Moab has long been an oasis for filmmakers—the history began in the 1950s when renowned director John Ford created “Wagon Master” entirely in Moab. Since then, Moab’s red rock landscape has become emblematic of the Wild West and featured in films like 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” 1990’s “Thelma and Louise,” and now in “Horizon: An American Saga,” a western movie written and directed by Kevin Costner, which is currently filming.
In a celebration of Moab’s film history, and just for fun, the latest filmmaking challenge organized by Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Director Bega Metzner is all about Westerns.
“I think these competitions are so fun—you can learn so much, and you can create something that you never thought you could,” Metzner said.
“Go ahead Moab,” says the poster for the “Wild, Weird, Wacky Westerns” film competition. “Make your movie.”
Registration is now open for the competition—the cost is $50 per team, and free for any Grand and San Juan County middle and high school students. Filmmakers have five genres to choose from: “a stranger comes to town,” “this town ain’t big enough,” “struck gold,” “yeehaw!,” or “wanted dead or alive,” and they’ll have two weeks, starting on Sept. 23, to film and edit the movie.
On Sept. 23, the filmmaking teams—which can range from one person to any number of people—will receive an individual element, such as a prop or a line of dialogue, that they must include in the film. The completed films, which can be up to 10 minutes long, are due by Oct. 3.
“[Western] seemed like the right genre this year,” Metzner said, especially with all the buzz surrounding Kevin Costner’s film. She added that the “Western” genre encompasses so much: the classic western movie, with cowboys and sheriffs; the spaghetti westerns, featuring antiheroes and bloody gunfights; the romantic western movies, with doomed, or redeemed, love stories. Participants in the competition can follow whatever inspiration strikes, Metzner said.
“Or you can mix it up and make it a science-fiction-thriller-horror-action western,” she said. “There’s so much you can do.”
Metzner has organized local film competitions before, such as the Moab Showdown and Monster Movie Mash. The competitions are always popular, Metzner said, so she wanted to host another this fall. Metzner again partnered with Filmulate, an organization that hosts genre-specific film festivals like this one, and with the Moab Arts and Recreation Center’s Red Rock Arts Festival, which officially takes place Oct. 6-9.
This year was the first that Metzner opened the free registration to San Juan County students, in addition to Grand County—it’s important to include younger, up-and-coming filmmakers too, she said.
“That makes me happier than most of the things about the competition—that projects like this open up opportunities for local kids to become involved with things they might never have thought their hands could touch,” Metzner said.
All the films will be shown, and judged, during a screening on Friday, Oct. 7 at Star Hall. There will be three judges, Metzner said, and a variety of categories and prizes to be won.
“It’s really open to everyone: if you’ve ever wanted to make a movie, this is a fun opportunity to do so,” she said.
Registration is currently open and available at www.filmulate.com. There will also be a free and virtual “filmmaking tips” workshop, hosted by the founder of Filmulate, Brian Higgins, on Wednesday, Sept. 21 from 6 to 7 p.m. While all competition filmmakers are encouraged to join in, the workshop is also open to anyone who is interested—you don’t have to be registered for the competition to attend. The workshop is available at www.redrockartsfestival.com/2022workshops.