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Gavin's Underground

Tower Theater's Open Mic Night

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2008-02-21 -

When you hear the term Open Mic Night, probably the last thing that comes to mind is a film festival.  Not quite the case up at Salt Lake City's legendary Tower Theater where once every few months their film set is pushed aside, and they make room for local film makers to showcase their short films for an audience.  With the Salt Lake Film Society backing them up, David Fetzer, Patrick Waldrop and their cohorts of cinema  give way for aspiring film makers to show their work, and local film watchers a chance to see something other than the Hollywood hype. 

After personally seeing the first one they ever did last year, I knew I had to come back and talk about how things had progressed since then, as well as take some pictures and view what local film makers had done.  After the 80's throwback introduction piece, we were treated to such sights as a snapper fight before looking for a missing person, a videography explaining the term Videography, the travels of a heart-shaped cake, the search for the gilded scarab, and the experience of shock value.  ...And then there was "Cake Day"... which I can't fully talk about on here because description doesn't do justice.  David Fetzer wasn't available, so I got to sit down with his partner to talk about Open Mic Night.


Patrick Waldrop


http://www.slfsopenmicnight.com

Gavin:
So who are you and what do you do here?

Patrick:
I'm Patrick Waldrop, I used to be an employee here along with David Fetzer, but I don't work for the Film Society anymore. I helped start Open Mic Night here with David, and now I just do it in my spare time.

Gavin: For those who aren't aware of the Tower Theater, give us a brief history.

Patrick:
The Tower was one of the first talking-sound theaters in the area. Don't quote me on it, but I believe it may have been the first in Utah. They started out as a First-Run theater, then moved into more of an art theater, playing more alternative cinema. Art, foreign, independent, just anything alternative. They do a lot of retrospectives. It's also a great place to rent movies from too, they have history of cinema that lives here for real movie people. I think you get a real cinema feeling here, especially since it's been here since the early 30's.

Gavin:
How did the idea of Open Mic Night come about?

Patrick:
We were actually talking about doing a film festival. But it came down to the fact that we both have a life and a film festival would take a lot of time and work to organize everything. We wanted to do a much bigger deal, but decided we should settle on something a little simpler that's more constant. And nobody was doing anything like this, so we thought why not give local film makers an open forum and not have it be that exclusive. So we went to the Film Society while we were working there and told them about it, and they wanted to give it a shot. It's worked out pretty well since then. We just wanted to get something going to build a better film community, get people active, working with each other and network. Nothing has been more educational to me than watching your film with an audience you don't know and seeing how they react. We're also looking to help younger film makers come and see this and grow and experience that feeling, and also to network and see other young film makers here.

Gavin:
Now I was personally here in the audience for the very first one you did last year. How was that experience of doing it the first time?

Patrick:
The first one was way too long. We didn't know how to tell people “no” when they kept bringing the shorts in. We didn't have a set time before, now we've got that. We try not to make it go over 140 minutes, tonight we're at 142 so we're done. But the first one was almost three hours long. And you know after sitting through three hours of short, many of which are around fifteen minutes, it tends to become a boring set and just becomes slow. So now we go through them and pick the order. We have to go through them anyway to make sure there's no pornography or drug use, but now we use that to program smaller shorts around longer films and make it flow better. So we've gotten better at making the show more palatable for the audience. You can come down and I guarantee you will love some of them and hate some of them, doesn't matter who you are. But at least this way there's more of a mix.

Gavin:
How often do you do this?

Patrick:
We do it every three to four months. Next one is May 14th actually. I's kind of become a very consistent now so we'll keep doing this every year. This is our fifth one tonight and I think at this point it's something the Film Society is planning on carrying on permanent ally, whether Dave and I are here or not. And that's good news I think, I believe it's a really good program to have for the film community.

Gavin:
Any plans to incorporate the Broadway Theater since this is a joint venture with the Salt Lake Film Society?

Patrick:
We could. The main reason we do it here is because we have our digital projector here and not at the Broadway most of the time. It tends to make it's home here. But I'd like to keep it at the Tower. It could be moved over there very easily, but I like the Tower's atmosphere for this.

Gavin:
Were you ever planning on doing awards for these films, or just keep it as simple as showing them and letting people enjoy them?

Patrick:
We've actually come up with a new format that starting up tonight and we'll see how this goes. We have a judge coming in, our judge tonight is Jeremy Matthews. We'll have a judge every night that will be a film critic or film maker, somebody that's reputable. Jeremy writes for Film Thread and covers film festivals there, he's also written for City Weekly and In Magazine, used to be the editor of Salt Shaker magazine, so a lot of people know him and respect his opinion. Tonight we'll have him as a judge and the audience will have a ballot on their programs where they just tear off the number of the one they like and drop it in the popcorn bucket. So there will be an audience jury and a judge best of, and they'll be posted on our website along with the others submitted tonight. At the end of the year we'll take all those Best Of's and make a set out of those and do a separate event for a fifth event for the best of the year vote.

Gavin:
Any plans to possibly take each night's films or the best films and make a DVD, or leave that more up to the film makers?

Patrick:
People can certainly release them. I think it's a good idea, it's been suggested and I'd like to look at it. But the problem is a lot of armature film makers aren't paying any music or image rights for managed media that they're using. And a lot of the best shorts are actually stealing that material, which is fine since it's just a small film. But if we ran a press of the DVD and tried to sell them, then we'd be breaking the law. If we could work past that then maybe, but we don't have any plans to do that right now.

Gavin:
Any films you want to mention that you feel are the best from the past events?

Patrick:
There's a few different groups that come in with films. I really like to see people being very inventive with nothing. They go on a little long, but I enjoy watching the action figure bits that people are doing. People just being inventive like that. There's a guy named Brooke Elison who has made short films that are one minute long. One is called “My 10 Favorite Movies”, and it's a whole computer animated show of his ten favorite movies and why he loves them with a computer voice talking. And it ends with “You should make a list of your ten favorite movies, it will say something about you.” I like to see people have fun with it and be inventive, you know? When I sense people are being way too serious about it, I don't enjoy it. I don't know how others view that and I don't wanna speak to heavily about it. The A.V. Club's films seem to make me laugh a lot. There's several people I don't know that well who turn in great films and I wish I knew them better because I like their movies. But I think there's always a consistent group of people who come down and bring in a selection, like they're making movies for just this event at this point. And that's really cool to see, to know that they have this deadline they have to meet, it's good training.

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