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Only 4 years old, the Salt Lake City Film Festival is growing up in a hurry.
"We're making good strides in better organization," said executive director Matt Whittaker, who founded the festival in 2009 with artistic director Chris Bradshaw. The event is run by volunteers, but "we're hoping in the next year to have a paid staff."
Another sign of maturity: The festival is now a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit arts organization.
The festival kicks off a four-day run on Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City. More movies screen Friday through Sunday, Sept. 21-23, at the Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, and Brewvies Cinema Pub, 667 S. 200 West.
With better technology and access to filmmaking tools, Whittaker said "the quality [of submissions] is getting better and better and better." And even though the festival invited some filmmakers to submit their works (a common practice among smaller film festivals), all of the feature films that made the cut were submitted without prompting.
Music is a common theme in several of this year's films. Whittaker said that may be because several of the festival volunteers are musicians.
Those films include "Fever Year," a documentary about musician Andrew Bird; "Intro," a documentary about a reclusive songwriter; and the Macedonian comedy "Punk's Not Dead," about a reunion of a cult punk-rock band.
The opening-night film is a conversation starter, Whittaker said. "Duck Beach to Eternity" is a documentary about a Mormon spring-break destination spot in North Carolina.
"They have all the trappings of your classic spring break, but they're missing some of your classic core elements like booze or nudity," Whittaker said, adding that the film's three directors are a Mormon, a non-Mormon and an ex-Mormon. "It's the only film on the slate that we're screening twice."
Whittaker said the films at this year's festival point to its mission of "empowering indie filmmakers in finding creative ways to distribute their films."
"The bottom line is, we always wanted this to be a film festival dedicated to our city," said Whittaker. "We got tired of hearing Salt Lake City is missing this or missing that. … We see [the festival] not only as an epicenter for film, but also for culture in general."
And even though the film's organization is getting bigger, Whittaker and Bradshaw want to keep the original spirit of the event.
"The front end can be exactly as it should be, a grassroots community event," he said.
The fourth annual Salt Lake City Film Festival.
When • Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 20-23.
Where • Opening-night and closing-night screenings at the Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City.
Also • Screenings all day Friday through Sunday, Sept. 21-23, at the Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City; and late-night screenings Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21-22, at Brewvies Cinema Pub, 667 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City. (Must be 21 or older to attend Brewvies screenings.)
Tickets • saltlakecityfilmfestival.com