These stills from “The Loss of a Wrestling Match” show the direction of former Phoenix High School wrestler Jed Cowley, who also wrote the script. The film was accepted into Sundance.

A glimpse into losing

Jed Cowley loved wrestling when he was a student at Phoenix High School. Now he's made a short movie with a wrestling theme, and the 11-minute film is being shown at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

Cowley, 28, wrote and directed "The Loss of a Wrestling Match," which will have its final Sundance screening this weekend at the Holiday Village Cinema in Park City, Utah. The story is about a high school wrestler named Don who has an obsession with being perfect.

"It's really exciting," Cowley says in a telephone interview. "It's gotten great reactions. People have come up to me after the screenings and told me what they liked."

Cowley, who graduated from Phoenix in 1998, is now a graduate student in film studies at Columbia University in New York. As a teen, he was drawn in by the intensity of wrestling.

"It's insane," he says.

In his freshman year at Brigham Young University, he wrote a short story with a wrestling theme. Later he adapted the story into a screenplay and shot it in 31/2; days in January 2006 in Provo and Orem, Utah, dipping into $3,000 of his savings.

Don is played by Jonathan Gappmaier, a highly ranked high school wrestler from Salt Lake City.

"We found a wrestler who could act," Cowley says.

The character must learn a lesson about obsession versus simply doing your best. Cowley says the film is "definitely semiautobiographical."

Cowley wrestled at Phoenix under longtime Coach Harry Mondale. He twice placed in the state high school championships, taking third place once and fourth another time.

He went on a church mission to El Salvador for two years and graduated from Brigham Young University in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in film and English. His parents, Wayne and Ann Cowley, are longtime Rogue Valley residents now living in Oakland, Calif.

Cowley says many people have told him they particularly like the sound design in the film, which was shot on Super16 film, transferred to video to edit and finished to Sony HD Cam.

"During the match the crowd sort of disappears, and it goes through moments of no crowd sounds," he says. "It's a psychological effect."

Cowley says he never expected his film to be selected for competition at the festival because there were so many other candidates. Sundance officials said only 84 short films made the cut to get into this year's festival out of more than 5,000 submissions.

"Sundance is a lot of parties, receptions and chances to meet people," Cowley says. "Filmmakers and agents and stuff like that. I sat at a table with Quentin Tarantino for 40 minutes. He was nice."

He says Terrence Malick ("Badlands," "The Thin Red Line," "The New World") tops his list of favorite film directors.

He hopes to find himself in five years writing, directing and producing independent feature films and doing videos and commercials.

Times and venues for Cowley's film are available through Sundance's official Web site,

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail

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