Jake Ulasich in City of Salt
Like all artists, filmmakers are being forced in this time to make contingency plans for how to get their movies out into the world—even if it’s just for a brief time.
Utah filmmakers Alicia Oberle Farmer and John Farmer had planned on a theatrical premiere this week for their drama City of Salt
, the story of how several Salt Lake City-area families are impacted when a teenager named Theo (Lauren Catherine)—the daughter of candidate for Senator (Jake Ulasich)—disappears. Instead, they will be holding a virtual premiere via Eventbrite
for a link that will be live only on Friday, April 3.
Long before the threat of COVID-19, City of Salt
began as an iambic pentameter poem written by Alicia when she was a student at Westminster College. Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, she says she had an epiphany: “We were going to write a screenplay as a comedy. But it wasn’t working for me; I had a lot of writer’s block going on.” It took a lunch with some friends at the Cotton Bottom, where someone suggested involving real-life social issues, that Alicia says “the bells started going off: We were in the wrong genre.”
The resulting shot-in-Utah film with a more dramatic spin (and cameos like former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson as a political insider) shows the influence of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks
that Alicia cites, weaving in and out of the darker stories behind the doors of families trying to maintain appearances of normalcy in their community. That narrative ultimately covered a wide range of potentially controversial issues, including suicide, prescription drug abuse, the treatment of LGBTQ people by communities of faith, and sexual violence. “If we focused on just one issue, we realized we’d have to do seven or eight sequels,” John Farmer says. “We wanted to show a day in the life, with all the issues that resonate, and characters that are flawed.”
The Farmers are now eager to get their film out to audiences, even if it’s for just this one day, with the hopes of getting it back into theaters once that is an option. “When it comes to performers in general, any kind of performance art right now, people are going to have to adapt,” Alicia says. “We had to make a decision based on the urgency of trying to get these messages out.”