HollyShorts Film Festival Expands Alliance to Pacific Northwest

Local filmmakers bridging the gap between Hollywood and the Puget Sound

Seattle, WA — HollyShorts Film Festival recently announced the growing alliance between Los Angeles and Pacific Northwest filmmakers that is bridging the gap for filmmakers up and down the West Coast. This year, Pacific NW production companies Evil Slave (ES), Abundant Productions (AP), and Mighty Tripod Productions (MTP) are working with Shoreline Community College’s Digital Filmmaking Department to produce The Lunchbox Brigade, the 2015 HollyShorts screenplay winner. The creative team includes award-winning producer Lorraine Montez (AP) and award-winning producer/actor/educator David S. Hogan (MTP).

Ben Andrews and David S. Hogan

Ben Andrews and David S. Hogan

Listed by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “top 25 festivals worth the entry fee,” HollyShorts awards the winner of the screenplay competition with an automatic entry in the following year’s festival.

Seattle-based producer and filmmaker Ben Andrews, creative director of Evil Slave, recognized an opportunity to create a strong alliance of filmmakers from Seattle, Tacoma and Los Angeles when he met the HollyShorts leadership early in 2014 at SXSW. “It happened pretty quickly,” said Andrews. “I discussed the need to highlight Washington filmmakers and they discussed the need to expand and further their outreach.”

HollyShorts has featured more than 2,000 projects showcasing stars and filmmakers including Luke Wilson, Eli Roth, Sophia Loren, Bill Plympton, Anthony and Joe Russo, Issa Rae, and Felicia Day.

“It’s truly an honor to see our dreams becoming a reality, having our esteemed HollyShorts Screenplay competition winner Kyle Thiele get his short made via our partners Evil Slave, Abundant Productions and Mighty Tripod Productions along with Shoreline Community College’s Filmmaking Department,” said Theo Dumont and Daniel Sol, HollyShorts co-founders. “This alliance truly signifies the new pathway between the Pacific Northwest and Hollywood, a bridge that creates incredible opportunities across the board for filmmakers everywhere and we are delighted to be involved.”

Pacific Northwest producer Scott A. Capestany, Creative Director at Capestany Films, has sponsored and supported this new alliance and movement since its inception. “We are proud sponsors of the HollyShort film festival each year in support of Ben Andrews’ efforts in helping bridge the gap between the L.A. indie film market and our local market,” he said. “His resilient efforts have helped open up new relationships between Puget Sound businesses and Hollywood decision makers that support the growth of our Washington State economy and our vibrant film/TV local industry.”

The Lunchbox Brigade follows a neighborhood squadron of kids that discovers their brother-in-arms, Johnny, has gone to camp for the summer. They determine a rescue is in order, and together they embark on an antic-filled plan to infiltrate enemy territory (aka summer camp) and free their friend. But when their leader, Teddy, discovers that Johnny actually wants to be at camp, he must lead the Lunchbox Brigade in a touching tribute to the loss of one of their own.

“I’m honored to be the winner of the 2015 Screenplay competition with HollyShorts and am impressed with the professional caliber of the Pacific Northwest filmmakers producing the short,” said Thiele, writer and director of The LunchBox Brigade.

The 12th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival and Film Conference/Film Market is scheduled for August 11-20, 2016 at the world famous TCL Chinese 6 Theatres. Visit www.hollyshorts.com for more information.

Catherine Hardwicke Showcased at POWFest’s Ninth Year

Tara Johnson-Medinger and Catherine Hardwicke

Tara Johnson-Medinger and Catherine Hardwicke

By Mary Erickson Associate Editor

POWFest wrapped up another year of showcasing film work by women in Portland. The festival, in its ninth year, ran March 3 through 6 at the Hollywood Theatre.POWFest 2

Filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke attended the festival as the guest of honor. POWFest screened three of her films—Twilight, Thirteen, and Miss You Already—and hosted a discussion with the seasoned director. Hardwicke is a vocal advocate for women in film, as highlighted by POWFest’s executive director, Tara Johnson-Medinger.

