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Colorado filmmakers light up Vail screens

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyChris Cloyd's short film, 'Coons,' which deals with racism in the Midwest, will be shown at the Vail Film Festival
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Kestrel Burley, a 29-year-old Colorado filmmaker, wanted so badly to make her movie “Lighthouse Avery” that she sold her Ford Focus to do it ” and now it will be shown in Vail, Colorado.

“I was really desperate to make the movie and I was like a month away from shooting and I realized I had nowhere near the money to develop the film so I let my car go for a lot less than it was worth,” Burley said.

The money she made from the car was dumped directly into the film, a financial move that ended up paying off in the long run ” “Lighthouse Avery” is being screened at this year’s Vail Film Festival.



She only wishes she had another car to sell to help her make another movie, she said.

Though she’s originally from Manchester, England, Burley moved to Boulder five years ago after earning a degree in film at Boston University. She wrote, directed and produced “Lighthouse Avery” by herself and all of the actors and staff involved with the production are from Colorado, she said. The film was shot at a friend’s house in Denver.



A challenging film by Burley’s own admission, “Lighthouse Avery” was shot on 8mm film and tells the surreal story of a young couple who’s relationship is in turmoil. Much of the dialogue and visuals in the film came to Burley in a dream, which gives the movie its abstract, disjointed feel, she said.

The Vail Film Festival marks the film’s first appearance in any official film festival.

“I was totally shocked,” Burley said of the film’s selection. “I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s being shown at more of a mainstream set up.”



Burley’s film is just one of about a half dozen films selected for this year’s Vail Film Festival with ties to Colorado.

Though the Vail Film Festival recognizes the talents of filmmakers from all over the country, festival organizers look for filmmakers, actors, directors and producers who live in Colorado andfor films shot here.

“Part of our mission is to support Colorado filmmakers,” said Vail Film Festival organizer Scott Cross in an email statement. “Colorado has a burgeoning film industry, with more and more studios shooting here. We work closely with the Colorado Film Commission to ensure that local filmmakers have their voices heard and their films seen.”

A far cry from the abstract feel of “Lighthouse Avery,” “Miracle Investigators” is Jeremy Dehn’s labor of love that also found its way into the film festival this year. Dehn was born in Pueblo and spent most of his life in Colorado, he said. He now lives in Littleton.

A brash action-comedy, his student film spoofs the ’70s-era buddy cop genre by placing a religious spin on it. The main characters are a pair of miracle investigators dispatched by the Vatican to check the authenticity of certain holy happenings around the globe.

“I think it’s really ridiculous when people stand up and presume to speak on behalf of God and they try to tell the rest of us ‘God wants this’ or ‘God wants that’ and ‘I know exactly what God wants,’ so I thought it would be fun to make a film that pokes holes in that idea, but I wanted to do it in a fun way,” Dehn said.

Dehn, who grew up Catholic and watching buddy-cop movies, said the two ideas weren’t a natural fit, but somehow they worked together well in his movie.

The film was shot around Austin, Texas in 2006 and has been featured in other film festivals where its even won some awards, but this is the first time it’s being screened in Colorado, Dehn said.

“I’ve never had a film screened publicly in Colorado so this is kind of a big thing for me … More than anything it’s just the opportunity to have the work shown. I spent a lot of time working on it, it’s nice to have people get to see it,” Dehn said.

Another film in this year’s festival, “Coons,” was written a directed by Chris Cloyd who was born in Kansas but grew up in Fort Collins. Only instead of comedy, his work deals with the heavy theme of racism in America.

“This is something I had been thinking about for years,” Cloyd said.

His movie revolves around a group of teens in 1962 Kansas who kidnap a black man with a plan to lynch him. Cloyd said that while studying lynching and racism he realized that there was a big misconception that both only occurred in the South. Traces of racism still linger in his home state of Kansas, he said.

“I wanted to set it in a place where people don’t necessarily think of it as being a center for racism just to show that this is something that happens everywhere,” Cloyd said.

Still, tackling racism in a short film is a tall order, so what did he hope to accomplish with it?

“I just wanted to start a dialogue because it is something that people don’t feel comfortable talking about and it’s something that people would just sweep under the rug but sweeping it under the rug doesn’t solve the problem,” Cloyd said.

But as a bonus, having his film screened at the Vail Film Festival is “what you dream of as a filmmaker,” Cloyd said.

“Films are made for an audience … it’s great, it’s wonderful to be shown at a festival,” Cloyd said.

Though known for its ski resorts and leisurely lifestyle, these films are proof that other creative forces are at work in Colorado, which is why the Vail Film Festival continues to support filmmakers that got their start here.

“Colorado has a very promising future in film, and local filmmakers play a big role,” Cross said. “After all, Colorado was the original Hollywood. The Edison company shot films in Colorado in 1897, followed by the Selig company in 1904, before they moved to California.

“The Vail Film Festival is proud to showcase local filmmakers and help Colorado reclaim its place as one of the pioneering locations of the film industry.”


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