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FILM COMPETITION WINNER A SALUTE TO INDEPENDENTS

FILM COMPETITION WINNER A SALUTE TO INDEPENDENTS

From the Sept. 12, 1978, Deseret News

The announcement that “Girlfriends” won the regional film competition at the Utah/US Film Festival is a satisfying salute to independent filmmakers throughout the country.

But the announcement of “The Whole Shootin’ Match” as running so close a second that it was voted a special second place award, is considered by those in the film industry to be a major breakthrough event.

“Shootin’ Match” was unquestionably a shoestring production – shot on weekends with only a $2,500 budget.

The Utah festival according to professionals who attended and participated, is a historic event and will have a long-range effect on regional feature-length cinema. One of the requirements for entries was a minimum running time of 75 minutes.

The six films in the final competition were pared down from 25 entries by a Salt Lake film jury which included Paul Swenson, film critic and editor of Utah Holiday Magazine; Tom and Vivian Sobchack, film instructors at the University of Utah; Rick Brough, film critic for the Great Salt Lake Newspaper; and Briant Matheson, filmmaking student.

The jury for the six finalist films was made up of industry professionals, including two board members of Utah US Film – Charles Gary Allison is a writer-producer, with the award-winning “Fraternity Row” to his credit. Katharine Ross, an actress, has starred in “The Graduate,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and others.

Other jurors were Linwood Gale Dunn, special effects expert, “King Kong” (1933), “Citizen Kane;” Verna Fields, film editor, “Jaws,” “American Graffiti;” Mark Rydell, director “The Reivers,” “The Cowboys;” Charles E. Sellier Jr., producer-president of Sunn Classic Pictures; and Anthea Sylbert, art director, “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown.”

Each juror judged each film individually and cast a ballot, of which 50 percent was devoted to their respective areas of expertise and 50 percent to their overall reaction.

The announcement of the winning film and the special second place award came during a dinner Monday night. “Girlfriends” won the top award and the $5,000 purse. But the jury recommended the second award be prominently announced and a special cash award be given to makes of “The Whole Shootin’ Match.”

In the exclusive interview with the Deseret News Sunday night, immediately after the jury made its selections, the jurors were excited, but said it was no easy decision.

Though admiration for “Girlfriends” was present throughout the discussion, jury members kept returning to “Shootin’ Match” as an example of achievement against odds.

“Shootin’ Match: was the equivalent to ‘Girlfriends’ in certain areas,” Miss Fields said. “But ‘Girlfriends’ was extremely professional in its achievement – and it has been quickly recognized.” “Girlfriends” was picked up recently for national distribution and is now receiving attention all over the country as a major film, including mention in most major national magazines which review movies.

But in “Shootin’ Match,” without a professional actor in the cast, the acting was one of the most admired attributes. “We admired the acting, the direction – the aspirations were especially good here,” said Rydell. “The goal of a noble affirmation of the spirit. It was a healthy film.”

The jury was neither aware of the budget nor the weekend production of “Shootin’ Match” until it had made its decisions, but Rydell said the film “was particularly good for working under the adverse conditions he (the filmmaker) had.”

Jury members said they do not consider technical problems when judging such films, but rather look at correct decisions made to produce the final product.

“There are certain common denominators,” said Allison. “In the writing it was absolutely clear that every film represented some point of decision, whether it was on the editing table or what – it was a choice of commercialism.”

He said every film has to take commercialism into consideration because if it does not have some mass appeal it will receive a very limited audience.

Miss Fields was quick to point out that this is commercialism as a point of communication to appeal to a wide audience, rather than the commercialism of seeking after a profit.

“Young filmmakers should not alter their thinking to seek an audience,” Miss Sylbert said. “But some kind of commercial attitude is necessary – some consideration for the viewer.” She added that experimental films may have no place in a festival such as this one because the purpose is different than those with theatrical obligations.

Rydell cited an entry. “Local Color,” as an example of a film which was “rather experimental.” “It received varying degrees of approval, but didn’t seem to be the type to be properly compared with the others,” he said.

“Martin,” which was a camp, modern-day vampire film, was cited as an example of a movie with great commercial possibilities. It was also extremely gruesome and graphically violent. “But it was a film with some incredibly fine technical work,” Miss Fields said.

Comparing such diverse films was the hardest part of that half of their evaluation devoted to the overall product, they said.

They agreed to come to the Utah festival, they said, because there is fine film talent unrecognized nationally and it needs encouragement.

“Anything to encourage new blood,” Rydell said. “This festival gave attention to the nurturing of new talent to an industry too often accused of being less adventurous than it might be.

“Girlfriends” and “Local Color” came out of New York. “Shootin’ Match” was from Austin, Texas. “Martin” came from Pittsburgh. The other two contenders were “Bushman,” from San Francisco, and “Property,” from Portland, Ore.

All were given “probable R” rating for the festival. In general release they would all undoubtedly receive R rating, with the possible exception of “Shootin’ Match,” the only film without sex and nudity. All entries were also replete with profanity and one, with excessive violence.

“When they start out, many of these filmmakers are angry,” said Allison. “Nearly all first-films of this nature are R films, but later they (regional filmmakers) stop being so angry and almost exclusively stay in the PG category.”