It started with a Reddit post.
Bryant Heath, a Salt Lake City-based engineer, had run most of the streets in the city, and what began as a personal fitness goal morphed into an introspective odyssey that yielded an unexpected realization about the splendor of the undervalued parts of Utah’s capital.
He shared a map of his accomplishments, not thinking much about the reaction it would generate. Reddit often hosts heated debates, but Heath’s post earned mostly positive feedback.
“It kind of garnered a surprisingly large amount of interest,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I just thought it was kind of a cool thing to see.”
Corey and Parker Lester, who are brothers and filmmakers, were scrolling through the forum when they found Heath’s story. It was the epitome of what they had in mind to fight the tedium of the 2020 lockdown — a story that could be told only in Salt Lake City and the perspective of a man who had made a remarkable effort to explore the unexpected corners of some overlooked or misunderstood neighborhoods.
In their 10-minute documentary, “Every Street SLC,” underestimated blocks in Glendale, Poplar Grove, Fairpark and Rose Park take the main role in Heath’s newest view of Salt Lake City.
This is the first film the brothers released with their new production house, Leicester Productions.
The Lesters grew up in Logan before moving to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah. Corey oversees the production aspect of their projects after getting his film and media arts degree. Parker, a political science graduate, researches and finds interesting local angles.
“One thing that has stuck out to a large degree about this story is that he [Heath] is worried about the city as a whole, and how important the west part of the city is to Salt Lake City,” Corey said. “After hearing how passionate he was about it, we knew that was going to be a central theme to our piece.”
Heath, who lives on the east side, in Sugar House, said “it’s very easy to just stay in your own geographic bubble.”
“For me, the only kind of forays into the west side that I’d made, I could probably count on two hands over the past 10 years that I’ve lived here.”
That changed after his running quest. Now, Heath, his wife and kids are making up for lost time, frequently going to parks and restaurants on the west side.
Heath constantly was impressed with the west side’s diversity, saying the neighborhoods have something to offer people of all kinds of backgrounds.
“The best example would be 700 West over on the west side. Within the span of half a mile, you have a Buddhist temple, you have a building for the Islamic Society of Bosniaks. You have Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. You have a historic [Latter-day Saint] ward, you have a Tongan church,” he listed in the film. “All these different communities coming together in one location. I feel like that’s a microcosm of the city as a whole.”
Heath also learned to appreciate being more aware of his surroundings while he ran, something he couldn’t do while driving. Some highlights were public artworks. The Glendale Gather Blocks — colorful installations that can be used as picnic tables, benches or playgrounds — in Glendale Park. And there are murals portraying neighbors that trumpet the area’s vibrant character.
“We’re interested in telling a story about places and people that need to be discovered — that this city is grand, and it is fantastic,” Parker said. “But it is only grand and fantastic if you take the initiative to discover it.”
After being in talks, filming and editing for months, Leicester Productions is submitting applications for film festivals to showcase “Every Street SLC.”
As they finished up the last edits and released the materials to a small audience, their journey is just beginning. They plan to work on short profiles about local politicians and their ideas for the city.
As for Heath, his running days are far from over. In 2021, he ran all over Millcreek, South Salt Lake and Holladay. This year, he’ll try to complete every possible route in West Valley City, Taylorsville and Murray.
“I hope this project kind of spurs people to say, ‘Hey, you don’t need to go on fancy trips or vacations to do exploration,’” Heath said. “You can do it in your own city or in your own neighboring cities as well.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.