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Utah Film Center seeks donations after fire destroys organization’s office

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-02 00:05:23-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Film Center now knows just how much money they could be out after a fire ripped through the organization's office Tuesday morning.

Inside the building on Friday, Executive Director Elisabeth Nebeker walked around and pointed out the damage. Black smoke covered the formerly white walls, and smoke and soot permeated every tangible object in the office.

"There's just layers of that soot on everything," she said, swiping her hand across a burnt desk and rubbing soot between her fingers.

Everything now sits in disarray. Some areas are not even safe to venture into.

"This is structurally unsound… because the fire damage was right below," she said, pointing to what used to be the conference room near the front of the building.

The fire department determined the blaze began in the basement, and blamed it on something electrical. 

Nebeker said it's likely the fire started in a fluorescent light ballast.

She explained they’ve spent three days tallying up what sits in the office, destroyed. They’re beginning to figure out what it would take to start again.

“Upwards, $150,000 will, at the minimum, be some of the replacement costs for getting us up and running to be able to work,” she said.

While they have insurance, Nebeker said it's minimal and won't cover much of what was lost.

The Utah Film Center lost their entire library of 5,000 DVDs, as well as important footage, photos and marketing and teaching materials. The list goes on and on.

Not to mention, the organization is now homeless.

“It’s probably the biggest question is: Where we’re going to end up as an office space?” Nebeker said.

Right now, she said, the 16 employees are meeting at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art as well as working remotely from home.

The Utah Film Center still plans to host all upcoming film screenings at various locations.

Nebeker said they hope to continue their programs, even while they take on the task of fundraising to recover from the fire.

The center got a good start on Thursday, when they took in $7,000 during the statewide Love UT, Give UT event.

“We are hearing from so many organizations, so many friends, so many people that want to see what they can do, and how they can help us rebuild and stay focused on our mission and our work,” she said.

Nebeker said it’s possible the building that housed their office space would have to be demolished, but they’re not sure yet what will happen with the space.

To stay updated on the Utah Film Center’s progress, fundraising efforts and events, click here.