susurrus Stirs
As I mentioned in last year’s article, this experience is just an overall great time. The films are top-quality — I’ve mentioned to throngs of people that many festivals have their share of films which I would term “clunkers”, but so much of what you see at Filmquest is terrific and quality and inspiring. Even the films you don’t consider your favorites still have quality components. It’s rare that you’ll see something you’ll find completely lacking.
There’s a definite sense in the air surrounding Filmquest – that their reputation for integrity, quality programming and just plain fun is on the uptick. These assets are already well on their way to permeating the film festival world zeitgeist. Speaking not only from my status as a reviewer, but also from a personal place of expanding my contacts and friendships within the film industry – attending Filmquest is simply a no-brainer. Whether you show up as a filmmaker or just as an avid genre film-buff – you’ll be welcomed with open arms by the festival’s organizers and attendees.
On another personal note – I entered two of my own feature spec scripts into the competition this year – one made it in, the other did not. And although I ended up winning no prizes, the script did make it into the top ten unproduced feature screenplays. I mention this not to toot my own horn (whatever, I will toot away), but to illustrate the Filmquest experience from that perspective. Festival founder/director Jonathan Martin and Assistant Director Jonna Jackson – as well as their staff and team of volunteers – never falter in making the filmmakers and screenwriters feel welcome, valued (no matter at what level they find themselves in the industry) and appreciated. So seeing things from the viewpoint of a screenwriter, and gaining the sense that the organizers are really rooting for you and your project – well, it’s a major plus at Filmquest.
Celebrity judges this year included Doug Jones (Crimson Peak, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), Carlee Baker of Lucky McKee’s The Woman and Robot Chicken, Game of Thrones’ Amrita Acharia, and Dameon Clarke of Borderlands 2 and Dragonball Z.
And the folks over at Filmquest have wasted no time in gearing up for next year. They accept film and screenplay submissions exclusively through FilmFreeway.com – and the doors are already open for 2017’s festival – so if you’re ready, you can submit right now!
On that note, the fourth annual Filmquest has already announced their 2017 dates. So all of you filmmakers, writers and cinephiles should mark your calendars and make your travel plans for June 23rd – July 1st, 2017! As a second-year veteran of these cinematic festivities, I can already confirm that I’ll be returning for my third go – the festival’s fourth – next year.
And finally, this will no doubt be a repeat of past sentiments – but this is truly like a summer camp experience when you were ten years old. Amazing friendships are begun and cemented in a matter of days. Valuable connections are fostered. And there is the eternal hope that you’ll meet every one of these people again in a year — for some good times and some great films! Same time, same place. See you there!