Almost famous: Extending the legacy of actor-filmmaker David Fetzer

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 03:38 pm

Film and stage » The Davey Foundation showcase celebrates first grants honoring late Salt Lake City filmmaker and actor.

After the unexpected death of emerging Salt Lake City filmmaker and actor and David Fetzer in December 2012, his mother and a few close friends made sure his artistic legacy lived on by getting tattoos, in his handwriting, of his words.

Beyond the body ink, the weight of the 30-year-old's creative legacy led them to create The Davey Foundation — officially The David Ross Fetzer foundation — a nonprofit to encourage the kind of collaboration that fueled Fetzer and his friends, many of whom met at Salt Lake City's Clayton Junior High.

"From skateboarding to motorcycling to acting in and directing their own films, David Fetzer and his buddies helped each other grow up," writes his mother, Betsy Ross, in promoting this year's showcase and fundraiser. "And then they helped others, committed to the rigors of creative endeavors, dedicated to the joy that comes with collaboration, with seeing a tangible work of art, through hard work and a community of loving effort, emerge from idea."

Last year, at a kickoff event on the first anniversary of Fetzer's death of an accidental prescription-painkiller overdose, the fledgling nonprofit announced a series of grants for young filmmakers and playwrights.

This year's showcase at the Tower Theatre on Wednesday will debut "The First Men," a short film by Ben Kegan that was completed with the foundation's first $5,000 grant. Kegan's film proposal, an adaptation of Stacy Richter's Pushcart Prize-winning short story, was selected from 140 applications.

"The short film is a launchpad for most filmmakers," says board member Kenny Riches, a former roommate of Fetzer's, whose feature "The Strongest Man" will screen at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. "It's not too overwhelming, and it's something you can hold a filmmaker to complete within a timeline."

The showcase will also screen short films by Riches ("Rocket," from a script written by Fetzer, which features him acting with his Mushman bandmate, Patrick Fugit, noted for "Almost Famous" and "Gone Girl") and another board member, Dustin Defa ("Person to Person," which screened at Sundance earlier this year).

The additional tragedy of Fetzer's death was its timing just as he and his friends were on the cusp of "finally growing up and moving up to bigger things," Riches says.

There isn't a lot of grant funding available for short films, especially short fiction films, says Kegan, 28, who is completing his master's degree at Columbia University. Filmmaking is expensive even for the kinds of quiet realistic stories that don't require special effects. For example, Kegan says he used part of the grant to rent a cargo van to transport equipment and to feed his crew.

What sets apart the grant is the creative support offered along with the money. Kegan says the shooting and editing suggestions he received from Riches were essential to helping him finish the film.

In addition to the film showcase, the foundation will host a panel of six filmmakers, including Kegan and Riches, talking about collaboration on Thursday at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.

The way the filmmakers, most of whom were raised in Salt Lake City, worked on each other's projects "could be a model for everyday life for the rest of us," Ross says.

"They found that creative world, and in part, created it themselves. Don't we all wish we had something like that?"

Riches and others on the board of the Davey Foundation have big plans for the future, if they can secure more funding. Riches envisions offering more grants to emerging writers and filmmakers, as well as a short film festival in Salt Lake City.

But for now, with its first grants, the foundation has already expanded Fetzer's circle. Being welcomed in via the grant "feels really cool," Kegan says.





The Davey Foundation’s Showcase and Filmmaker Forum

A fundraiser for the foundation created after the young actor-filmmaker’s passing will showcase the work of a grant offered in his honor. In addition, the foundation offers a free panel about the collaborative process.

When » Showcase: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where » Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $15 ($16.52 with service fees) http://http://thedaveyfoundation.org. (Tickets are limited; last year’s event sold out.)

Also screening

Kenny Riches’ “Rocket,” featuring David Fetzer and Patrick Fugit, from a script by Fetzer; and Dustin Defa’s “Person to Person,” which screened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

When » Filmmaker Forum: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where » Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City

Featuring » Filmmakers Amanda Stoddard (documentary “1 Revolution”), Ben Kegan (“The First Men”), Dustin Guy Defa (“Person to Person, “Bad Fever”), Kenny Riches (“Must Come Down,” “The Strongest Man”), Patrick Waldrop (in production on documentary “New Sensation”) and Rebecca Thomas (“Electrick Children”)

Tickets » Free

Salt Lake Acting Company Theatre Grant

A staged reading Aug. 31, 2015, by professional actors, after a weeklong rehearsal and development of a script of a new work by a playwright 35 or younger. The grant includes travel and accommodations to Utah

Deadline » Applications and scripts accepted through Jan. 15

Application » Available at http://thedaveyfoundation.org or saltlakeactingcompany.org

Plan-B Theatre Theatre Grant

Premiere of Carleton Bluford’s “Mama,” featuring Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin, directed by Jerry Rapier, Feb. 12-22

Info » http://planbtheatre.org/mama.htm

What » Rob Tennant’s “A Class War Action,” a dark holiday comedy about retail and downward mobility to be produced in December 2015.

Future grants » The next submission window will open in August for the 2016-17 Plan-B Theatre season.

Info » http://planbtheatre.org