Final Cut is BYU's collection of student films showed every year for a small fee to the public. It features works done by BYU students only. In 2002, there were two programs, one of 10-minute or more films and one of shorter films.

Program A

Signal Strength
Animated; Written by Ryan Jensen and Travis Deming; Directed by Travis Deming
A short funny piece about TVs literally invading houses.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Temple Riders
Documentary; Directed by Blair Larsen
For the last ten years or so a group of Mormon motorcyle enthusiasts have been getting togther and doing motorcycle road trips to different temples. As the movement has grown across the nation, even less active and non-members have gotten involved because of the group's moral grounding and good clean fun. An unpretensious look at a somewhat bizarre form of relaxation.

B&W Comedy; Written and Directed by Jared Hess
A gocky geeky kid named Seth living in rural Idaho cuts gym class to hang out around town. He fails to buy a lottery ticket so his older-looking Mexican friend buys it for him. They win $10 and so they buy the friend (who has shaved his head on a dare and is now embarrased to show his girlfriend) a wig, despite Seth's ambition to buy a new fanny pack. (The "they" is Seth and his two Mexician buddies.) I liked this film because it was a simple story about some guys in a dusty dead-end town, one which was a bit wierd (anyone who says "awesome!" like that must have a screw loose somewhere). A good film, nothing special.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Directed by Travis Ederhard
An author sits in a dinner trying to write something. He is somewhat inspired by the pretty waitress but never quite works up the nerve to talk to her. The title comes from the fact that he pays in change but never has any desire to get back his change from paying. The main lead never said a word. Overall, a fairly pointless film.

Stll Lifes
Written and Directed by Ryan Arvay
People are sitting in a dinner, late at night. A business man doesn't even touch his plate as he works away at his business affairs, his briefcase spread over the table. A young couple sits in another booth, looking dejected and alone. A large bearded man sits in another, writing something but not getting very far. An elderly lady eats her soup. The middle-aged waitress refills the glasses periodically. No one says a word. Yet without a single line of dialouge, you start to draw conclusions about these people. Actions that they repeat or mimic (the businessman and bearded man both take off their glasses and rub their eyes at one point) give you the sense that they are somehow linked, as does the juxtaposition of a shot with the young sad girl, the tired middle-aged waitress, and the blank old lady - a sense of just getting older and older without anything else. A fine example of avant-grade film, one that challenges the viewer in many ways.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Chad vs. The Capitalist Conspiracy
Written by Kynan Griffin; Produced by Tom Russell
A simple minimalist story about an insecure guy going to apply for a job. After botching the interview he goes home to deal with the criticisms of his hen-pecking mother. Overall message is very valid, but the manner in which the film played out does very little for the viewer.

Rights, Respect, Responsibility
Written by Kynan Griffin; Directed by Andrew Black
A Muslim student faces prejudice and violence from bigoted classmates. A more open-minded girl is attracted to him but because of his cultural identity he has a hard time recipricating at first. From his father's concerns, the school gets the social studies teacher to discuss world religions, but the results are not exactly positive. This film delievered several excellent points, and the ending leaves you feeing both hopeful and sick. It feels rushed at points, but definately worth seeing.

Written and Directed by Jerusha Hess
A family is traveling across Idaho. The younger sister is annoyed with her retarted (literally) older sister and is impatient with her father's enthusiasm. She has the daydreams of a young man she hopes to meet to tide her over though. Another pointless endeavor. Taken seperately, parts of this film could be quite provacative and interesting. Taken together, they just leave you confused and disjointed. Well directed but with a truly pathetic script. Some funny moments but overall not worth the effort.

Written and Directed by Chizoma Olumba
A man is struggling over what to say in his talk for church while he struggles to get his son to get ready for church on time. It is revealed that things are a little more strained than usual because the mother has died (or is in some other way absent). It ends with the father hemming and hawing at the podium and looking out and seeing his son. The father smiles and begins to talk about the love of our Heavenly Father. A very quiet minimalist film that leaves you wondering why they bothered.

To Midnight and Back
Documentary; Written and Directed by Adam Lisonbee
Mountain biking enthusiasts know about a race called "24 hours across Moab" in which teams race laps around a rock in Southern Utah for 24 hours - from noon till noon. This film was nothing revolutionary, just a fun look at a less-hearlded sport and some of the other things people do for fun.

Animated; Written, Produced and Directed by Taylor Maw
A boy wakes up in the middle of the night and finds something ghastly in the fridge. A wierd mish-mash of different elements, it was cute even if not particularly funny.

