The Wild West Film Fest hopes for gold rushes.

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The Wild West Film Fest hopes for gold rushes.

You almost wouldn't know that Chris Dorsey never organized a film festival before. Dorsey, 33, studied graphic design at the University of Kansas and works as a freelance animator and filmmaker for corporate ad campaigns. He lives in Overland Park now, but his artistic loyalty remains half an hour to the west.

"I love Lawrence," he says. "It's a magnet for creative people. It's a town that's ripe for something to happen in."

To prove both points, Dorsey conceived the Wild West Film Fest, a time-restricted filmmaking competition that starts this weekend and anchors a benefit for the Lawrence chapter of Habitat for Humanity next weekend.

Dorsey says the event isn't merely a warm-up for the Independent Filmmaker's Coalition One-Night Stand Festival, a similar event that takes place in its entirety June 11 -- the day after the Wild West movies screen.

In keeping with its lawless-sounding name, the Wild West festival's rules are considerably broader than the IFC's. Whereas the latter allows only ten hours to shoot and edit a short film and submit the product on VHS or mini-DV, Dorsey's contest gives crews a whole weekend and accepts VHS, mini-DV and DVD entries. (If you're breaking out the gear, check out www.wildwest filmfest.com for details.)

Wild West also divides entries by age, giving filmmakers 18 and younger their own category.

"I didn't think it was fair to judge kids against adults," Dorsey explains. "You see some pretty heavy-duty production in these shows, and you hate to see a kid who's 12 go up against some ad agency.

"We've purposely kept it pretty loose," Dorsey says of the contest. "Most everybody will enter on Friday night." At 7 p.m. June 3, a theme that every contestant's film must somehow use will be revealed. He offers one hint: "I can tell you that it will involve a phrase.

"I haven't talked to anyone at IFC," says Dorsey, who has entered the five-year-old One-Night Stand contest in the past. "We were hoping there'd be quite a bit of time between our events. I didn't know it was going to be on June 11 until about three weeks ago."

Judges include actress Dee Wallace Stone, KU film professor and Confederate States of America director Kevin Willmott and Los Angeles filmmaker Abraham Lim, who edited Cookie's Fortune for director Robert Altman.

"This is the first time I've ever promoted anything myself," Dorsey says. "When I came up with this idea, it was from participating in the IFC, which is a fairly well-known organization and can put on something that benefits itself. I wanted to give people great judges and great prizes, and I knew that the only way to do that was to give the ticket proceeds to charity. I'm a big fan of Habitat for Humanity. They're really excited. I didn't have any science to picking out sponsors. I went out and called and e-mailed people and told them what we were up to."

Rather than watch every entry the night of the competition, the Wild West audience will view only 30 films selected by judges for the Friday, June 10, screening at the Granada. The night kicks off with a performance by singer-songwriter Justin Ripley; KC band the Girl Is a Ghost takes the stage after the screen goes dark.

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