Staying local at The Lyric, the best spot for filmmakers to get started


Collegian | Garrett Mogel

People watch a short film at The Lyric Sept. 11, 2021. The film was part of the Horsetooth International Film Festival.

Sulaiman Akbar interviews Lyric owner Ben Mozer

Sulaiman Akbar, Staff Reporter

The Lyric in Fort Collins does a great job at providing a well-rounded screening opportunity for local filmmakers to show their films. There are many filmmakers that need support who are passionate and are looking for a space to screen.

“We pride ourselves on elevating local voices and giving them a canvas on which to paint their creativity, some either literally or figuratively,” said Aaron Varnell, the chaos wrangler at The Lyric.


The Lyric organizes their own nonprofit film festival to connect local nonprofits to local filmmakers.

Shari Due, an independent local filmmaker, said The Lyric’s event organization has really changed over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lyric started their own outside music stage and started to have bands after one major music venue closed in downtown Fort Collins.

Although The Lyric has always intended to be more than a movie theater, movies are still the most important. They have worked with many film festivals like the Horsetooth Fest and Black Sparrow Media to bring a wider array of content.

“We contact local filmmakers or local visual artists to make compilations or original material,” Varnell said.

Local filmmakers like Due make documentary- and feature-length films that have been screened at The Lyric. Due’s films mostly revolve around issues that are usually happening in the West but could still be anywhere. One of her big hits was “Watering the West,” a series of three feature-length films.

“The Lyric is a super welcoming place for local filmmakers.” –José Chalit Hernandez, documentary filmmaker

“It covers pretty much any water issue and all things about water in the western United States, and it covers it through the characters, through the people who are living those stories,” Due said. “From the very first independent film that I made, it went to The Lyric.”

The Lyric has always supported local filmmakers by splitting the ticket price with us, which is helpful for us to pay the bills on the films in terms of production costs,” Due said.

They’ve always given filmmakers a place to show local films when other theaters would not. Due said she felt encouraged a lot by The Lyric because they promoted their film on their website as well.


Varnell said they’ve hosted well-known filmmakers like Calvin Shepherd, an independent individual feature filmmaker who screened his feature-length horror movie about a year ago and sold out The Lyric’s big theater for his movie premiere.

The Lyric has had many local filmmakers, such as Ben Hess, Beth Seymour and José Chalit Hernandez, involved in the screenings. They even maintain good connections with colleges like Colorado State University and Front Range Community College, which have done two film screenings, Varnell said.

“We have done many things in the past with CSU,” Varnell said. “We work with ACT Human Rights Film Festival all the time.”

“We curate and collect films to show in Fort Collins,” said Seymour, who is the managing director of ACT Human Rights Film Festival. “They are human rights films, mostly documentaries but not entirely.”

They will announce their upcoming 2023 film festival screenings March 7 at Odell Brewing’s eighth annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival kickoff party.

“We recently showed a film called ‘All That Breathes,’ which is currently nominated for best documentary feature for an Oscar,” Seymour said. “We screened it at The Lyric, and it completely sold out.”

“The Lyric is a super welcoming place for local filmmakers,” said Hernandez, a documentary filmmaker who works at a nonprofit called “Trees, Water & People,” an organization that does environmental, international and domestic projects.

His short film “Homeland” did well at The Lyric. The audience was very enthusiastic about the Native American culture and diversity represented.

After screening their film, they had the participants go along with musical performance with traditional Native American drums. The Lyric helped audience members see live art and musicians play.

It was amazing and so special to screen my film for the Fort Collins community and to have the film participants also be there,” Hernandez said.

“Even filmmakers who are just premiering their first film who they don’t have an audience yet, just their own private audience, they’ll do that; they’ll show those films,” Due said.

Varnell said The Lyric also shows short films by letting individuals rent out their theater by having them screen and charge tickets if they want.

“Our priority of what we do is creating places for people to come and enjoy things together, and when that’s movies, fantastic. And we nail it, and we try to do the best that we can,” Varnell said. “We’re here to tell stories. We’re here for the tale of people.”

Reach Sulaiman Akbar at or on Twitter @CSUcollegian.