Leroy Pratt: Crossings
Documentary; Directed by Ben Unguren
An 82-year old man named Pratt works as a crossing guard for elementary- and middle-school children in Provo. He appears to lead a very simple life, with gardening as his hobby. He talks with the cameraman and the kids make faces at the camera, giving it a very home-video sort of feel, making it very honest. You truly believe Pratt's observations because of this honesty. He talks about how the world has changed but doesn't preach. A nice comfortable piece.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Me Nsu Bio
Documentary; Written and Directed by Christopher Rawson
An epidemic is sweeping Africa - a disease they don't even know how it is contracted, a disease that scars people for life, eating away at their flesh, getting so bad in some folks they must cut off limbs. The filmmakers held back nothing for this, even going into the operating room to show surgery. Wounds were displayed in graphic detail, to the point that some viewers got nauseated and left the room. A very forceful film that raises awareness and evokes strong emotions.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Barren Earth
Written and Directed by Bryan Lefler
An engaged couple faces the possibility that they will never have children. The fear and uncertainty threatens to drive them apart - in fact even close friends counsel them that perhaps they should break it off. But in the end they still love each other. A good piece with very professional film quality. The ending is slightly ambiguous however, leaving you wondering as to the theme and overall message.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Program A also featured 2 "commercials" - Plastic Loincloth (Writer/director: Kynan Griffin), wherein a guy tries to explain the lipstick marks on his face to his girlfriend as remains of alien probes (in the end turned out to be a Arm and Hammer deoderant commercial), and Be Wiser (Writer/director: Emily Yu), wherein a drunk driver runs over 3 frogs going "be-wise-er" :)

Program B

The Streaker
Animated; Written by Seth Hippen and Bronze Swallow; Produced and Directed by Seth Hippen
Roughly animated in black and white, it doesn't really tell a story so much as it plays with images. Just plain fun :)
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Documentary; Directed by Brandon Arnold
Born in 1901, Loie is an elderly Utah lady. This film captures conversations with her and her family as she thinks back on the last century. They don't say much about the times, though, just about her and life with her. This film is not nearly so much about the past as it is about growing old. Watching it you wonder if her family resents her not dying because her health is declining and while she seems mostly optomistic there is a sense that she'd rather just get it over with too. A somewhat depressing film without any particular aim.

Written by Ben Gourley; Directed by Brandon Dayton
A kid in foster care is wandering around town generally getting into trouble. This "Dennis-the-menance"-style brat eventually has to be picked up from the police station by his foster mother. She takes it in stride, but when he says a swear word at a birthday party later that day, the father sends him to his room. He ends up goofing off some more so he gets put in the pantry. The father forgets about him and when he comes to get him, the kid has beaten holes in almost all their canned storage. As the mother is putting them to bed, he asks if the father hates him. She assures him he does not and turns out the lights. A very accurate and light-hearted depiction of how families can work, but again seemed to lack any real direction.

Inspire or Damage
B&W; Written, Produced, and Directed by Brad Barber
Travis, a stunted dwarf in a wheelchair with a cheery disposition, is shown wandering around a parking lot talking about his ambitions in life as a film director. He says he can make films that either inspire or damage, and hopes he will inspire. There are a lot of random funny bits thrown in and the way the film takes in Travis' severe physical disabilities without obsessing over them makes it an enjoyable piece.

The Endowment School
Documentary; Written by Barrett Hilton and Matt Madden; Produced by Matt Madden
A local charity has put money into creating a primary school in Cambodia. The film talks about the problems - monetary, social, and logistical - that this school is facing. This film intended to raise awareness and succedded, though certainly as not in a vibrant a fashion as Me Nsu Bio.

The Lion and the Mouse
Animated; Written and Directed by Shane Lewis
The first part of the classic tale. Voice acting and direction was fine, the story had a Disney feel to it. However, the animation was only complete in places. Often we had pencil animations, or cels without backgrounds, or even rough computer models. It looked very much that the filmmakers had run out of time and thrown what sequences they had together, making it little more than a technical showcase, not wholly a film.

