Night comes early to Seattle in January. Seems like it’s been cold a long time now. Standing outside 911 Media Arts Center – waiting to get into the Seattle Women in Film DVD Release party (Available now at Amazon.com) – I couldn’t help but shiver. The news called for snow – and the flicker of a film projected through the front window made it feel like light refracted through ice.
Thankfully, it was warm inside – packed with twenty-one women directors, their supporters and friends and a whole lot of us who either work directly with them or would like to. We made our way through the crowd and stopped in front of the wall where Lynn Shelton’s Moral Centralia was being projected. As the flicker continued it occurred to me…we’ve all been working hard over the years toward a sustainable and collaborative film industry in Seattle – and looking at this film by an already accomplished filmmaker – and looking at fellow filmmakers throughout the room I realized…something’s happening.
I founded August Island Pictures in 2006 and found a physical home that year in Uptown – sharing studio space with red jet films. I’ve had the true good fortune to work with red jet’s Jeff Erwin and Sue Feil Erwin on most of the commercial and corporate projects I’ve produced in the last two years – learning from Jeff, an accomplished shooter, to tell stories by meticulous, well-crafted design. Part of the joy in working together has been the level of talent we consistently collaborate with. Looking around the party a good representation of that talent was peppered throughout the crowd: Editor Tracy Detlephs of Hullabaloo chatted with director John Jeffcoat. Cathy Wadley – editor, arrived with director/producer Kay D. Ray. Director Sue Corcoran of Von Piglet Productions walked through the door the same time as DP Sean Porter and Producer Laurie Hicks of Swingset films.
I’ve worked on projects with a lot of these folks for great clients like Microsoft, SeaMobile, T-Mobile, Weyerhaeuser, and World Vision. While crafting the docs and commercials and case studies and in-house training videos with all of them I’ve continuously stayed aware of one thing. We’re filmmakers – working together on our craft while simultaneously making our livings. But by definition, we need to make films. And films are being made. John Jeffcoat’s critically acclaimed feature directing debut, Outsourced, co-written by George Wing and produced by ShadowCatcher Entertainment, is currently in Theatres and on DVD. Lynn Shelton’s We Go Way Back won the Grand Jury Prize for best narrative feature at Slamdance 2006. Her latest feature, My Effortless Brilliance is set to premiere in March. Tracy Detlephs edited the Mega-Church feature doc God Awesome in 2007. Cathy Wadley edited Kay D. Ray’s doc, Lady Be Good that just finished post-production and is now seeking distribution. Director Sue Corcoran’s Circus of Infinity won Accolade’s 2007 Best in Show as well as the Nell Shipman award for Best Short 2006. Laurie Hicks just signed on to produce Dayna Hanson’s feature debut, Rainbow. Sean Porter just DP’d a 35mm music video for The Blakes and will also be the DP on Rainbow…..And in our own digs at red jet films; Jeff Erwin is editing his first feature doc about a maniacal genius in Everett.
Back at the party, CONTACT _Con-3D67C6DB13D \c \s \l Cheryl Slean and CONTACT _Con-3D67C6DBCC \c \s \l Susan Lasalle walked into the room just as Diggers, the film we all worked on lit up the wall. Cheryl wrote and directed, and Susan and I produced the 2005 IFP/Seattle Spotlight-Award-winning-short which is now making the festival rounds – premiering at SIFF 2006 and since then playing at festivals in India, Park City, Wisconsin, Portland and Los Angeles – and will make its European debut at The International Film Festival England this summer.
Also in 2006 was Knowing the Game – the short I produced with writer/director Justin Burris. Sean Porter worked on both – as First AC on Diggers – shot on 35 mm – and as DP on Knowing the Game which just got a distribution deal done with Mini-Movie, a new online distribution company based in Europe.
Back in 2004 I won the Washington State Screenplay Competition with a feature script called Dzonoqua – a supernatural thriller set in Alaska – now under the working title The Wild. John W. Comerford of Paradigm Studio optioned the script in 2005 and we’re continuing the development of the story in earnest, hoping to move into pre-production later this year.
I contacted Amy Lillard Dee, the Executive Director of Washington Film Works, a not-for-profit 501 (c) (6) organization that offers funding assistance to commercials, television and feature films shooting in Washington State. I knew about the $500,000 threshold for in state spending that must be met to qualify for assistance. What I didn’t know was how many local filmmakers have applied and received assistance. According to Amy, of the 25 applications their office has approved, eight have gone through to completion and they expect another four this quarter. Of the eight in production, one was a Seattle based feature: The Immaculate Conception of Little Drizzle (completed) written and directed by David Russo, produced by Peggy Case and executive produced by Michael Seiwerath. Amy and Washington Film Works expect another – (just approved) The Off Hours, written and directed by Megan Griffiths and Produced by Mischa Jakupcak, Lacey Leavitt and Joy Saez – to go into production shortly.
As I headed back out into the cold that night, I realized how many talented people were packed in that room. And I only crossed paths with a few of them. And that was just one room. There are more rooms around Seattle where talented filmmakers are visualizing amazing stories that one day will flicker with light on a big screen. Spring will be coming, and the warmth of summer after that – long days in Seattle – lots of light. For all of us here, it’s time to shine.
First published in Media Inc. Winter, 2008.
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