Having already conquered reality TV this summer, from "American Idol" to "Last Comic Standing," Utahns seem poised this fall to take over movie screens.
Opening this fall are enough movies filmed in Utah or directed by Utah filmmakers to fill a small multiplex. For instance:
» "Everybody Wants to Be Italian," a romantic comedy in the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" vein, written and directed by former Salt Lake City resident Jason Todd Ipson. Opened Sept. 5.
» The aviation boys' adventure "The Flyboys," filmed in the St. George area, directed by Utah filmmaker Rocco DeVilliers. Opens today.
» "Take," a harrowing Death Row drama starring Minnie Driver, written and directed by Charles Oliver, a University of Utah graduate who ran a commercial film company in Salt Lake City for many years. Opens today.
» The rugby drama "Forever Strong," filmed in Utah County, based on a real-life Utah rugby coach, directed by Brigham Young University grad Ryan Little ("Saints and Soldiers"). Opens Sept. 26.
» The eagerly awaited "High School Musical 3: Senior Year," filmed this summer at Salt Lake City's East High School. Opens Oct. 24.
And, if you want to stretch the point a bit, two more movies represent work from BYU alumni: "Lakeview Terrace," a racially charged suburban thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by the notorious Neil LaBute (opening Sept. 19); and "Twilight," the movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling vampire novel (opening Nov. 21).
"It shows that we've been making movies in the state, that's for sure, and regularly and consistently," said Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission. "We've got a deep, rich indigenous film industry going on."
The majority of the films were independently produced, outside of a studio. Moore said the state's incentive program - which offers a 15-percent rebate for production money spent in the state, but capped at $500,000 - particularly benefits movies with budgets between $1 million and $5 million.
Getting such a movie into theaters isn't easy, according to Ryan Little. "The challenge is always, if you make a movie that's independently financed - when you don't have a studio list of marketable names - it's tricky," Little said. "We don't have all the components that a studio wants, and we're too commercial for an independent audience. We kind of live in this weird void."
Little's "Forever Strong" has some somewhat-familiar actors. The star is Gary Cole ("The Brady Bunch," "Office Space") as rugby coach Larry Gelwix - and the cast includes up-and-comers Sean Faris ("Never Back Down") and Penn Badgley ("Gossip Girl"). Even so, Little said, the studios who saw the movie were interested only in a direct-to-video release, not a theatrical run.
And though "Forever Strong" is set in Utah, Arizona and Colorado, all of it was filmed in Utah. "We tried to show the mountains in Utah, and tried not to show the mountains for Arizona," Little said. "We tried to make it feel that you were in three different places."
Sean P. Means can be reached at