Crowd Packs WYO Theater for Film Festival
The second annual Sheridan WYO Film Festival showcased films from around the globe and brought people from around the country to Sheridan to celebrate the art of film.
The festival received over 700 submissions, of which 37 films were shown, and four of those were from Wyoming. Two of Sheridan’s notable locals came out to support the event along with the rest of the crowd at the WYO Theater Saturday evening.
“[The festival] furthers the creative in this town, which I’m very proud of,” said festival founding partner Bruce Moriarty, first assistant director on films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” “Man of Steel,” and “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” We love theater, we love film, and this only enhances the whole feeling of the town.”
Of the 12 Wyoming films submitted, the four that were accepted were “One Wheel Ranch” by high school student Austin Akers, “Western Grace” by Salvatore Brown, “A Long Walk” by Project Schoolhouse’s Tab Barker, and “The Bighorns: A Time Lapse Journey” by Kevin Palmer.
According to festival organizer Justin Stroup, all of the festival films are award-winning in their own right, with one being Oscar-nominated, one debuting at South by Southwest, and others being shown at Sundance and Tribeca film festivals.
The festival kicked off Friday evening with a showing of “The Iron Orchard,” a film about the west Texas oil tradition.
“Knowing our country’s history, in this region specifically, with oil and resources and the boom and bust” is an important connection to both global matters and personal mindset, said Miami-based Matthew Jonas of newly-formed Cutlass Video in commenting on the showing of Friday’s film. Jonas said he felt welcomed in Sheridan and plans to return next year.
Saturday evening’s showing of “Fire on the Hill,” directed by Brett Fallentine, was proceeded by “Hell of a Run: Stuntman Jerry Gatlin” directed by Sheridan filmmaker Salvatore Brown. The short film highlighted Gatlin’s extraordinary 40-year career as stuntman and stunt coordinator from the original “Magnificent Seven” to his final film, “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Gatlin, who lives in the Story area, had audiences cracking up during a panel discussion on his life following the film. He recounted stories about famous stunts, being happy to make it out of a Hindenburg fire scene, and his work with horses.
Brown has partnered with the Wyoming Office of Tourism on several occasions to make videos, such as Gatlin’s, along with a series about women in Wyoming. His film “Western Grace,” that was shown at the festival, features Sheridan fashion designer Jesse Smith.
Husband and wife team of San Diego filmmakers, Alicia Wszelaki and Matthew Nothelfer, brought along Teddy the Dog for their film “Flying Fur.”
“We have been to a lot of festivals and this one is very unique because of the atmosphere.” Wszelaki said. “You can tell right away that it is supported by the community.”
The final morning kicked off with the “Girl on the Third Floor” directed by Travis Stevens.
“It’s the people’s festival,” said Stroup. “We want to celebrate the filmmakers, their films, and film audiences.” Stroup said the festival wouldn’t be possible without the 20 or so volunteers, the sponsors, and the community support it receives.
Stroup moved back to Sheridan six years ago, and when it looked like he would be in town a while, he asked himself what event, that was not currently happening, could “make the community a better place.” His love of film partnered with a “ton of help from the community” led him to eventually hit go mode.
More information on the festival can be found here. Be on the lookout later this month for an in-depth article in 82801 Life Magazine.