As True West is all about portraying the West and providing a forum for regional filmmakers, it's equally important to highlight some of the locally produced features and shorts directed by native Idahoans. Two shorts by Jaffe Zinn, Glue and A Life for M-80, and Tyler Neisinger's feature, Beautiful Ambitions, are savvy examples of the true True West. "Part of True West's mandate is to serve the local filmmaking community by creating a forum for dialogue, learning and networking," emphasizes festival co-founder Heather Rae.
For Zinn, despite initial attempts to draw inspiration from New York City while studying film at NYU, his muse remained westbound. "Idaho is really the inspiration for my stories," says Zinn. "There's a certain amount of loneliness that's inherent in the state, and that really inspires me." A Life for M-80 was an experimental project he completed in college and Glue is "just kind of a fun little short" he made this summer to get back into "the groove" after returning from a year abroad in Japan. The film unravels the story of a young man's life through strung-together moments and narration, while Glue is a vivid, short-and-sweet snapshot of a bored guy with some BB pellets, plastic figurines and time to kill.
Though many local filmmakers are optimistic about Idaho's film industry, "I've never really thought of an 'Idaho film industry,'" says Zinn. His realistic perspective is more focused on making movies on and drawing insight from Idaho. "People are really trying to get things going in the film community here, I just have no idea where it's heading or what kind of potential it has," he says. "What's happening is exciting, but ultimately it's about ideas." Gregory Bayne, festival co-founder, agrees with Zinn, but also notes "one of the things that has changed in Boise in the past year ... is [that] the number of local independent films showing on screens has increased and I know more people making their living in the industry now than I did a year ago."
Those lucky few ditching their day jobs for film serve as hope for Neisinger. He admits he isn't there yet, "but that's the plan." Beautiful Ambitions is his first feature-length film, which he produced at age 17. Production began in January 2004 of his senior year in high school, and "hands down, the biggest challenge for me was scheduling," remembers Neisinger. "That might have been because I had never done anything quite like that before, so I made up my own system." Apparently the notecard system he developed was efficient, as the main aspect he would change next time around is pre-production details.
Though Zinn and Neisinger are both similar in their creativity, and as they prefer Idaho to remain free of Hollywood influence for reasons that it keeps filmmaking costs low and the people involved excited, the directors differ in the origin of their ingenuity. Neisinger, for example, displayed signs of artistry at a young age as he aspired "to be a cartoon artist of some kind." Zinn, on the other hand, wanted to be a rock climber-not really a stretch for Idaho-but then decided on a merman instead, after seeing the movie Splash. Now that's true creativity in true True West fashion for a landlocked boy-or anyone, really.