SHERIDAN – In a few weeks, the city will host the first Sheridan WYO Film Festival, which will bring filmmakers from around the world to Sheridan to share their love of film and contribute to a growing local film community.
Festival director Justin Stroup said he started thinking about hosting a local film festival about two years ago, but he didn’t know where to begin.
“I was just doing the research to see, how do you even do this?” Stroup said. “Just to make sure that it was done right, and it would be a benefit to Sheridan, something that would be fun for people to go to, and so it wouldn’t be a train wreck.”
He figured it out by reaching out to other film-festival coordinators and filmmakers.
Stroup found films to show through a variety of online communities. He used a site called FilmFreeway, which connects festivals with filmmakers, to solicit entries and ended up with more than 650 submissions by filmmakers from 55 different countries.
He did his due diligence and watched all of them — Stroup estimated he spent 300 hours watching films for inclusion in the festival over the past year and narrowed that list of submissions down to 37 films.
“There were a couple that were kind of difficult to sit through — there was a lot of variation in ability and experience,” Stroup said. “…I saw some stuff that was just bizarre, but I saw some really great stuff that’s in the festival.”
As a film-lover, though, the process gave Stroup an opportunity to broaden his horizons.
“It was so cool to watch these films because, unless you go to a festival they’ve been selected into, you may never know they exist,” Stroup said. “So I was just really struck by the amount of film people were making that nobody hears about.”
Stroup said he also found some of the films on his own. He found the film that will open the festival, a feature-length documentary called “Miss Snake Charmer,” which is about a Texas beauty pageant that requires contestants to kill and skin a rattlesnake in addition to the more typical beauty-pageant contests, through Twitter.
“I don’t know how it popped up, but I stumbled across the trailer and it just looked awesome,” Stroup said.
Though the film wasn’t finished yet, he reached out to the filmmakers about bringing it to Sheridan.
“I asked them, even if they didn’t want to be part of the festival, to submit it to us because I just wanted to watch the movie,” Stroup said.
Not only did the filmmakers agree to submit the film, though, they will be on-hand to talk about the making of the film and field questions on the festival’s opening night.
About 15 filmmakers have agreed to travel to Sheridan and participate in the festival, which Stroup was thrilled about.
He hopes the film festival can be a venue to not only showcase movies, but give students and community members a chance to learn how to make them.
“I would love to have more local filmmakers. More people who have an interest and start connecting and collaborating on things,” Stroup said. “And who knows where that can grow.”
Sheridan Travel and Tourism director Shawn Parker said hosting a film festival locally builds on a growing interest among filmmakers in visiting Wyoming as well.
“We’re really excited to grow the potential of what the film industry can be in this state,” Parker said.
“…We’re really trying to grow it bit by bit and a film festival allows us to sort of expand laterally what the offerings are here,” he added.
Parker said filmmakers from major studios have expressed interest in filming locally and a festival that hosts international filmmakers will further Sheridan’s, and Wyoming’s, reputation as a destination for films.
Going forward, Stroup said he hopes to organize more instructional events, such as workshops with filmmakers, or tutorials on how to use different cameras.
“It could even be something like how to shoot a film on an iPhone,” Stroup said. “Because the cameras we have on our phones these days are pretty good. You can make films that look fantastic.”
If Stroup’s aspirations for the event are realized, the Sheridan WYO Film Festival could become a yearly event that serves as a launching pad for a growing artistic community in Sheridan.
The festival’s full schedule, as well as ticket information, is available at sheridanwyofilmfest.org. The festival will be held on Oct. 5-7.