Last year, the final public event I attended with our kids before hunkering down due to Covid was the inaugural Ely Film Festival. The kids had submitted entries in the Short Film contest, and we went to the renovated Postal Palace in Ely to attend part of the Festival.
We listened to a panel of film experts, saw cool videos by Spirit of Nevada and commercials that had been filmed in White Pine County, and then it was time for the results of the short film contest. The kids sat on the edge of their seats while we watched the entries, all less than five minutes long. The theme was macabre, and it was interesting to see what the films did with that theme. Then it was time for the results. Our daughter and her friend placed fourth. Our son placed second and also won the First Lady’s Choice award with his dystopian entry. He was delighted.
We weren’t able to stay for the debut of the horror film Reaptown shot in Ely by local-turned filmmaker in Los Angeles Dutch Marich, but our worlds had already been opened. Ely and White Pine County were now recognized as a destination to shoot movies, long and short.
Fast forward to 2021. The organizers of the Ely Film Festival decided to make the second event virtual. They expanded the short film contest to three age groups: kids, teens, and adults. I told the kids they needed to put in an entry. They had learned so much the year before about writing a script, filming it, and post production that I wanted them to continue learning. After all, in this world where YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, learning how to make a decent short film can be a worthwhile skill.
Then I started getting the idea to make a short film myself, a documentary about White Pine County and the Pleistocene animals that used to live here. Was this a good idea? I didn’t know, but the idea wouldn’t go away, so I wrote a script, filmed some short sequences and pieced them together with photographs, did a voiceover, and added some background music. I showed it to my husband, who has spent the majority of his life in White Pine County. He said it was interesting and he had learned something from it. That was good enough for me. I hit the submit button.
Now I know that watching my masterpiece isn’t enough to entice you to join the Ely Film Festival, but the rest of the events might be. On Friday, March 12, following a virtual cocktail party is the feature presentation, Spirit of Nevada, featuring Samantha Chian and David Purdy, host and producers of the television show.
Saturday kicks off with the short film contest results, followed by a panel discussion on film editing and location. In the evening is the feature film and world premiere presentation of Horror in the High Desert by local filmmaker Dutch Marich, followed by a post-screening question and answer period.
Sunday is the Nevada Northern Railway Retrospective. Possibly the most iconic filming location in Ely, numerous movies, advertisements, and music videos have been filmed at the railway, with its beautifully restored train engines and workshops. Next up is a presentation by Robin Holabird, the former Deputy Director of the Nevada Film Commission about films made in Nevada. And to end is an encore presentation of Horror in the High Desert.
Although the Ely Film Festival is tiny compared to some, it’s generating new interest in small-town Nevada in addition to opening up possibilities for students. The virtual option this year allows people from anywhere to see what it’s all about.
Nevada’s treasures not only include natural features, but also cultural ones. Film and video are an important way to help preserve some of Nevada’s culture.
The Nevada Treasures column features what is worth knowing about and protecting in Nevada. Gretchen Baker lives in Baker, Nevada on a ranch with her family. She is the ecologist for Great Basin National Park. She spends a lot of her free time exploring the outdoors and caves in the area.