CASPER, Wyo. — A filmmaker who was born in Casper and is attending a film studies program at Central Wyoming College wants to call attention to the lack of opportunities in Wyoming.
“Wyoming is really difficult to be any kind of artist, but especially in film because we don’t have any way to advertise ourselves, generally,” Soren Tempest said during the Casper Art Walk on Thursday. “A lot of the young filmmakers I know oftentimes end up working in advertising because there’s no way for us to really express ourselves creatively. We have no outlets for that once we exit high school.”
Tempest will be screening four short films starting at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 at ART 321, 321 W. Midwest Ave. in Casper and will talk about the art of filmmaking as well as the lack of opportunities in the state.
There are some opportunities at the high school level for young people in Casper interested in film at Natrona County and Kelly Walsh, but there is a lack at the college level.
“Film has been a big thing for a lot of young people, especially those who were a part of Lance Madzey’s group at NC or a lot of stuff that they’ve got going over at KW,” Tempest said. “We’ve got classes in high school, but when you graduate, that’s it — you don’t have a student film festival. I mean, I’m currently going to the only place in the state that’s offering film education and there’s barely 20 of us students total because most people don’t even know it exists.
“We need more people to be involved in film.”
The program at Central Wyoming College has been strong, according to Tempest, and more opportunities like it are needed.
“I study underneath my professor, Jeremy Nielsen,” he said. “Jeremy Nielsen is one of the best teachers I think I’ve ever had. He’s incredibly knowledgeable in his field. … He loves and encourages hands-on learning and so I’ve learned a lot about how I want to make my art look because he doesn’t just give us the answer right away. He lets us struggle.
“I’ve watched my classmates go from, you know, people who are making silly internet videos to genuine filmmakers who respect the medium and want to create art with it.”
Nielsen organizes a student film festival where students at different stages in their filmmaking paths have the opportunity to show off their work on the big screen, and these opportunities matter, Tempest said.
“It is a really phenomenal experience to go and sit in a real movie theater and watch your own films on the big screen,” he said. “It is the biggest payoff.”
One thing that would help filmmakers in Wyoming have more opportunities would be if local theaters would lend their support to the art.
“I think something that would be really incredible is getting in touch with local movie theaters and encouraging independent films,” Tempest said. “Currently, the only things that we really show at the movie theaters are big blockbusters. I’m sure plenty of people want to go see the new ‘Minions’ movie. I personally want to watch local people make their art up on the big screen.
“I want to see people from Wyoming. I want to see people from the Wyoming–Colorado area. I want to see small, local student and adult filmmakers being able to be successful locally and get that support from our theaters and from our museum curators. All of the wonderful opportunities we have for other artists — I want those to open up to filmmakers.”
When asked about “Film Casper,” an initiative launched by Visit Casper to try and attract film and television shoots to Wyoming, Tempest suggested that attention should go toward cultivating and supporting filmmaking in Wyoming as much or more than trying to land big Hollywood productions.
“If we want to foster a culture where film is a respected medium in Wyoming, we need to start from Wyoming,” he said. “Trying to attract people from Hollywood is kind of a hit or miss — Hollywood has, technically, the entire world and so Wyoming is pretty little in that spectrum if we want to stand out.
“We need to have stand-out filmmakers coming from our state. We need to put ourselves on the map with people from here. Let’s show Hollywood what we can do instead of begging them.”
ART 321 is trying to do its part to support filmmaking with an open call for film, digital art, animation and ledger art that will be issued sometime in September, Tyler Cessor, director of the nonprofit arts incubator, said on Thursday. Anyone who submits work can have it displayed during a two-month exhibit in January and February.
While there may be some length parameters, Cessor said that the open call is not a juried show, so most works that get submitted will become part of the show. The deadline to submit work for the open call will be sometime in December, though a specific date has yet to be set. People interested in the open call can keep an eye on ART 321’s Facebook page for the official announcement in September.
Tempest said he had a bit of an advantage in getting into filmmaking while growing up.
“My father, Charles Conkin, is also a filmmaker and so I had an in to not only equipment but lots of actors and artistic people who were interested in being involved in my projects. Not only that, but I was given the wonderful opportunity of being a part of Lance Madzey’s film program, which meant that I had a number of connections of artistically like-minded people to connect with.”
For others who didn’t grow up with a parent working in filmmaking or in a community without high school film programs, Tempest said there may be some hurdles to getting started making their own films. Money is one part of the issue as filmmaking equipment is expensive.
“To my knowledge, I don’t think that there’s any real support system financially to support artists unless you’ve got a good friend somewhere,” he said.
On the other hand, Tempest said the financial obstacles or difficulty finding people to work with shouldn’t stop anyone interested in making films from getting started.
“I’m going to share some of my father’s advice here,” he said. “I used to complain about this same issue when I was in high school. I wasn’t the most social of people. … It’s very hard to make a movie when you don’t have any actors. The thing that my father would always tell me is your only limitations are your own creativity. That’s it.
“If you only have access to your crappy phone camera, make it work. Stack it on some books and make a movie. Movie making requires two things: some form of a camera and some form of editing software. That’s it. If you can make a TikTok, you can make a movie.”
Making movies is one thing, but finding an audience is another. That’s where more support from the community is really needed, Tempest said.
“It is so hard to get seen and recognized and it’s really difficult to put hours and hours and hours into a video that maybe only four or five people see,” he said. “As amazing as it is to just create for the sake of your own joy and pleasure, you want to share your art with the world. And in order to be able to do that, the world has got to respond.
“Citizens of Casper, please, please pay attention to the young people creating media in your area because they’ve got a lot to offer. … If you want to see more big names, more amazing films that look like blockbusters and you want to see that coming out of Wyoming, you’ve got to support them before they get big.”
At the film screening starting at 8 p.m. Friday at ART 321, Tempest said he’ll cover a variety of topics.
“I’m not only going to be talking about where the inspiration of my work comes from, but also my philosophy behind filmmaking,” he said. “It’ll be very audience-led. So if you’re interested in hearing more about my thoughts about the film industry or how to properly make a movie, come stop by and ask those kind of questions. I will answer literally anything film-related that you have to ask.”
Tempest talked more about the four short films that will be part of Friday night’s screening in a video interview during the Casper Art Walk: