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This weekend as the Slide Fire raged north of Sedona, I spent most of it indoors out of the smoke and updating the Sedona Red Rock News website and Facebook page with news, images and GoogleEarth terrain maps to keep our readers and web visitors informed.Yavapai College

But late Sunday, May 25, I broke away to catch a few screenings at the Sedona Film School’s annual Shorts Film Festival, held this year at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre.

The Shorts Film Festival was sadly the last the school will ever produce because Yavapai College officials have decided to kill the program and move the resources for digital storytelling to Prescott.

The Sedona Film School — formerly known as the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking before founder Dan Gordon moved the school to greener pastures at a private university in Virginia — has been a staple in the Sedona arts community since 2000.

Young, aspiring film students moved to Sedona and the Verde Valley to study at the prestigious independent film school, while longtime Sedona residents decided to try their hand at filmmaking and enrolled.

According to figures presented at the film festival this weekend, 66 percent of graduates went on to jobs in their industry, an astonishingly high number for any graduating major, especially one as technical and difficult to break into as the film industry. I know far fewer of my cohort of Arizona State University English majors went on to professionally write or teach English literature after graduation.

I appeared as myself in two short documentaries in 2010 about the Sedona art scene directed by ZGI student filmmaker Gregg Ensminger and played an extra in a house party scene for filmmaker Jake Kramer.
A few years before that, I filled in last-minute for a friend studying at ZGI to act in 10 seconds of film and speak just three lines. I played the paranoid protagonist’s creepy, lecherous landlord — not sure why I was the first choice to fill in — but my few hours with the crew doing take after take from a dozen angles gave me an appreciation for how difficult it is to turn a filmmaker’s vision into a scene on the screen.

There are dozens of such stories from residents around Sedona who participated as actors or extras, or offered the homes and businesses as sets for film crews.

With the death of the Sedona Film School, our city has lost a major component of our art scene, thanks to Yavapai College officials, who overlooked the school’s success. Many Sedona residents — and taxpayers — were surprised to learn at the festival that the school would be closing its doors once the projectors stopped rolling. The school’s presence was a constant visible reminder about why Sedona taxpayers support Yavapai College and the film festival was a tangible return on that investment. With the school’s closure by the college, taxpayers are now left to wonder exactly what we get for our money or even why we should support a community college that doesn’t offer a return to our community.


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