Josh Mendoza

Josh Mendoza on Thursday, April 4, 2013. Mendoza, a Desert Vista grad, had his USC graduate film, "God's Country", chosen to be screened at the Phoenix Film Festival this weekend.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

This weekend marks Josh Mendoza’s first time to have a film screening at the Phoenix Film Festival, but there’s a hunch that this is just the start for the Ahwatukee Foothills native.

Mendoza’s graduate short film from the University of Southern California, titled “God’s Country,” will be premiering at the Phoenix Film Festival on Friday, April 5 and Sunday, April 7 in Scottsdale.

“It’s exciting for people to see it on the big screen where it was intended to be, instead of just on a laptop,” Mendoza joked.

The festival screens more than 150 independent and short films a year after first starting in 2000.

Mendoza, who graduated from Desert Vista High School in 2002 and then went on to Stanford University for creative writing, said he’s always had a mind for visual writing.

“I’ve always liked storytelling, and when I wrote short stories, I realized what I actually was writing were movie scripts,” Mendoza said. “When my mind works, it’s much more visual.”

In his graduate studies at USC, Mendoza said he wrote several short films, including “God’s Country,” which he wrote, directed and produced, as his final.

The short film follows a man named Travis Winters who treks the North Alaskan terrain seeking revenge on a bear that killed his wife. Winters then finds himself plotting to survive.

Currently, Mendoza is in pre-production on his first feature film, which he describes as being a “modern Western,” that he started writing last year.

“There’s a workflow to it, and a time frame,” Mendoza said of the filmmaking process.

Admitting that making a feature film can be cumbersome, since short films give room to hone skills and work with smaller budgets, Mendoza clearly seems to be in his element.

“I do enjoy the writing and creating,” he said. “Seeing it come to life, it becomes a different entity.”

The Phoenix Film Festival will be hosted at Harkins Scottsdale 101, 7001 E. Mayo Blvd.

For tickets or more information, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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