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Rape, suicide, addiction: Westminster alum creates dialogue through new movie

“City of Salt,” an independent film written and directed by a Westminster College alum, has reached its final stages of production and is poised for release this coming winter.

Alicia Farmer, writer, director and Westminster English literature graduate, wrote “City of Salt” while doing her undergrad at Westminster. Immediately inspired, Farmer said it only took her five days to write the film’s script. 

“City of Salt” is a low-budget film with a cast and crew of 180 that centers around an LGBTQ teen, Theo Doran, and her disappearance during the time of her father’s political campaign. According to Farmer, the film focuses on themes centered around social issues in Utah: rape, suicide, addiction, deconstruction of faith and PTSD.

Co-directors, Alicia and John Farmer, watch a shoot from behind the scenes. John Farmer encouraged Alicia Farmer to write “City of Salt,” doing triple duty as a full-time mom, higher education administrator and director.
(Photo Courtesy: Craig Pickup)

“Utah is the hotbed for all of this,” said John Farmer, Alicia Farmer’s husband and co-director. “It’s also Utah that helped kickstart gay marriage. If it wasn’t for Utah fighting the Supreme Court, we wouldn’t have legalized gay marriage now.”

Keeping it local, representative and real was important for the film, Alicia Farmer said. In honor of this, every actor has a direct relation to their character – whether that be having PTSD, suffering from depression or being a part of the LGBTQ community – according to John Farmer. 

“We don’t present these things in a bad way, we don’t show them in a sheltered way,” said Stacylyn Bennett, lead actress playing Jessica Doran. “We show it raw.”

In the creation of the movie, Alicia Farmer said she pulled from her own dark experiences to ensure this realness. 

“I have known a lot of people who have been lost to suicide,” Alicia Farmer said. “I got in with the wrong crowd when my mom had a nervous breakdown. I ended up getting beaten almost to death and shot at and raped. I utilized that as fuel while I was writing. I didn’t want to be biased, but I wanted to present them in a way that they were real.”

It is this authenticity and dialogue that Alicia Farmer said she, and her team, hope to get across to their audience. 

“In this state, there is a lot of repression, suppression, a lot of people that don’t know how to address [these challenges],” said Jacques Hinks, an actor who plays detective Hobbs. 

Writer and director Alicia Farmer embraces Jake Uliasich, the lead actor playing William Doran. Farmer said she is hoping the film will create dialogue surrounding rape, suicide, addiction, deconstruction of faith and PTSD.
(Photo Courtesy: Craig Pickup)

Already submitted to both Sundance and Slamdance, “City of Salt” is expected to make its debut next year. As the Westminster community awaits its release, Alicia Farmer is calling for help of any kind. 

“Marketing, crew, background, lead roles. We are going to do a casting for the next film that is going to happen next year. However you would like to help, I will make room,” said Alicia Farmer to all those interested. “[Zepstone Media] is all about social change and it fits very well with my liberal arts college.”

“City of Salt” is expected to leave the crowd unnerved, Alicia Farmer said.

“I want this to anger people,” she said. “Some people are going to get really upset about how certain things play out and the consequences that certain actions brought on. But I want people to get angered and hyped up and get the dialogue out there. #Utahspeaks.”

*In the print version of the story, The Forum incorrectly identified one of the character’s names – the correct name is Theo Doran.


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Liz is a junior communication major at Westminster College, who can often be found sipping her over-priced coffee in Bassis. When not studying or working as an intern – three times over – she enjoys binge watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” for the fourth time, and taking morning runs in Sugar House Park. Liz hopes to someday make her way into the movie industry and become a puppy parent.

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