“Catherine Hardwicke’s strong voice and willingness to step publicly into Hollywood’s gender discussion is something to celebrate,” said Johnson-Medinger. “Because of her, women are less fearful of being vocal as there has been a groundswell of support to amplify these voices. There is a revolution going on and she is one of the women in the lead.”

Catherine Hardwicke presents a master class at POWFest.

Catherine Hardwicke presents a master class at POWFest.

The festival opened with Abigail Disney’s The Armor of Light, which follows an Evangelical minister tackling the issue of gun violence in the U.S. Over 35 other film directors attended the festival to screen their films, including Northwest filmmakers Dawn Jones Redstone, Kia Anne Geraths, Christian Henry and Misty Eddy. POWFest’s
educational initiative, POWGirls, also presented films. POWGirls is a program open to girls age 15 to 19 who learn skills in media-making. POWGirls participants spent three days writing, producing and editing films, which were then screened at the festival.

POWGirls

POWGirls

Hardwicke presented a Master Class for festival attendees, and also participated in a Q&A session with Melissa Silverstein, founder and editor of Women and Hollywood, a website devoted to exploring gender issues in the film and other media industries. The festival also presented workshops on crowdfunding and the art of the pitch.

More information about POWFest is available at www.powfest.com.

Ashland Independent Film Festival Celebrates its 15th Anniversary, Celebrates Groundbreakers While it Blazes New Trails

By Judy Plapinger

April 7-11, 2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the Ashland Independent Film Festival, which  has grown from 73 films in four days at the beautiful art deco Varsity Theatre to more than 90 films and dozens of special events across Ashland in five art-packed days. This year the festival expands across town and across genres not only with its films, but also with live performances and art installations at two local museums.

As the festival embarks on its next chapter, organizers are reaching out to new groups—not simply appealing to traditional demographics defined by age, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, but across arbitrary boundaries to a shared artistic ideal. When media fills every screen, and screens are everywhere, it’s fair to ask: Why come to a film festival at all? The answer is simple: For the shared experience of seeing a film together; to expand and expound on that experience with filmmakers, performers, animators, artists, and of course, fellow film-goers.

The festival’s new director of programming, Richard Herskowitz, is forging connections from film to art and the performing arts community. While early festivals featured gallery exhibits, a live opera singer, arts cars and hula dancers, this year the festival will link art, science, animation, cinema, music and dance to create new forms of image making and storytelling that delves into the “beyond.”

In addition, this year, women in indie film will be a singular focus, with films and special appearances by Women Make Movies executive director Debra Zimmermann, filmmaker and choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall, visionary lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer, and more. If that weren’t enough, live performances that bridge cinema, art and music will include noted animators and performance artists Laura Heit and Jeremy Rourke, as well as flutist Rozalind MacPhail, who will perform a live score to accompany the feature film He Hated Pigeons.

The Fits

Independent film is nothing less than a movement to transform mainstream culture, to promote voices and perspectives neglected by commercial media. To honor its 15th anniversary, AIFF is reaffirming its mission to promote independent filmmaking by honoring the groundbreaking people and cinema that set the standards, including

Bill

Women Make Movies and the venerable Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams). As Herskowitz says, “At AIFF16 we will pay tribute to indie institutions—production, distribution and exhibition companies—that have built the infrastructure of the independent film movement, and challenge Hollywood’s dominance.” This very infrastructure provides the springboard for this exciting 15th anniversary festival and for festivals beyond.

Addicted to Sheep

A full schedule of films and other events, including Q&As with directors, free panel discussions, workshops, art installations, awards and nightly entertainment, is available at www.ashlandfilm.org.

Tickets are also available at www.ashlandfilm.org.

Film Incentive Bill Killed in Washington

In early March, Washington Filmworks announced that House Bill 2542, which would have increased and extended Washington’s Motion Picture Competitiveness Program, did not move forward for a vote in this year’s legislative session, effectively killing the bill.

As written, the bill would have doubled the size of the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program fund to $7 million over two years and increased the fund incrementally until it reached $10 million by the year 2020. The bill would have also extended the sunset date of the program to December 31, 2023.

