While visual arts scenes tend to be local, film is an international industry. With the Section One Expo, local filmmaker Joseph Puente is trying to change that. Along with others in the local film industry, he has worked on many films by independent and Hollywood companies filming in Utah, giving the state a strong reputation as a place to come make films. He’d also like to give it a strong reputation as a place where good films are born and bred.
Puente aims to bring something new to the scene with this festival. “The Section One Expo was created to introduce the public to quality cinematic art produced by local film industry professionals. In particular films produced by or in association with Section One Entertainment, the production division of the non-profit Utah Filmmakers Association,” he says. The UFA has been active for the past 12 years, working throughout Utah communities to promote knowledge of the art and industry of filmmaking by hosting events including screenings and lectures. They are particularly interested in involving young people through after school programs, involvement in 4-H, and filmmaking workshops in both public and private high schools. The UFA has more recently began to focus on producing films through their acquisition of Section One Entertainment and the formation of a non-profit production company. This means that any financial returns are prioritized for investment in future productions and compensation of professional filmmakers who dedicate their time and talent to these independent productions.
“One of the primary goals of the Utah Filmmakers Association is to raise the bar for what defines a “Utah Filmmaker.” It does this first by example in its production practices and second by providing local filmmakers with some of the tools and resources needed to create works of cinematic art in accordance with film industry standards.”
On October 6, a score of enthusiasts were on hand at Salt Lake’s Main Library to watch the dozen or so short films, as well as trailers and music videos, in Section One’s inaugural expo. The night’s first block of shorts stayed on the lighter side, with mostly charming and goofy vignettes. The Collection is a beautifully shot chronicle that follows a young boy who refuses to speak as he collects and assembles various electronic components and cardboard boxes into what turns out to be a time machine. The limited dialogue keeps the focus on the intricate camera work, which was by far the most impressive out of the first block of works. MLM favored much more traditional shots, and instead focused on more boisterous dialogue to tell perhaps the night’s most outlandish tale: a small group of people assemble in the backyard of a couple, to hear the man’s presentation for a multi-level marketing endeavor selling meat, which he eventually reveals is made from people.
The second block of shorts took a turn into more serious territory. These films addressed – with varying levels of success – issues such as espionage, religious iconography, and the effects of PTSD on veterans of war in the Middle East and their families. This block also contained the only documentary short in the expo. Entitled to Life tackled the very prominent issue of health care as it related a few stories of individuals whose lives have been dramatically impacted by serious health issues and the difficult, or nearly impossible process of receiving health care. While the film relayed an important message, it suffered from choppy and inconsistent sound editing, which detracted from the impact it could have had.
The best film of the night was one which Puente himself wrote and starred in. The film takes place on the stark, oppressive expanses of the Bonneville Salt Flats, providing the perfect backdrop for the film’s narrative. A lone man and woman sit within circles of empty pill bottles, separated by an indeterminate amount of space. They each leave their circle to follow a breadcrumb trail of pills as they are confronted by disembodied voices firing criticism after criticism upon them. The trails eventually bring them together and the film ends with the idea that they have found solace and companionship in one another.
Even if the film wasn’t to your liking, you couldn’t help but cheer for the film’s coda, Puente’s on-screen proposal to his girlfriend. Section One might not have had the crowd’s Puente might have hoped for, but you have to start somewhere. Puente is committed to developing the burgeoning film community in Utah (he has even begun writing on film for 15 Bytes) and with Section One we hope he’ll be able to continue showcasing our local talent (though we wonder if in the near future Puente will have the time—she said yes).
Jared Christensen holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from Westminster College (’12). He has since worked at Tanner Frames, and has been exploring the effects of presentation and framing in his and others’ work. He will soon be pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Curatorial Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.