Ely Film Festival
A Brief History
The idea of an Ely Film Festival has been percolating in the community at least as far back as the late 1990’s when it was brought up in meetings of a local writer’s group. The idea laid fallow until resurrected at a meeting of the White Pine Main Street Association (WPMSA) in September of 2019. At this point, a little history of the WPMSA is in order. The WPMSA was formed in 2018 as a 501(c)3 with the express purpose of helping to revitalize “downtown” White Pine County. Downtown is in quotes because though a downtown district in Ely has been defined, one goal of the group is to help all businesses in White Pine County flourish. At its’ September 2019 meeting ideas for projects/activities were being bandied about. The idea of a film festival was brought up, folks said “brilliant idea!” and a committee was formed. Committees are often the death of a good idea but in this case, strong committee membership and the development of the Nevada Northern Railway (NNRy) as a film location gave a firm foundation to the idea. An award-winning Canadian film The Great Darkened Days, had recently been completed there. The film “Reaptown” had also recently been filmed at the NNRy and was ready for its world premiere. It had the added bonus of being the third production of a film by a native son, Dutch Marich, who is building a reputation as a filmmaker in Hollywood. Maxime Giroux, the writer/director of The Great Darkened Days, and Mr. Marich both agreed to show their films at the inaugural Ely Film Festival March 13-14-15 2020. M. Giroux and Mr. Marich also agreed to participate in panel discussions, film location tours and to discuss their films before and after their showings at Ely’s historic Central Theater. We were fortunate to get Kyle Ford, another native son making his mark as a professional videographer, and Robin Holabird, former Nevada Film Board commissioner and noted film author and reviewer, and David Purdy, videographer/writer/producer of Spirit of Nevada, to participate in the panel discussions. All the panel members participated in the judging of the 5-minute Film contest. Kathy Ong Sisolak , Nevada’s First Lady, was also part of the jury and presented her own “First Lady’s Choice” award. The film contest was open to students 18 years old & under. Entries came from Ely, Baker and Eskdale, Utah.
No endeavor succeeds without financial support. The Festivals’ first financial backing was a grant from the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership in December 2019 that really launched the Festival. From there, added financial backing came from KGHM Robinson Mine, Fiore Gold and Kinross Bald Mountain mine. No endeavor like this can succeed without the support of the community. The committee was fortified by the response of the citizens of Ely and White Pine County and their open-armed embrace of the Festival. The fly in the ointment was soon apparent and that was COVID 19. As the pandemic gained steam there was serious concern the Festival would not happen at all. Because of the support given the Festival by the community during those early days of uncertainty about the pandemic, the committee felt it was important to proceed. Days after the Festival concluded the closure of businesses in Nevada began and Ely was able to avoid the worst of the pandemic well into July.