WYO Film Festival To Hold In-Person Festival

Sep 25, 2020

As statewide public health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus are being lifted over time, more public events are resuming. Many film festivals around the world have had to cancel or change their formats to limit risks. But for the WYO Film Festival in Sheridan, the shows will go on in-person, with some modifications. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler spoke with the festival's director Justin Stroup.

Justin Stroup: When we started the WYO Film Festival, the idea behind it was that people in Wyoming and the West have always loved a good story. I mean, so much so that we built an entire mythos around what the West. How meta is that? Right? We wanted to, first and foremost, just have films that people wouldn't necessarily have access to. Because of our region, we don't get access to a lot of more art style films, more independent films. So we wanted to bring those films in with a focus on films that had a great story, strong story, strong characters. And that's basically where we started.

Catherine Wheeler: What's kind of the feedback that you've received so far from people over the years?

JS: When they go to the movies, they seem really surprised that they, I guess I should take this as a compliment, that they really like the movies. I don't know if they expected to not like the movie going, which I guess thanks for coming to the festival expecting not to like it. I've had people say that it's really kind of changed the types of movies that they'll maybe even be willing to watch. So I think it's brought people, it kind of opened people's minds a little bit.

CW: You guys made the decision to keep this in person this year, what went into that? What kinds of precautions and different guidelines are you following?

JS: We're just very lucky because of the size of the venue that we've got and the capabilities of that venue that we can do that. And then coupled withwe just kind of made the decision that if we're going to do this, we have to do it in person. Otherwise, let's take the year off and not do it, because it just philosophically would not match up with what we were trying to do. So I think by default, we've been able to do that. We really took the responsibility of trying to do this in the most responsible way possible for everybody's safety. In the lobby area, the theater folks have to wear masks. So masksrequired in that area, because we can't guarantee social distancing guidelines can be followed just because it's a smaller space and people will kind of bottleneck through there to a degree. Once people are in the theater in their seats, we'll be following social distancing guidelines there. People will be in reserved seats that have been spaced appropriately to follow those social distancing guidelines. So the capacity of the theater has actually been reduced by about two thirds. But we get to sit in the same room with other people and laugh together and cry together and react to films together. And there's that community aspect of a film that isn't quite the same when you're sitting alone in front of a computer screen.

CW: And I guess on the topic of the actual festival, what films or short films are you super excited for and are really happy are going to be here this year?

JS: So I think the easiest answer to that is all of them. Because I had to pick them. So it's like picking a favorite child. But after that, I would say Bastard's Road is really towards the top of my list, if I had to make a list. It's an incredible story about a combat veteran, Marine Corp. combat veteran, Jonathan Hancock, and his 6,000 mile walk across the country. I've actually been trying to get this film to be part of the festival since the first year. It's a funny film, it's a heartwarming film. It's such an incredible message, both for our veterans that may be dealing with PTSD and other issues, but also as a person that was not in the military, and really has no conception of what that life is like, to give us as outsiders to that culture, a way to kind of break the ice and be able to start that conversation But you know, our shorts are great. Yeah, there's about 14 films that are incredible this year.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.