News Column

Indie films invade the Cheyenne International Film Festival.

May 18, 2013

YellowBrix

May 18--"Only Daughter" was born out of frustration.

Director Aaron Wiederspahn was tired of navigating the Hollywood production maze with his other projects, constantly waiting around for more money or a bigger name to sign on. He wanted a fast project he could maintain control of from start to finish.

He began outlining the story of a daughter looking for a father she never knew, shaping and creating the story and dialog with the actors as he went in an organic process. From there, he organized the shooting and editing, working with local contacts near his New Hampshire home rather than the L.A. head honchos.

Less than a year after the process began he was showing "Only Daughter" at festivals to positive reviews. It was an amazing turnaround in terms of speed in relation to the quality of the finished product.

"It turned out to be a small and intimate project, which is just what I was looking to do at the time," said Wiederspahn, who went to high school in Torrington and previously lived in Cheyenne. "I think it is a testament to people coming together more than anything else."

"Only Daughter" will arrive in Cheyenne this week as part of the Cheyenne International Film Festival which brings independent films to various locations in town every year. Like "Only Daughter," most are low-budget pro-jects that haven't seen wide release but have earned positive reviews from fans and critics on the festival circuit.

The festival is hosted by Wyoming Community Media and runs through Sunday. Spokesman Alan O'Hashi said one of the main goals of the festival was to help expand the arts culture in downtown Cheyenne.

Films are selected from an independent movie distributor based on a variety of factors, according to O'Hashi. This year's offerings range from social justice documentaries to experimental fantasy films.

"Cheyenne gets first-run big movies regularly, but there are a lot of films out there that are made for specialty markets or are created with a small budget that are just as valuable that don't make it here," O'Hashi said. "We want to give a venue to those kinds of projects and offer the people of Cheyenne a chance to see them and talk about them."

One difference in this year's program is the inclusion of live performances, which tie in with films. Saturday night's screenings, for example, will look at magic and deception and will be followed by a performance from local mentalist Dan Jaspersen, and Sunday night's screenings looking at banjo music, accompanied by a performance from local band Beatgrass.

O'Hashi said the fusing of live performance and film was an idea his group had been playing with after seeing the success of events like South by Southwest, which followed a similar format.

"We are always tweaking and playing with our program and we know that acts like Dan and Beatgrass are popular in Cheyenne," he said. "So we thought it was a great opportunity to expand the content and give people something they want, as well."

Wiederspahn said he wasn't aware there was a festival in Cheyenne until recently, but he jumped on the opportunity to show his film to friends and family. For him, the allure of coming back to the town where he performed regularly at the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players before heading off to Los Angeles is a dream situation.

"Wyoming has always been home to me, no matter where I lived, so it is great to come back with this movie," he said. "I am really hoping for a big crowd and looking forward to a question-and-answer session afterwards."

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CHEYENNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

"AMERICAN WINTER"

When: Friday, 6-9 p.m.

Where: Atlas Theater, 211 W. Lincolnway

Vitals: 90 minutes, unrated, documentary

Online: www.americanwinterfilm.com

About: Produced and released on HBO, "American Winter" looks at the personal stories of families in Portland, Ore., struggling to meet basic needs like shelter and electricity after living comfortably in the middle class before the economic downturn.

The film focuses on families who call the information and referral service 211 for help navigating the social services available in their area, searching for assistance in paying for gas and electricity.

Filmed over the course of a winter, it is a brutally honest look at the social services network and how it functions in today's society.

The screening is hosted in part by the Wyoming Children's Action Alliance, United Way of Laramie County and Wyoming 211. A panel discussion about the film and the programs in Cheyenne will follow the screening.

"ONLY DAUGHTER"

When: Saturday, 4-6 p.m.

Where: Atlas Theatre, 211 W. Lincolnway

Vitals: 99 minutes, drama, unrated

About: Raised by a single mother in a rural New Hampshire town, 18-year-old Dawn Cowley sets out to find the father she has never known and discovers the devastating secret that had torn her family apart.

"Only Daughter" was written, produced and directed by former Cheyenne resident Aaron Wiederspahn, who will be available after the screening for a question-and-answer session.

"NOMADS OF OZ"

When: Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: The Hynds Building, 1602 Capitol Ave.

Vitals: 96 minutes, fantasy, unrated

About: A whimsical and modern retelling of the "Wizard of Oz" from a Canadian film company. A father reinvents memories of his daughter trapped in her favorite film. The result is a love letter to cinema, imagination and the meaning of home.

"PEPPER"/"LOADED"

When: Saturday, 7- 9 p.m.

Where: Atlas Theatre, 211 W. Lincolnway

Vitals: "Pepper" is 10 minutes while "Loaded" is five minutes. Both films are unrated.

About: Both films deal with magic and serve as an introduction to a live mentalist show from local illusionist Dan Jaspersen.

"BANJOS IN THE MOVIES"

When: Sunday, 7-9 p.m.

Where: Atlas Theatre, 211 W. Lincolnway

Vitals: 13 minutes, unrated, documentary

About: Wyoming singer/song writer Jalan Crossland hosts this film about his roots as a banjo player and how that instrument fits into the history of the silver screen from 1903 to the present.

Local bluegrass group Beatgrass will perform after the showing.

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(c)2013 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

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