LDS Film Festival will change its name to the Zion International Film Festival at the end of this year’s event |

LDS Film Festival will change its name to the Zion International Film Festival at the end of this year’s event

Screenings and panels run from March 2-5

Marshall Moore, Utah Film Studios vice president of operations, addresses LDS Film Festival goers after it was announced that he and his wife Michelle would take over the festival as owners and co-directors during an announcement last year. The Moores plan to change the festival's name to the Zion International Film Festival at the end of this year's screenings.
Courtesy of the LDS Film Festival

The LDS Film Festival continues to evolve.

At the end of last year’s event, longtime owner and directors Kels and Stephanie Goodman handed the keys over to new owners Marshall and Michelle Moore. And when the curtains fall on this year’s event, which runs from March 2-5 at the SCERA Center in Orem, the Moores will rechristen it as the Zion International Film Festival.

“One of the main reasons why Kels is stepping down is because he’s a filmmaker by trade,” said Michelle Moore. “What I love about taking over the festival is that it freed Kels up to go in and make some other films, although he remained on as our programmer this year.”

The Moores have been thinking about running the festival for a couple of years, said Marshall Moore, vice president of operations at the Utah Film Studios, located at Quinn’s Junction.

Utah Film Studios is also the festival’s main sponsor.

“Kels had talked with us about taking over for the past three years, but I kind of put a stop to it for a couple of years for a number of reasons,” Marshall said. “One was I didn’t think Kels was really ready to give it up. But last year, I really felt it was time.”

Ironically, when Michelle agreed to take over the festival, Marshall was nowhere to be found.

“You know the movie ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ where Matt Damon buys a zoo and then tells his family? I kind of did that to Marshall,” Michelle said.

The Moores said the name change will help clear up some misunderstandings about the festival, which was founded in 2001 by Australian filmmaker Christian Vuissa.

“When last year’s festival ended Michelle sent out a survey and asked the film community and those who attended what they thought,” Marshall said. “We decided to change the name, based on the feedback we got from the surveys.”

Michelle said some filmmakers didn’t think they could enter their project into the festival, because they weren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is where the LDS part of the name is derived.

The word Zion, on the other hand, has many connotations, according to Marshall.

“One of the definitions we chose was ‘gathering place,’” he said. “So this is a gathering place for filmmakers, for people of all faiths and ideas.”

“Our goal is to look for mostly G-, PG- and some PG-13-rated films, and we have a judging criteria where we look for films with good production value, good content that doesn’t include gratuitous nudity, violence and swearing,” Michelle said.

While the Moores also seek films that are good for families, they also don’t want to shy away from “hard-hitting topics and diverse subject matters,” according to Michelle.

“We feel the slate this year encompasses so many different conversations we’re already having in the community and households,” she said. “We have found films that will still uplift and inspire but also carry on those dialogues that we should be having.”

This year’s festival will begin with Isaac Halasima’s “Waterman,” a documentary about the late, legendary Hawaiian and surfer Duke Kahanamoku, produced in part by Woodland resident Chet Thomas. (See accompanying story). And all the films fall into five different categories — features, documentary films, short films, documentary short films and music videos, Michelle said.

“One of the hardest choices was deciding which films to show,” she said. “The quality of the films for this year’s festival was amazing, and I can’t wait to see them on the big screen.”

Some of this year’s other screenings include Nathan Florence’s documentary “Bright Spark: The Reconciliation of Trevor Southey,” which is about the gay artist and human rights activist who was once a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Bryce Clark’s “Mission Stories,” a collection of short films inspired by true stories of Mormon missionaries; and Maclain Nelson and Stephen Shimek’s comedy, “Once I Was Engaged,” Marshall said.

“Another one I’m excited about is ‘Lucy and Whitney,’ made by Parker Gehring, a Brigham Young University film department graduate,” he said. “It’s about two sisters growing up in the church. One is married and one is not married and how their dynamic changes. Parker filmed it in his hometown in Washington and did a masterful job.”

Marshall is also looking forward to screening Dante Luna’s documentary “The Sandlot Forever,” which chronicles the 25th anniversary of David Mickey Evans’ 1993 coming-of-age story, “The Sandlot,” which culminated in Salt Lake City with a reunion of the cast on the sandlot.

Michelle, on the other hand, can’t wait to share K. Danor Gerald’s comedy drama, “Grandpa’s Crazy.”

“Gerald is a filmmaker who is also one of our board members,” she said. “If there is a movie you need to bring your kids to and have fun with, this is this movie.”

While the Moores already know the jury winners of this year’s festival, the audience awards will be tallied up throughout the festival and announced the evening of Saturday, March 5.

“This is something our attendees will be a part of,” she said. “We will pass out ballots when they come in and then collect the ballots when they leave.”

The festival will also offer 10 free panel discussions that are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Michelle said.

Panelists will include filmmakers, film critics and members of the Utah Film Commission, to name a few, and topics include the approach to reviewing a film, how to build a resume that will open doors in the film industry, and the state of the film industry, she said.

“I think we brought together a good core representation of these different areas of the industry who will open up their playbooks and tell the dos and don’ts of how to get started in a particular field in the industry,” Michelle said. “All of the panelists are donating their time and knowledge to further educate people.”

The Moores look forward to seeing how their film festival will evolve going forward.

“A film festival creates an opportunity for us to really focus on the filmmakers, the stories they tell and find an audience so more people can become more familiar with these particular stories that will hopefully inspire, entertain, uplift, all of those emotions you seek when you’re in a theater,” Michelle said. “We are pouring our hearts and muscles into this. We are proud of where things have gone in a short period of time and excited to see where things go in the future.”

LDS Film Festival

When: March 2-5

Where: SCERA Center, 745 S. State St., Orem



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