Four Corners Film Festival designed to help jump start industry in San Juan County

The Four Corners Film Festival will feature a full week of screenings, workshops, discussions and parties.

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FARMINGTON — Organizers of a weeklong event planned for downtown Farmington in late summer will try to generate new momentum and enthusiasm for San Juan County's fledgling film industry, a business to which many local government officials are pinning their economic development hopes.

Festival director and local filmmaker Brent Garcia said the inaugural Four Corners Film Festival will draw a significant number of industry personnel from outside the region, exposing them to the filmmaking opportunities and film infrastructure the Four Corners offers. It also will showcase and celebrate their work in a wide variety of categories, some of which are outside the film festival mainstream.

He expects the event to have a strong New Mexico flavor.

"Obviously, we want to celebrate New Mexico film," he said. "We want filmmakers from the state to have a platform for their films to be seen somewhere besides (the festivals in) Santa Fe and Las Cruces, which are the two big ones."

Garcia said the City of Farmington, San Juan County and the Farmington Civic Center all are key players in the festival, which is being presented by the organization Film Four Corners. The festival is scheduled for Sept. 9-15 at the Totah Theater and the Farmington Civic Center. It will include film screenings, workshops, panel discussions, a fashion show, an awards ceremony and other special events, such as VIP parties.

The festival features 15 categories ranging from features, documentaries and music videos to such specialized categories as films made in New Mexico, veterans' films, women in film, Native American film and faith-based films. It also features several screenwriting categories. Prize money ranges from $150 to $750.

Between 150 and 200 entries will be screened during the festival. More than 100 submissions have been received since the festival's website was launched seven weeks ago, and Garcia believes as many as 450 films could be submitted by the June 15 deadline.

Garcia said he is strongly encouraged by the quality of the films that already have been submitted, and he expects other potential entries to raise that bar higher.

"We're going to have some really amazing films," he said. "But we will absolutely see a rush of last-minute entries."

He is hoping the festival's attendance ranges from 500 to 1,000 people, with those figures representing a mix of locals and out-of-towners. Garcia is counting on plenty of local support.

"I really hope the community gets behind the event and supports what so many of us are trying to do to bring new business to the area," he said. "I would love to see the community rally and come out and not only go to the movies, but to attend the workshops and special events."

Garcia said festival tickets, which are available on the website at https://filmfreeway.com/FourCornersFilmFestival, were designed to be affordable to promote that goal. The $25 Screening Pass allows the holder access to all screenings. The $65 Filmmaker Pass allows the holder access to all screenings, workshops and panels. The $250 Producer Pass allows the holder to attend all festival events and receive a gift bag.

"We really wanted to make it accessible," Garcia said of the ticket prices, explaining that tickets for similar-size events in other markets can easily be three or four times more expensive.

Garcia promised the event will have some star power. Already confirmed to attend is actor Quinton Aaron, best known for his starring role in "The Blind Side" with Sandra Bullock. Aaron also appears in Garcia's new film "Aurora's Law," which was shot last year entirely in Farmington. Another participant will be actress, producer and television host Vivicia Fox, who was featured in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films, and in "Independence Day," "Booty Call" and "Kingdom Come."

Also taking part will be director and Farmington native Mark Gould, whose 2018 Western "Gone Are the Days" stars Lance Henriksen, Tom Berenger and Danny Trejo. The names of other well-known industry figures who will attend will be announced soon, Garcia said.

The festival director also has something in mind that he hopes will serve as an extra draw.

"One of the things we thought about was, how do we draw filmmakers from other parts of the state and outside of the state to showcase what we have?" he said. "We wanted to make the festival unique."

The answer to that question, he believes, lies in the form of a high-end runway fashion show. The event will feature local designers Jolonzo Goldtooth and Tiffany Rae, as well as internationally known designer and author Stevie Boi, whose clients include Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Madonna.

Garcia envisions the festival promoting the work of state filmmakers in specific areas, including women, Native Americans, veterans and faith-based projects. He believes there are many worthwhile stories waiting to be told in those categories, and he believes the Four Corners Film Festival is especially well positioned to appeal to filmmakers in the latter category.

"The faith-based category is kind of the strangest in the whole mix," he said. "This is kind of a test to see how it does. In my experience, there are secular (film) festivals and faith-based festivals, but some of those can be super churchy. What we wanted to do was bring in faith-based filmmakers and see if they could mingle with and meet other filmmakers. We want to break that barrier."

Don Gray, contract locations coordinator for the New Mexico Film Office, said the addition of a film festival to San Juan County's list of offerings not only encourages and inspires state filmmakers, it helps weave a fabric of support for the film industry here.

"It creates this kind of atmosphere where things can happen," he said. "I think that's extremely valuable."

Luke Renner, professor of digital media arts and design at San Juan College, views the festival as another step toward building momentum behind the local film industry. He thinks San Juan County is rich in culture and landscapes, and he hopes the filmmakers who visit here from other areas will take note of that during the festival.

"We have the opportunity to promote our area and let people know all the great things that are happening out here," he said. "The way you do that is visually."

San Juan County Manager Stark, who helped oversee the county's push for a $1 million capital outlay allocation from the Legislature to build a film studio here, said the addition of the festival demonstrates the depth of local interest in the film business.

"I think it helps enhance the fact that our area is committed to the industry," he said, explaining that the event will attract the attention of people outside San Juan County and help them understand that the region is invested in making itself a more film-friendly location. "It says, 'Hey, we're open for business, and San Juan County is serious about making sure this industry is here to stay."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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Footage for indie film 'Aurora's Law' shot in Farmington

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