Another outstanding Spy Hop program: Four PitchNic films by SLC’s newest young directors debut Nov. 100 Comments Published by les November 7th, 2011 in Communication, Community Dialogue, Education, Film, Salt Lake City, SLC, Tourism.
Documentaries about ‘freegans’ and consumer ethics and the need to preserve family dinner rituals along with fictional short films about a band’s road trip of comic errors and an adolescent boy’s coming of age when he contemplates running away from home comprise the ninth annual offerings of PitchNic films created under the aegis of Spy Hop Productions.
The four films, running an average of 20 minutes, were made by young filmmakers – almost all of them in their teens and some in their early college years. Their work will be premiered Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
As noted previously in this blog, the most impressive aspect of the PitchNic program is how these young filmmakers continuously improve upon the work of their predecessors. The PitchNic brand has been crafted exceptionally well. Documentaries reflect a mature, sensitive treatment that belies the age of their storytellers while fictional narratives — whether through comedy, romance, slice-of-life reality or drama — show a deft hand in orchestrating important literary elements such as irony, metaphor, and epiphany.
Past PitchNic films have been featured at festivals including Sundance, Los Angeles International Film Festival, Utah Arts Festival’s Fear No Film Competition, Barcelona Television Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and others as well as cable networks including HBO.
As in other years, the young filmmakers set the bar for creative enterprise unprecedentedly high as in ‘River’s End,’ a fictional short story by Mikkel Richardson, Anna Berbert, and Rodrigo Arroyo. Based in part on a short story Richardson wrote about his experience in seeing a childhood friend drift away without ever really learning why such distance came between them, the film follows a 12-year-old boy who runs away from home with his imaginary friend in hopes of reaching the seacoast. Covering four days, the story revolves around the tension, dissent, and challenge against the fictions all of us at one point or another confront within ourselves that masquerade as our alleged identities.
Josh Samson, a Spy Hop instructor who mentored the filmmakers involved with both fictional narrative shorts, says the students learn to deal directly with the frustrations and struggles involved with all elements of production from conceiving plausible ideas to working within their budgets and to casting and directing their actors. Samson and his colleague, Frank Feldman, the mentor for the pair of documentary films, set appropriate boundaries as mentors, encouraging the students to take full ownership for their projects. “When we see that they are clearly flustered, then we step in gently to give them a chance to regroup and subtly suggest what they might need to do to resolve a particular problem.”
In ‘River’s End,’ Richardson and his young colleagues found the first day of shooting quite problematic with the two young actors who had been cast. ‘On the second day of shooting, I took Josh’s suggestion and decided to get the kids to play and joke around with me for about 10 minutes,’ Richardson recalls. ‘And it worked because the actors then picked up on what we were trying to tell in this story.’
‘Delayed,’ the second fictional film, had its own challenges. The filmmakers – Emalie Ruffy and Rowan Eyzaguirre – originally hoped to open the film with a shot of a car on fire. ‘Unfortunately, when they found out that the shot could eat up nearly all of their budget, they settled on a showing a car broken down in the middle of nowhere,’ Samson explains. PitchNic’s major comedy offering for this year follows three rock musicians, whose trip to the biggest concert of their careers takes several incredible detours, including the kidnapping of the lead singer. The other two members meanwhile meet a strange cast of characters as they try hitchhike their way to safety and to rescue their bandmate.
Achieving integrity in the narrative is equally challenging for the two teams of documentary students. ‘The students bring great ideas to the table as well as a solidly mature outlook of the world,’ Feldman says. ‘However, they also learn to work through the experience and the struggles that the film they get might not be the one they originally hoped for when they pitched the topic.’ Such was the case in ‘Dinner’ – a film by Laela Omar, Erin Cole and James Hadden – which originally had hoped to chronicle the differences in family dinner rituals among several multicultural families.
On the other hand, the film goes to the most pervasive questions about why so many families find it so difficult – and even awkward – to sit together for dinner. In addition to featuring two families, the film includes interviews with a family counselor and Liz Edmunds, known as the Food Nanny for her books and television show which is part of Brigham Young University’s public television programming.
‘Freegans’ – known more widely as Dumpster divers – is the focus of the other PitchNic documentary film. However, the film turns the stereotypes of Dumpster divers on its head by asking sharp questions about wasteful consumerism. The young filmmakers – Mallory McDaniel, Connor Estes, and John Tatum – raise valid concerns about why companies such as Whole Foods and REI, who exert a good deal of brand-building effort to emphasize their sense of corporate social responsibility, relegate with alarming regularity significant quantities of good food and product to the trash. They also show that ‘freegans’ come from a broader demographic range than what is typically believed and that many share a common overarching concern about restoring a core ethical obligation to our behavior as consumers.
The 2010/2011 PitchNic program is generously supported by Zoo, Arts, and Parks of Salt Lake County, Salt Lake County Substance Abuse Prevention, the National Endowment for the Arts, Adobe Youth Voices, Zero Divide, The Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, The George and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Foundation, Salt Lake City Arts Council, and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.
Tickets at $6.50 each are available online here, all ArtTix Office locations, or by calling (801) 355-ARTS.
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