New character-focused Zion film to premier at virtual Vancouver film festival; tickets available now

ST. GEORGE — A film showcasing Zion National Park has been chosen by the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, which commences virtually Friday, as the flagship film for its environmental program.

Promotional material for “Forever is Now” playing at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, climber in Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Kylie Fly, courtesy of Local.Studio, St. George News

Shot over the course of nearly 14 months – thus encompassing every season – “Forever is Now” follows 10 people whose lives are intertwined with the keeping and caretaking of Zion National Park.

“Forever is Now” director Sean Slobodan and producer Shandi Kano of production house Local.Studio said they were first approached about the film in 2018 when the Zion Forever Project reached out to them to produce a new in-park film for the Zion Human History Museum.

That film, entitled “We the Keepers,” replaced the previous museum film, which had been part of the park’s educational presentation for almost two decades.

As Local.Studio began to work with Zion Forever, as well as other important park partners such as the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, Slobodan said they started talking about a different kind of film, one that was more character-focused.

It was an entirely new approach to national park films, Slobodan said, adding that the hope is that it helps audiences connect emotionally with the film rather than just hearing fact after fact about the geology and ecology of Zion National Park.

See trailer for “Forever is Now” in media player at the top of this report.

“It’s much more of a personal experience,” he said. “Our hope is that we are a little more inspired, that we as viewers might be able to connect with the people we see on screen.”

L-R: Shandi Kano, Sean Slobodan and Travis Pitcher hike and film “Forever is Now,” in Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Jon Moe, courtesy of Local.Studio, St. George News

Kano said that since the shorter version of the film is meant to live in the park for the next 10-15 years, they wanted to brand it in a way as to be less directly educational and more emotive.

The idea is for people to come to the park, watch the film and then go outside and see Zion National Park in a different way, she said.

And – without being too heavy-handed in their messaging, Slobodan said – one goal is for people to then want to become caretakers of Zion themselves – or at least walk away with a better understanding of their impact on the park.

The production crew spent over 100 days in and around Zion National Park, Kano said, interviewing people and filming and then lovingly crafting a story that would be seen by thousands of park visitors and hopefully resonate with audiences to instill in them the desire to be better stewards of the park.

It is a message that Zion Forever Project director Mark Preiss said is at the core of the nonprofit’s mission and one they are thrilled to see taken to a global audience with its full festival-length premier at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. Preiss said:

The Zion Forever Project is overjoyed the film will be having a world premiere at the Vancouver Film Festival. This movie was a collaborative effort meant to highlight the majesty of Zion National Park. We are humbled by the funding partners like Mystery Ranch Backpacks, Greater Zion Tourism Office, and the Utah Film Commission that made this feature possible. The message of stewardship is at the core of our mission, and thanks to production house Local Studio, now it can be shared with the world.

The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is an outdoor-centric film and creative community. They are focused on inspiring, entertaining and bringing mountain adventure into the homes of their viewers.

A climber scales Zion National Park in this photo still from the filming of “Forever is Now,” Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Kylie Fly, courtesy of Local.Studio, St. George News

The festival hosts two yearly events – a 10-day film festival in February and the fall series in November. This year’s fall series is set to be a virtual event taking place starting at noon Friday and continuing until midnight Nov. 29.

The series will include five shows – The Snowsports Show, The Climbing Show, the Mountain Culture Show, the Colour the Trails Show and the Environmental Show – each with its own set of mountain- and outdoor-inspired films.

The 45-minute version of “Forever is Now” is making its public world premier as the flagship film for the Environmental Show.

It is a partnership that both Kano and Slobodan, both of whom are from Canada originally, said they are so grateful for.

Slobodan said the festival has been incredibly receptive of “Forever is Now,” and they feel that the mission of the festival and film are aligned together.

Viewers can take in the entire festival with the purchase of a festival pass for $50 or they can purchase tickets for a single Show for $15.

Tickets are on sale online now.

“‘Forever Is Now’ was made to connect with all of us in some way. To help us see ourselves in beautiful places. Taking care of those places,” Slobodan said on his Facebook page.

Event details

  • What: Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival premier of “Forever is Now.”
  • When: Beginning at noon Friday, Nov. 20, through midnight Sunday, Nov. 29.
  • Where: Online.
  • Cost: Whole festival pass, $50; single show pass, $15. Ticket prices go up to $55 and $17, starting Friday.
  • Purchase tickets: Online.

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