Written by Jeremy Coon; Todd Hamilton; Jared Hess and Hubbel Palmer; Produced and Directed by Jeremy Coon
Late at night, a thief bursts into a video store to rob it. The clerk ignores him. The less-than-confident thief ends up asking for advice and the clerk sends him off muttering about ameteurs. A hilarious piece with a fun blooper reel :)
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Written by Andrew Black and Randy Astle; Directed by Andrew Black
An abstract tale about a man going into the underworld to bring his love back. Alternating between images of decay and images of life and vibrancy, it creates an interesting non-linear association. Costume design and acting was incredible, and the set and film quality looked highly professional. The story was hard to follow, however, and often seemed randomness for random's sake.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Peace Piece
Documentary; Produced and Directed by Ben Harmon
A found-footage documentary about hatred and discrimination throughout the ages. A quote displayed at the end sums it up: "If men learned from history, think how different the two would be." Very short, but very poignant.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Indian Star
Written, Directed, and Produced by Todd Hamilton and Friends
A funny mock-legend about Toostie Pops. :D

Directed by Kyle Snarr and Ben Cosby
Two crooks steal something but another another man and his little sister cut in on the drop and lead the thugs on a car chase across the city. Employed time-lapse photography and copied the style of promos for high-action chase movies. The end result seems a bit silly and slapstick, but it's a fun ride.

Bounding Blocks
Computer Animation; Written Produced and Directed by Scott Stoddard
A human and a dog composed competely of blocks run around the screen. A technincal showcase, no story.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Written by Maria Perez; Directed by Jason Faller
A man suffering from insomnia finds he can only sleep while at work - a night guard at a warehouse. To try and aid normal sleep he takes lots of pills. The depression that comes from all this drives a wedge between him and his girlfriend and ends up causing him to screw up royally at work. A non-linear free-assocation piece giving the sense of occuring for the most part in the man's mind, with bizarre sequences and sound distortions to give the film a choatic feel. A redeeming piece of avant-grade.

Roots and Wings
Written by Christian Vuissa and Maria Perez; Directed by Christian Vuissa
A Hispanic family has been taking the missionary discussions. The mother and daughter decide to join, but the father and sons are not nearly so receptive. The father is particuarly upset - "I'm Catholic, you're Catholic, this family is Catholic!" The two factions try to understand each other and eventually come to some understanding of what they want, even if no one changes their minds. (There is also a small subplot about how the oldest son is becoming more American and rejecting his Hispanic heritage.) A clean, honest piece, even if the story is not horribly original. The family spoke Spanish often, which was a nice touch.
*Voted Best of Final Cut*

Program B also featured 1 "commercial" - No Other Solution (Writer: Liz and Mark Amber, Director: Jason Faller) in which a couple uses Listerine to get closer. *Voted Best of Final Cut*

It seems to me that BYU might be more suited to making documentaries that serious film. Most of the fiction films presented this year were not that good, but most of the documentaries were excellent. I think Christopher Rawson (Me Nsu Bio) and Matt Madden (The Endowment School) are names we'll be seeing on the Discovery Channel soon. (The Endowement School was not a superior piece of documentary film, but the dedication and reasources it took to do a film in Cambodia I think says a lot about the work ethic Madden has.) The animation productions presented show that the fledgling BYU animation department has promise but also has a ways to go.

The fiction end certainly produced some good hits though. I was pleasently surprised at the strength of the avant-grade material submitted here, such as Still Lifes, Avernus, and Quietus. Serious linear pieces like Rights, Respect, Responsibility, Roots and Wings, and Barren Earth were good, and films like Inspire or Damage, Logjammin', and Indian Star were refreshingly funny. However, there were a lot of "artistic" pieces that just did not come off well: Change, Chad vs. The Capitalist Conspiracy, Streamers, Innocence and such. You're trying just a little too hard with those, folks.

Names in fiction I expect we'll be seeing in lights are Kynan Griffin (Chad vs. The Capitalist Conspiracy, Plastic Loincloth, Rights, Respect, Responsibility). He appears to be able to make a wide range of work, and the latter film was a particularly excellent piece of work that I was surprised did not make it into the Best of Final Cut. Jason Faller directed Quietus in an excellent manner, but seems more at home in the role of producer (he acted in that role for many other good films on this list), so I except he'll be in demand in a few years. Jared Hess (Peluca, Logjammin') I except will be entertaining us for a while, and Christian Vuissa (Roots and Wings) I think has a bright future just from the quailty that his one film displayed. It remains to be seen whether Ryan Arvay (Still Lifes) and Andrew Black (Avernus) will go on to other great stuff or are just one-hit wonders.

Final Cut presented 32 films. Five were animated shorts that were more technical demonstrations than stories, three were funny mock commericals, eight were documentaries (one was found-footage and one was comedic), and 16 story-driven pieces. If I had to pick my own "Best of Final Cut" in each category, then the best animated short would be The Streaker, the best commercial would be Plastic Loincloth, the best documentary would be Me Nsu Bio and the Best Film of Final Cut would be Quietus.

All opinions and summaries presented on this page are the work of Nathaniel Irvin.