18th Annual Dam Short Film Festival Readies For Virtual Experience

This year features over 140 short films in eight categories from Nevada to German filmmakers

Ladies and gents, the moment has come to pop the popcorn, fluff up your favorite spot on the couch and dim the lights – it’s time for the Dam Short Film Festival (DSFF) in Boulder City. The festival, now in its 18th year, is far from where co-founders Lee and Anita Lanier first started and no one is more proud of the growth than one of the people who brought it to life. Anita Lanier spoke with Off The Strip (OTS) about the film festival that calls our little piece of Southern Nevada home. 

Humble Beginnings

Anita and Lee were dating back in 1998 when Lee was working at a company that would later become DreamWorks (yes, that DreamWorks). Lee had his own short film that was making the rounds on the film festival circuit. 

“We really enjoyed the whole area of entertainment,” Anita says. “Film festivals weren’t anything that either one of us did for fun. So then he did a second film. And that one also made the festival rounds.” 

In 2002, after getting married, the couple decided to leave the San Francisco Bay Area in search of a new home. “We finally settled on Boulder City and we just thought it had everything we needed.” She continues, “And once we moved here, we just thought this town could use the film festival.”

Lee Lanier at Dam Short Film Festival in 2005

Fast forward a couple of years, add in a non-profit status and presto, you’ve got the Dam Short Film Festival.

“We had a line all the way around the corner of the first year in 2005. And that was that. We have always had enormous interest and support from the very beginning,” says Anita.

Changing With The Times

While the amount of support has not changed, one thing that has, is the technology. 

“Twenty years ago or so, we were carting around totes full of VHS tapes,” says Anita. “We didn’t go one hundred percent digital until about eight years ago.” 

The equipment may have gotten smaller but the accolades for the Dam Short Festival did not. The little fest in Boulder City has been in the top 100 Best Reviewed Film Festivals by FilmFreeway. Not too shabby for the labor of love for Anita and Lee. 

The festival is however made up of a small village of volunteers and very dedicated film lovers. 

Q & A Panel from DSFF in 2020

In fact, the entire film festival has little down time. Submissions for the next year’s fest open just weeks after the current year’s film festival wraps. Programmers spend the year looking at films with the greatest concentration occurring in the late fall.  Together they screen films from around the globe and curate the best possible short film fest possible. 

Then of course, there was the need to adapt to the pandemic.  While that closes the door on in-person screenings there is a silver lining. “Virtually we can program more films and the blocks are longer,” says Anita. “It’s harder when you have to get people out of the theater, clean it up, and then get people back into the theater.” That isn’t an issue with an all virtual fest. This year’s fest marks the second time the pandemic has forced an all virtual experience. 

DSFF BC Theatre filled from wall to wall in 2018

What You Need To Know

The 18th Annual Dam Short Film Festival is taking place from February 10-14. In all there will be just over 140 short films available for viewing. There are eight overall categories: Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Music Video, Nevada, Sci-Fi/Horror and Student. Along with all of this programming there will be filmmaker Q&A’s as well as virtual events designed to give audiences and filmmakers the opportunity to mingle. 

Highlights this this year include “Road to Recovery,” the fourth documentary from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services; and the music video Cameron Calloway – “China Blue,” by Nevada filmmaker Brett Levner; as well as German music video Space Chaser“Remnants of Technology,” a spectacular thrash metal sci-fi production.

Tickets start as low as $14 for a block or you can get an all festival pass for $140.All the information can be found at https://damshortfilm.org/. The Dam Short Film Festival is a 501c(3) non-profit organization.

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