'Tis the season for film festivals—and before we get to the big ones happening next month, we have an ample supply of mini-local festivals here in Utah. The one we're going to focus on today is the Dark Christmas Film Festival, taking place this Monday at The Broadway Centre Cinemas. This festival puts several local filmmakers up on the big screen as they encapsulate the holiday season in short film style. The night's winner will be presented with a $500 prize, and all proceeds from the evening will go toward supporting mental health programs in Utah. Today we chat with an old friend of ours, Brian Higgins, as we discuss what you'll be seeing at this particular festival.
Gavin: Hey Brian, first off, how have things been for you since we last chatted?
I have been wonderfully well. Had my ups and downs as we all have but lots of projects have been coming to fruition in the last year, and I'm excited to look forward to what they become.
Gavin: What have you been working on in the local film community over the past few years?
I've mostly been supporting others projects in the local film community. Acted here and there, with the most significant being Kiss The Devil In The Dark
with Doug Jones, which is premiering the week after Christmas. Other than that, I've been concentrating on my non-profit, Create Reel Change
, and doing some outreach there. I've made a few films with Congolese refugees and some veterans. It's all about using film to help people express themselves and their issues in a more creative way. It's going quite well, and it's cool to see the smiles the projects generate.
Gavin: You've also been working on standup comedy the past couple years. How has it been working the local circuit?
Standup has been very beneficial to me. It has taught a lot of skills that I wouldn't have in my toolbox otherwise. I enjoy it as a form of relaxation. There are worse things to do than laugh all night with your friends! I've sort of transitioned into the storytelling world now, and I'll be collaborating on an opera with the Utah Opera in the spring. It's a multimedia show incorporating spoken word, opera, animation
and music, based on a story I told at The Bee about learning difficulties. So I'm excited for that to come along.
Gavin: How did you come to be involved with the Filmulate Film Festivals group?
is actually my own festival company. I started it six years ago with The Demon Chaser, and it has been going strong ever since. Each year I try to expand on existing festivals and create a few more. My motto is "Creating community through creative communication." Warms my heart when I think that 480 short films exist because of the festivals I put together.
Gavin: What's it been like for you working to produce mini-festivals throughout the year?
Oh, it's been a rollercoaster. ... I'm a one-man band here, flying the flag for grass roots
filmmaking in Utah. But I do love it. Filmulate
is going to get bigger and better each year, with more people getting interested and seeing what they can produce. The best part is the final screening presentation when everyone is together to watch the premieres. It's really cool to experience the atmosphere of camaraderie.
Gavin: How did the Dark Christmas festival come about?
Three years ago, I had the idea to do a film fest Advent calendar, where I would make 25 films in 25 days and release one a day online. That was the beginning of Dark Christmas, but nobody watched the films! So last year I opened it up to the public and mixed a few of the original ones in among the new submissions for the screening. Think Gremlins
, A Christmas Story
and even Die Hard
. Those are the best festive films. I wanted to provide a space for the other side of the holidays, the more
truthful side of what life is really like. Plus, I love Krampus [the anti-Santa creature from Bavarian folklore], and would far rather sit on his knee than Santa's. This year we have 14 films that we'll be screening that you'll never see together anywhere else.
Gavin: For those who aren't familiar with the process, how do people get involved with this fest and submit their films?
It's pretty easy. I provide the genre of the festival, such as Demon Chaser Horror, Vortex Sci-Fi and of course
Dark Christmas. Then I offer a number of sub-genres to choose from. All you need to do is have a passion and desire to make a film, then sign up for the fest you fancy, pick your sub-genre, and off filmmaking you go. Usually
you have around six weeks to finish your film before submitting. Filmulate
guarantees theatrical screenings of all the films, along with prizes and audience interaction. It's a great opportunity to flex your cinematic muscles.
Gavin: What was the screening process like for you guys going into this?
We judge the films locally with a hand-selected team of industry professionals before we send them out for final decisions with celebrity judges. This year we have Thomas Jane and Brian Trenchard Smith
Gavin: On Monday you'll be taking over The Broadway to showcase these films. What do you have planned for the night?
Lots of things will be taking place at the screening. We'll be giving away cash prizes to some lucky audience members as well as lots of laughs for other audience members! Krampus will be there for photos, and of course
all the filmmakers will be available for valuable networking. But it's not just for film people; we are open to the public, and everyone who has come in the past has loved every second of it, wishing there was more. I can't give away all my secrets of what I have in store; you'll just have to come along and find out for yourself.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite films headed into the festival that people need to check out?
I think they all have something special and for me it is important to support them all. It's hard to make a film and get it up on the big screen for all to enjoy. So even that is an achievement. But yes, there are a few that are particularly great. Some may even become classics.
Gavin: Once this festival is done, what's the next event you have planned and how can people get involved?
The next fest for Filmulate
is a new endeavor: Home Town Tales documentary. My hope here is to create a festival that showcases the amazing people, places and things that we have here in SLC. I want to shout it out loud through the power of film that Utah is more than the perception the world has. Details are still in the works
but I'm aiming for April for the screening date and will be partnering with some great other local groups and venues in order to tell the stories we live. Keep an eye out on Filmulate.com and social media for all the info as it trickles out.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Filmulate in the new year?
Apart from all the usual fests
and the new ones I mentioned, I'm hoping to expand Filmulate
to other cities around America. I'm also in the works to continue to build Create Reel Change
up to a place where it is helping many more people. In the end, I'm going to put one foot in front of the other and continue to create community through creative communication.