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FilmQuest empowers filmmakers via networking opportunities

September 20, 2018

Enthusiastic chatter filled Velour Live Music Gallery last week as directors, producers, writers and actors alike met for a filmmaker speed-dating workshop meant to help FilmQuest attendees network with other industry professionals.

The annual Provo-based genre film festival, which wrapped for the year Saturday, aims to empower filmmakers, in part by helping them connect with others in the film industry.

“We do more at FilmQuest to build a community and build a network of filmmakers than any other film festival I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot,” FilmQuest founder and director Jonathan Martin said.

Filmmakers at the speed-dating workshop were invited to meet and talk in three-minute rotations to discuss three questions: Who are you, what are you working on/what is your talent and how can we support/help each other?

“You have a real opportunity with the guests here to meet people, get advice, make friendships and change your careers,” Martin said. “That’s what’s happened to me. I went to film festivals, I was fortunate to have my films in festivals, I met people, they’ve been in my movies, we’ve collaborated, great things have happened.”

The inspiration for this workshop came from some feedback at last year’s festival that FilmQuest should host more screenwriter-focused events. The idea for the speed-dating activity was originally created for the 2018 festival as a setting for screenwriters to pitch screenplays and ideas to filmmakers.

“Then we realized … most filmmakers are writers themselves, so let’s just have them all get together and everybody who wants to be there — actors, filmmakers, directors, producers, whatever — they could all meet each other and just go to town,” Martin said.

Thomas Burke and Daniel Abatan, co-directors of one of this year’s FilmQuest short films “Requiem,” thought the activity was a great icebreaker that would make it easier for them to initiate conversations with filmmakers later.

“It was fun,” Burke said. “It was a little overwhelming, but it was actually a good way to just meet a lot of people very quickly.”

Based on this year’s event, Martin plans to continue making the workshop a part of FilmQuest in future years.

“Now that we’ve kind of seen it in practice and all that, we know the beast that it needs to be,” Martin said. “We’re going to make it even grander and better. … This is an event I think we’re going to see stick around for a while.”

Jesse Swenson, director of 2018 FilmQuest short film “Brown Evil,” said after the speed-dating workshop he thinks what’s special about FilmQuest is its emphasis on community building and facilitating situations in which filmmakers and creators can get to know each other.

“This was the perfect example of that,” Swenson said. “I’ve been to like eight festivals, and they haven’t done anything like that, so it was cool, and I met some really great people that perhaps I could collaborate with.”

Martin said two FilmQuest attendees at a filmmaker luncheon this year talked about how their project showing at this year’s festival came about as a result of them meeting at FilmQuest last year.

“It’s important because ultimately, you only have so much time, only nine days, (at FilmQuest),” Martin said. “But the connections, that can last a lifetime — where it began, the origins of that — and they’ll never forget that.”

Sky Wang, who directed FilmQuest 2018 feature film “Lost in Apocalypse,” said there is an instant connection between FilmQuest attendees because “you’re all strung fairly closely together.” He was also impressed that FilmQuest screens a good collection of films while maintaining an intimate atmosphere in which people in the film industry can connect with each other.

“You don’t get that at every event,” Wang said. “I think a lot of people didn’t expect this to be as good as it is, but it really is, and Utah is, from what I hear, an up-and-coming place for arts and tech, and it makes sense. It makes sense that this is actually good.”

Martin said FilmQuest aims to create a familiarity at the festival that reflects Provo’s tagline, ’Welcome home.”

“Provo’s not exclusive; it’s inclusive,” Martin said. “That’s what it needs to be because that’s what home is, and I think that’s what we bring.”

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