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Film Belongs in Pueblo: Short film awards returns to the Steel City

There’s a little bit of cinematography magic and Hollywood inspiration in Pueblo.

It was a springboard for a group of friends who grew up in Pueblo West, eventually moved to Los Angeles and make the trip home – to Pueblo – each year to host and grow the StoryMode Independent Short Film Awards.

“I originally created the event almost 10 years ago with my brother and grandpa,” said Brian Salay, who now works as a screenwriter. “The first show was just a small family event where friends and family members made short films and then screened them all on one night. And it continued that way for the following couple (of) years, each year the audience getting bigger and bigger.”

After six years, the show took a turn: Salay, Kylie Milusnic, Branden Sigg and David Salay took a growing audience, beyond friends and family, to the Rawlings library to stream the films. Now, the festival is recognized by IMDb as an international film festival.

It’s an important distinction and makes the festival attractive to serious indie filmmakers.

This year, the festival features 19 films, which come from filmmakers from across the country. It’s now a two-day event, a significantly bigger production than when the event was held in a Pueblo West basement. It’s also more than a movie night, though there will be plenty of films to take in. A kickoff party, networking event and a panel of Hollywood producers are planned for the two-day event.

The event is attracting creatives from beyond the borders of Pueblo, but Salay said he’s hoping locals will embrace the festival as something that absolutely makes sense for the southern Colorado city.

“My hope with the festival is that we can turn it into one of Pueblo’s next big festivals, bringing in filmmakers, artists, and guests from all across the United States,” Salay said. “Our hope is that we can become one of the next big indie film festivals in the U.S. And at the rate we’re going, I know that within the next several years, we will be there.”

“Why Pueblo?” is a question Salay said he gets all the time, especially as he, Milusnic and the group now call California home. While Pueblo has its own unique culture, Pueblo isn’t Sundance or Toronto or even Telluride. Still, Salay said it’s just right for the vibes he and Milusnic are after.

“They say, why don’t you bring it to Denver or out to Los Angeles, in the heart of the film capital? My answer is quite simple. That would defeat the entire point. In my opinion, Pueblo is the absolute perfect place to have this event,” he said.

“The artistic nature of the town invites itself to being a great destination to have a film festival. Film belongs in Pueblo. With so many other forms of art currently existing in Pueblo, why shouldn’t film also have a place? The whole downtown area has that Sundance feel, allowing filmmakers to embrace that indie film and art spirit. Additionally, having this event in Pueblo is great for the town. It helps to boost tourism and raise awareness of all the positive aspects of the community. Having this event somewhere else wouldn’t have a point. It’s focused around the Pueblo community after all.”

The event will be April 12-13. Find a full schedule and tickets at www.sisfafest.com.


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