UNLV students take over the Dam Short Film Festival

By Jeniffer Solis | February 13th, 2017
Photo courtesy of Andrew Rigney

The 13th annual Dam Short Film Festival was held in Boulder City, Nevada, featuring over 100 films including work from current and past UNLV students

John Bartley, a senior year film major at UNLV, submitted his 11-minute film, “Barriers,” to the festival.

The film starts with a conversation between a man and a woman in Russian. There are no subtitles and the audience is left to rely on the body language of the characters to piece together the story. The film plays again with subtitles revealing an unexpected twist captivating enough to grant “Barriers” the Best of Nevada award.

Bartley wanted to explore the universal quality of body language and the barriers of language in his film.

“The winning shorts are the ones based off audience vote, so it’s really humbling that people really enjoyed it,” Bartley said.

UNLV alumnus Michael Evans also entered the film festival with his film “Clown-O-Gram.”

Utilizing elements of horror, “Clown-O-Gram” follows an ominous clown into the home of an unsuspecting man.

“Within just a few decades, clowns went from the symbol of fun and happiness to a completely opposite symbol of being scary. I wanted to address how media has totally changed the public perception of clowns,” Evans said.

The short was filmed last fall after reports of clown sightings nationwide started making rounds in the news.

“Suddenly clowns were everywhere and I thought ‘now is the time,’” Evans said.

Evans said he distributes a lot of his work online. A few years ago Evans’ short film “2AM: The Smiling Man” went viral with over 5 million views, gaining him a lot of notoriety. His Youtube channel has about 30,000 subscribers.

Genevieve Elgrichi was another UNLV alumna with a short film in the festival. Her film “Fireworks” centers around a woman struggling with herself to find happiness.
The first feature-length film in the festival’s history, “Dealer,” was also written and directed by seven UNLV alumni: Jeremy Cloe, Lundon Boyd, Cody and Ryan LeBoeuf, Jerry and Mike Thompson and Adam Zielinski.

The film is an anthology focusing on a casino dealer who learns a terrible secret about his roommate, thrusting him into the role of a drug mule for a night.

Staff of the Dam Short Film Festival estimate that over 3,000 attended last year and they expect the festival to keep growing.

The festival was founded in 2004 by Lee and Anita Lanier. Lee Lanier has worked in film production since 1989 and has directed six short films.

Lanier said the first year of the festival was rough, having to use equipment that barely worked, but they treated it professionally and still managed to attract good crowds.

Audience participation is a large part of the festival. Moviegoers now vote for the films they liked best using poker chips, but in the early years they had to use pebbles.

“My wife came up with the idea of voting stones, like the Greeks and the Romans, they used to vote that way,” Lanier said.

Lanier hopes more UNLV students will submit works to the festival based on the success of “Barriers.”

“We love seeing UNLV students,” Lanier said. “If I could talk to the students I’d tell them to submit. They might not get in every time, but submit. It’s a great experience and if you do get in you get an awesome audience to see your film.”

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