Even the organizers and creators of the Salt Lake City Film Festival weren't entirely convinced the event would survive its first year.
As festival co-director Matt Whittaker explained, "Last year could have gone any which way. Our fingers were crossed the entire time with the hope that people would show up.
"It wasn't easy marketing a film festival with no budget to market with," Whittaker continued. "Our whole push was so grass roots, and, well ... awesome."
But co-director Chris Bradshaw says he and Whittaker were relieved "when some of the bigger screenings started and the crowds were pouring out of the theater entrance.
"It was that realization that made me even more pleased with our event," Bradshaw continued. "Our community is amazing at supporting the arts."
Both men say that the event, which was originally envisioned as a one-day festival, has "snowballed" in just a year.
In fact, "we had to put a saddle on (the) growth," Bradshaw said.
This year's festival has expanded to two more venues: Brewvies Cinema Pub and Broadway Centre. (They join the Post Theatre at Fort Douglas and the Tower Theatre, the festival's supposed "home base.")
Those theaters will host a full slate of independent film programming. This year's festival will screen more than 20 narrative and documentary features, as well as an equal number of other, shorter works.
Bradshaw and Whittaker say the 2010 selections stack up favorably with the 2009 ones. (Among last year's features were "Best Worst Movie" and "White on Rice," both of which were hits with the crowds and got theatrical distribution.)
Also, "a lot of our films in this year's programming have significant Utah roots, and we like that," Whittaker said.
They include two sure-to-be-talked-about documentaries: "Cleanflix," about the controversial movie-editing business, and "Sons of Perdition," which looks at the Colorado City polygamist community.
"Perdition" co-director Tyler Measom said the festival screenings "will be particularly sweet for us because of all the people here that gave us support in making this film over the past four years."
He said he and co-director Jennilyn Merten "expect to start a new dialogue on a subject that many are invested in here.
"We do hope that screening in Salt Lake will increase awareness of the plight of those who have left polygamy and help to bring about change in Colorado City, both on a political and social level," Measom said.
(Broadcast rights to "Sons of Perdition" were bought by the Oprah Winfrey Network, which plans to televise it next year.)
And "Cleanflix" co-director Joshua Ligairi said he is proud to show the film at "a scrappy new festival ... (one) determined to make a home for true independent film in Utah."
He also attaches "special significance" to the film's premiere, since it will open the festival.
"It is a big deal for us. We are very excited to show the film to our home audience."
And like Measom, he hopes his film "will spark conversation and curiosity.
"This is such a great local story that I think everyone will enjoy the debate and discussion," he said, adding that "most would agree that we handle the subject matter fairly. Honesty was always our policy."
The festival co-directors say that these two films were obvious selections, despite their subject matter.
Bradshaw observed that the festival "isn't about controversy or offending anyone," though.
"It's about community and great films. We don't want anyone to walk out the theater angry."
That wouldn't be good for either the community or the festival, Whittaker said, noting that a major goal is to make the event "self-sustaining."
"We're very confident that after this year we'll be on track to make that happen," he said.
e-mail: [email protected]
If you go ...
What: The 2010Salt Lake City Film Festival
Where: Brewvies Cinema Pub,
677 S. 200 West (21 and older); Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. 300 South; Post Theatre (Fort Douglas), 245 S. Fort Douglas Blvd.; Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South
When: Aug. 12-15
How much: $10