Local filmmaker looking toward future
March 11, 2011
Jill Orschel’s 10-minute 2009 short film "Sister Wife" is still on the film-festival circuit.
Earlier this week, it won Best Documentary Short during the Durango Film Festival in Colorado.
The filmmaker said the award was unexpected, because the film has had a good run and has been screened all over the country and was even seen in Amsterdam.
However, since Orschel was raised in Colorado, the new award is special
"Since I’m from Colorado originally, it was nice to be recognized," Orschel said during an interview with The Park Record. "It surprised me that they wanted to show the film in the first place, and then to get the call that it won best short doc was fun."
The Durango nod, along with the previous South Southwest Wholphin Award for Best Short, is Orschel’s reward for making the film, which is about DoriAnn, who lives in a polygamist, sister-wife relationship with her husband and younger sister in Northern Arizona
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"It’s always nice to get acknowledged, because it validates me as a filmmaker."
"Sister Wife" premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and has been screened at South by Southwest, Silverdocks and the Aspen Film Festival.
"It’s been at 30 festivals," Orschel said. "These days, the screenings are at smaller, niche-driven festivals and other private and salon screenings, which are more narrowly focused on a certain audience."
Orschel said different audiences for the film have emerged through these more recent screenings.
"I’m seeing more people who connect with the film and understand what I’m trying to say," she said. "I’m seeing some people who were astounded and thought DoriAnn’s lifestyle was unconventional, but others understood where she was coming from with the unconditional love and open family. I’ve seen people laugh and cry during the screenings."
Accolades aside, Orschel wants to embark on a new adventure.
"The biggest feeling I have is that I want to do more work," she said. "I want to get on to the next thing, because sometimes, to me, it’s a little embarrassing because I think people are saying, ‘Oh, man, ‘Sister Wife’ is still out there?’"
One of the projects Orschel has in her mind is a more in-depth, full-length documentary about DoriAnn’s community located on the Utah-Arizona border.
"I didn’t have access to all of her family when I shot the original interviews," Orschel said. "In fact, I just met the other wife her sister a couple of months ago, but I felt like I already knew her."
Meanwhile, the filmmaker is honing her craft on another full-length documentary about Park City performer Lisa Needham.
"I’ve been working on the film with a group from Berkeley, called New Doc Editing," Orschel said. "We’re six filmmakers who are all at the same point in our careers, which means we are still looking to make the big one."
Orschel has been shifting her focus from shooting interviews to shooting scenes that help create a character-driving documentary.
"I think there is more to say and more to show about DoriAnn’s lifestyle," she said. "It still seems to be a timely subject. People are still curious, and I’m still getting calls from magazines doing articles and asking me how to get in touch with DoriAnn."
Change is the big reason Orschel wants to do another film about DoriAnn.
"’Sister Wife’ as a film and my viewpoint has stayed the same, even though it was completed three years ago, but DoriAnn’s life has continued," Orschel said. "I think ‘Sister Wife’ would be a whole different film if I made it now, because as life goes on, sometimes people start describing their lives differently, and as a documentary filmmaker, I want to show these real people on their journeys, even though the film will be made from my perspective."