Kjristin Youngberg also took the photos for this article.
After a festive "Meet & Greet" with actors and filmmakers, the LDS Film Festival opened its doors on a 10th Season Wednesday night to a nearly packed house for the opening film, Midway to Heaven. Based on the Dean Hughes novel, the audience roared approval, laughing in all the right places, and crying a bit more than they thought they would in a movie theater. Adapted for the screen by Michael Flynn and Shelly Bingham-Husk, it tells the story of a widowed man (Curt Doussett) finding love again when his daughter, (Brittany Peletier) falls for an offbeat character (Kirby Heyborne) he tries everything to dissuade.
After the showing, actors Curt Doussett and Melanie Nelson joined writers and producers Michael Flynn and Shelly Bingham-Husk for a Q & A session. The highlight of the night came when a girl in the audience, eleven-year-old Jaimee Gordon, asked Doussett if he was wearing colored contacts in the film, or if his eyes were "really that blue" prompting Doussett to jump from the stage, meeting her halfway up the aisle to let her have a closer look.
Since the state of Utah has increased tax incentives (and is rumored to be considering even higher percentages to attract a television series or two) many more films are being made in the state. Last year included a record 26 films, compared to 11 in 2009. Many of these productions use local crews and talent, and many of the trained professionals now working in the industry first cut their filmmaking teeth at the LDS Film Festival.
"Showcasing films on the big screen gives filmmakers a vision of what they can accomplish." said festival founder Christian Vuissa. "It's very rewarding to watch the growth in these filmmakers, many of whom started as BYU film students."
The current crop features some who are still in high school. As cameras get smaller, so do the filmmakers.
The festival runs through Saturday, January 29th, and will screen more films this year than ever. A full schedule can be found here