SALT LAKE CITY — “I’m actually running around with The Jets right now,” Kels Goodman, of Orem, said nonchalantly over the phone in an interview with Deseret News. For some people, hanging out with the popular '80s music band would be a dream come true. But for Goodman, it was all in a day’s work as he finishes a documentary that will premiere at this year’s LDS Film Festival, Feb. 27-March 2 at SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.
As the new owner of the festival, Goodman is working to expand the vision of his friend and founder of the LDS Film Festival, Christian Vuissa. Vuissa founded the festival in 2001 as a place for filmmakers who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to network and share their work with a like-minded audience, according to ldsfilmfest.com.
Goodman, who worked at the festival for 10 years, took over as owner last year. This will be his second year running the festival that brings in 4,000-7,000 visitors each year. He is working to implement changes to the LDS Film Festival that will result in an improved experience for the filmmakers and the audience.
“We need higher quality,” Goodman said, adding that besides the improved quality, the films need to have a good message.
In an effort to raise the quality of films, the judges of the competition have been more selective in the films that are accepted. Out of the 80 films that were received, 50 were selected to screen at the festival.
Other changes include extending the popular 24-hour filmmaking marathon to 48 hours, as well as overhauling the awards show. Goodman has implemented musical acts and trophies into the festival’s awards show, and winners will have the opportunity to speak during the ceremony. Goodman hopes the changes better reflect the hard work that is put in by the filmmakers.
Mitch Davis — the Springville resident who is the producer, writer and director of “The Other Side of Heaven” movies — agrees with Goodman’s assessment that the LDS film market needs to raise the bar.
“I share Kel’s passion and am concerned about it because I think if we don’t make better movies, if we don’t make bigger movies, we are going to diminish the LDS audience," Davis said.
The “The Other Side of Heaven: Fire of Faith” is not yet complete and will not be screened at this year’s festival, but Davis will take part in the Filmmakers Presentations on Saturday. He plans to talk about his new movie, the importance of being stewards of history and the different models and motives for making a film themed around the values of Latter-day Saints.
The reasons for making a movie will vary, according to Davis. Movies are made to entertain, inform, uplift and to transport viewers to a different world, and hopefully make a profit. The hard work of aspiring filmmakers to produce a movie may never be fully appreciated by an audience, but it is ultimately that audience that determines a movie’s success.
Davis said that with today’s technology and ability to stream a movie from almost anywhere, the audience’s perception and definition of what constitutes a real movie is changing. If a movie is not produced for hundreds of millions of dollars, then the film may be disavowed because it was produced on a smaller scale.
“There are real financial parameters that affect what kinds of movies can actually be produced for distribution solely inside the LDS space,” Davis said. “It’s imperative that we find a way for our motion pictures to transcend the LDS niche and appeal to a broader audience so we can spend more money producing them on a larger scale.
“The only way that I can see for us to be able to afford to make bigger and better films is to make movies that expand the audience, that cross over beyond the narrow confines of the LDS niche market."
One way Goodman sees to expand the audience is to cross the divide and reach out to other faiths.
“We need to bridge that gap because we need to acknowledge that we're all on the same mission and even though we're a different faiths there are ways that we can connect,” he said.
As the festival grows and becomes more inclusive of other faiths, Goodman sees it growing in other ways too, including a possible name change and more of a focus on the family.
Regardless of what the future holds, Goodman said this year's festival is sure to be unique, noting that some of the films may never be seen again outside of the festival. That experience, along with the opportunity to hear from the filmmaker and give feedback, is part of what makes the festival special.
Some films that will be screened with a Q&A are “Jane and Emma,” “Little Women” and “Miracles: In God We Trust.” Other films include Goodman’s documentary “The Jets: Making It Real,” “Black, White and US,” and “I Saw the Hosts of the Dead.” Janice Kapp Perry, a popular composer, songwriter and author will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.Comment on this story
“That’s what’s so great about the LDS Film Festival,” Davis said. “It gives us a place to encourage one another, support one another and celebrate our efforts to record our industry and publish it.”
If you go …
What: LDS Film Festival
When: Feb. 27-March 2
Where: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State, Orem
How much: $8 for each program, $20 for Friday and Saturday pass, $50 for all films, $70 for all films and limited VIP access; filmmaker presentations are free but registration is required, search "LDS Film Festival" on Eventbrite to register