Dam Short Film Festival founder builds audience and community

Vegas Voices is a weekly question-and-answer series featuring notable Las Vegans.

Lee Lanier grew up in Ohio, worked in movie production in Los Angeles in the early ’90s and made the transition to computer animation with jobs at PDI/Dreamworks and Disney’s digital division.

But when it came time to settle down, after traveling the world to screen his films at festivals, he and his wife, Anita, moved to Boulder City in 2001.

“We were looking for a small town that was kind of quiet and cute and safe, and someplace a little more laid-back,” Lanier says. “And we liked the Southwest. And, I don’t know, Boulder City just fit the bill at the time.”

In 2005, the Laniers presented the first Dam Short Film Festival at the Boulder City American Legion Hall. Three years later, the fest moved to the historic Boulder Theatre, where it’s grown every year. This year, the festival will screen 124 shorts Tuesday through Saturday. (For more information, including a complete schedule, see damshortfilm.org.)

Lanier, 50, took time out from festival prep to talk about filmmaking, his love of short films and the movie that changed his life.

Review-Journal: So how did you get into filmmaking?

Lanier: I think a lot of people from my generation have the same answer, which is, I went to the theater with my dad when I was 11 years old to see the original “Star Wars.” I was never really into films that much before then, and when I saw it in the theater, it blew me away. So I’m like, “I think I wanna get into filmmaking.” That planted the seed.

RJ: What is it about short films that appeals to you?

Lanier: Short films are a great art form. I think film is kind of the pinnacle of art form anyway because of the complexity. But short films are wonderful because you can really take a lot of chances with short films, and a lot of people can make them fairly easily, especially these days. We get a really broad range of styles and stories.

RJ: What made you decide to start the festival?

Lanier: I went on the festival circuit myself for a number of years. My wife actually joined me, too, at some of these festivals around the world. We both realized that we really like short films, we love festivals. And at the time, this was really early days of the internet. There wasn’t much of a chance to show a short. You showed it at a festival, and it was pretty much gone at that point after a month or two. So that was our opportunity to help bring short films to other people.

RJ: Are you surprised at all by how the community has embraced the festival?

Lanier: It’s a pleasant surprise. There are people who’ve never been to a film festival, so it’s wonderful to see them come to ours and fall in love with that type of event. But we have some really dedicated fans that we almost see every single year, and they’ll talk about a film they saw a year later. So it’s great to see that kind of impact.

RJ: You’re screening the feature “Dealer” on opening night. Is that the first feature that’s been a part of the festival?

Lanier: It is. We figured we could fit it in because it’s kind of an anthology with a number of local filmmakers. It’s a way to support the local team, and it kind of fits into the short films vibe. Tuesday night is kind of an experiment. We’re (showing) music videos and the feature. We haven’t done any of those before.


RJ: Is there traditionally one block that gets the best turnout?

Lanier: All our programs are pretty solidly attended these days, even in the daytime. But the ones that are the largest are Friday night, which is comedy and Nevada filmmakers.

RJ: How important is it to always reserve at least one block for Nevada filmmakers?

Lanier: We’re a community event. Our mission statement is two main things. One is to treat the filmmakers really well. And the other is to present the best films as possible to our community. So we’re aware of our local audiences. And by the same token, we want to support local filmmakers. It’s all part of that local community.

RJ: You’ve made movies that have screened at Sundance, Slamdance and other festivals. Which is more stressful, attending a festival as a filmmaker or hosting a festival for filmmakers?

Lanier: Oh, that’s a tough question. I’ve screened my films in front of a big audience at important festivals, and my palms sweat I got so nervous, especially in the early days. Sundance was pretty nerve-racking. … When they like it, it’s great. But you never know what the reaction’s going to be. The (Dam Short) festival itself is a surprising amount of work. Even though it’s five days, it takes us all year with a staff and (60 or 70) volunteers. It’s just a surprising amount of work.

RJ: Is there any film block that you’re really excited for the audiences to see?

Lanier: It’s hard to choose. I love so many of them. OK, here’s actually one that just occurred to me that’s pretty amazing this year, but not for everyone: It’s our underground block (9:30 p.m. Friday), and there’s a couple of comedies that are so funny but so adult and not appropriate for children. In particular, “The Black Bear” is pretty funny. And “Mulva Lends a Hand” are two that made me crack up alone, just by myself.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.

Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
U2 in Vegas through the years
U2 in Vegas through the years
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Black Tap In Las Vegas Makes This Instagram-ready Golden Knights Shake (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre Premieres Until December
‘Until December’ debuts at ‘Ballet & Broadway’ season finale (Carol Cling Las Vegas
Celebrate The Golden Knights With Knights-inpired Latte Art (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single Ramsey, who shot to fame after a viral video of him yodeling at an Illinois Walmart surfaced, just debuted “Famous.” “If I'm gonna be famous for somethin'/I wanna be famous for lovin' you/If I'm gonna be known around the world/I wanna because of you, girl” Mason Ramsey, “Famous” It’s been quite the rush to stardom for the 11-year-old, who appeared on The Ellen Show and performed at Coachella earlier this month. “I’d been to Nashville a few times before, but never thought something like this would happen. It’s a dream to sign with Atlantic and Big Loud.” Mason Ramsey “I loved recording ‘Famous’ and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala. (Janna Karel Las Vegas review-Journal)
"Hamilton" Fans Line Up Overnight At Smith Center To Get Tickets
"Hamilton" fans line up overnight at Smith Center to get tickets. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 concerts to see in Las Vegas this week
You can visit the speakeasy in The Mob Museum's basement... if you know the password
6 new foods hitting movie theaters in 2018
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five Chris Stapleton songs you need to hear
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like