Park City Film’s inaugural Filmmaker Spotlight illuminates Utah artists
What: Park City Film Filmmaker Spotlight featuring “El Desierto” and “Cuffs”
When: May 28-June 8, with a Q and A at 6 p.m. on June 4
A documentary about an isolated migrant sheep herder in the Great Basin desert and a mockumentary about Krime County’s not-too-bright cops will take center stage at Park City Film’s inaugural Made in Utah Filmmaker Spotlight screenings from May 28 to June 8.
The screenings of Jared and Carly Jakins’ “El Desierto” and Drew Neff’s “Cuffs,” both not rated, will be available through Park City Film’s Virtual Cinema program. The filmmakers will also participate in a Q and A at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, via Zoom, said film curator Jill Orschel.
The Jakins have screened their works in festivals around the world, and were featured in an article published in The Atlantic, she said.
“In addition to many award-winning short films, Jared and Carly have worked on several feature-length documentaries,” Orschel said. “They are also the curatorial collaborators for the film series at Granary Arts in central Utah.”
Their film “El Desierto,” which won the Special Jury Prize for Cinematic Quality at the RiverRun International Film Festival in North Carolina last year, drew Orschel because of how it juxtaposes the grime and dust of sheep-herding with the beauty of the desert.
“You see just how gritty and dirty things can get, but then you also see these gorgeous sunsets,” she said. “You feel sorry for the sheep herder, but at the same time think he has the best job in the world.”
“El Desierto” was released in 2018, but its theme of loneliness is pertinent with the COVID-19 isolation guidelines today, according to Orschel.
“There is one scene where you see the sheepherder watching TV and a pizza commercial comes on,” she said. “You hear the announcer talk about gathering the family to eat together. You are struck with the knowledge that you know the sheep-herder can’t do that, because he is in the middle of nowhere, and also because he may not have the money to do that if he wanted to.”
On a lighter note, Drew Neff’s “Cuffs,” which won Best Original Story at the 2020 Miner Film Festival at Park City High School, is a comedy filmed in the mockumentary style of “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” Orschel said.
“I was surprised at how funny and original it was,” she said. “It’s Keystone Cop-like, and the main actress (CoCo Berwald) is the perfect foil for their crazy antics.”
Berwald graduated from Park City High School this year and is currently enrolled in the University of Utah’s theatre program, Orschel said.
Neff, a Park City High School junior, has studied filmmaking for five years since he started in Sharon Maddux’s program at Treasure Mountain Junior High, according to Orschel.
“He’s only a junior, so it will be interesting to see what he will do next,” she said.
Orschel is also interested in hearing about Neff’s creative process during the Q and A.
“He finished the film during the COVID isolation, and I wonder how that affected his filmmaking,” she said.
“El Desierto” and “Cuffs,” which both clock in at nearly 20 minutes apiece, are the perfect fit for the Filmmaker Spotlight series, Orschel said.
A few months ago, she and Park City Film executive director Katharine Wang brainstormed ways to expand the annual Filmmakers Showcase, an program that screened short- and medium-length films.
“We wanted to keep the showcase contained to one night, because we wanted the audience and all the filmmakers to be there together,” Orschel said. “The problem was there were only so many films we could show in 90 minutes, and there are many longer short films that we wanted to screen.”
The two came up with the Filmmaker Spotlight that was going to debut this spring in the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit, Orschel said.
“Katy and I continued our talks, and in the wake of Park City film starting up its virtual cinema screenings, we decided to add this to the program,” she said. “Park City has done an amazing job with this program, because it takes a lot to learn the technology to do this.”
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