Lights, cameras, Tower Theatre!

Many of us have funny memories of making amateur yet entertaining home movies and toying around with video cameras in our younger days. For local filmmaker Ryan Tapp, this love of creating film has always been a part of life.

“I think the reason I started making movies and became so intrigued by it is because it was sort of a fantasy fulfillment to see myself on camera and become my own movie star. When you’re a kid and have movie camera, you can hook it up to the TV and say, “Hey, I’m on TV!” It makes you feel like you’re famous,” said Ryan.

For those like Ryan, whose hobby, craft and passion are film, though, there are few venues outside of YouTube that offer the welcome of an appreciative environment. Thankfully filling that void, the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City offers an open-mic short-film night at which local filmmakers can showcase their work.

The Tower Theatre has been doing open film nights for about 2 years now, and the event has yielded much success and participation. To enter, filmmakers must bring their movies in DVD format to the theater on the day of the event between 6 and 8 p.m. The movies must be shorter than 15 minutes and are usually around 10. There is a $5 submission fee for filmmakers, and a mere $1 admission fee for attendance that goes toward maintenance. Typically, 14 or 15 films are chosen, making for a night of one and a half to two hours of film to watch.

In addition to the communal aspect, this event is competitive. At each open film night, two awards are given: audience choice and critics’ choice. The audience chooses their favorite film by filling out a form given at the theater, and local film critics attend the event to give critiques. This February, there will be a best of open-mic short-film night, at which all the films that won awards during the previous nights will be shown.

The event not only allows local filmmakers to showcase their talent and love for filmmaking, but also provides them with an opportunity to meet and network with other filmmakers. This allows some to expand their creative repertoire and resources for filmmaking. “Every once in a while, you’ll see a spark of genius,” Ryan said, referring to films he has helped make. “Later — years later maybe — someone watches it with you, you start thinking that if I actually put effort into it, I could make it better and more enjoyable to watch. From that point on, it becomes an obsession to make the film as perfect as possible. It’s great to be able to see how other people who I don’t know react to the finished product.”

Will the open-mic short film night at the Tower Theatre open the doors for future filmmakers? Possibly. But this is not always the objective participants have in mind.

“I don’t know if I could pursue a career in film. Unless I could be lazy and do whatever I wanted, I could never work for someone else,” Ryan said. “If for some reason I ever get recognition, that’s awesome, but I don’t really worry about that or care. Until then I’m just going to have fun. It’s just a fun and fulfilling hobby for me, you know? I don’t really expect fame.”

The next open-mic short-film night at the Tower Theatre will be on Aug. 27, and begins at 9 p.m. For more information visit

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