According to Filmworks, the bill could not overcome political hurdles in Olympia, nor could it overcome the revenue forecast, which indicated another $68 million budget shortfall this year and an even more significant budget shortfall for the next biennium.

Although the outcome for HB 2542 was disheartening for Washington’s production industry, it comes on the heels of a tremendous effort from the community, which organized a Keep Film in WA campaign to inform legislators of the incentive program’s benefits and raise the profile of the industry. In January, the campaign also organized Film Day in Olympia, where over 200 film professionals and supporters from around the state showed up to lobby their legislators in support of the bill.

“The fact of the matter is that everyone that took part in any aspect of the Keep Film in WA campaign did a tremendous job at raising the profile and visibility of the state-wide film industry,” said Filmworks in a statement. “It was a banner year in terms of the amount of support we received from legislators—with 33 sponsors of our bill from both political parties and representing every corner of the state. These figures, along with the feedback we received from legislators and lobbyists alike, demonstrates that we actually were wildly successful, despite not achieving our final goals.”

Washington Filmworks held debriefing sessions in Seattle on March 29 and Spokane on March 31 to discuss the campaign and its many accomplishments. As for the future of the state’s production industry, Filmworks is currently strategizing to determine their next steps in order to ensure that film stays in Washington.

Meanwhile, the film incentive program is not scheduled to sunset until June 30, 2017, so projects will still be able to take advantage of the incentive, and business is continuing as usual for Washington Filmworks. Visit www.washingtonfilmworks.org for more.

Oregon Film Tax Credit Raised Over Two Years

The Librarians star Christian Kane sits down for a one-on-one interview as part of Film Day. Photo courtesy of Nebcat Photography

The Librarians star Christian Kane sits down for a one-on-one interview as part of Film Day. Photo courtesy of Nebcat Photography

Oregon Senate Bill 1507 enjoyed a unanimous victory on February 24, raising the annual cap on the state’s film and video tax credit. Currently at $10 million, the cap will rise to $12 million this year and $14 million in 2017.

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) commended the impact of the raised cap, noting, “This bill encourages investment in this state by members of this vibrant industry.” Senator Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), who carried the bill on the Senate floor, concurred with Burdick. “It was important to the committee that we protect film and television jobs,” Hass said.

The Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA) rallied its members, along with other representatives from the Oregon media industry, two weeks earlier to attend Industry Day in Salem. This effort drew over 70 volunteers to lobby for increasing the Oregon Production Investment Fund (OPIF). The Capital was abuzz with OMPA members and other industry workers who met with Senators, Representatives and the Speaker of the House.

Salem Industry Day. Photo courtesy of Nebcat Photography

Salem Industry Day. Photo courtesy of Nebcat Photography

Legislators also had the opportunity to visit the Gallery where the Oregon Film Office and OMPA arranged for interactive displays to demonstrate the quality and depth of opportunities available in the industry. Legislators sat down with The Librarians star Christian Kane for a one-on-one interview, and Grimm’s Danny Bruno visited legislators’ offices and conducted impromptu on-camera interviews.

Janice Shokrian, Executive Director of the OMPA, cheered the Senate’s support of the industry. “We are cautiously optimistic as our legislators see the film incentive as a sound return on Oregon’s investment,” she said. “The economic impact has a broad reach that positively impacts many vendors and local businesses.”

Parts of this article are reprinted with permission from OMPA.

Now Hiring: Filmmaker-in-Residence

Steve & Kate’s Camp is looking for a filmmaker-in-residence for the summer.

Here is a brief description of the job:

You will be on set for an approximate 11-week shoot, producing, directing, and maybe even co-starring in videos destined for viral greatness… at least, in the homes of our campers. You are not limited by format or genre. Comedy, action, documentary — you do it all. You have an eye for catching the film-worthy moments of everyday life and want to help inspire our future filmmakers (aka our campers).

Dates: June 20-August 19, 2016 (at both the Seattle and Bellevue locations) with some training before the camp session

The work is full-time for the duration of the season.

Click this link to apply: https://steveandkatescamp.com/jobs/summer-jobs/

Please complete the application under the heading “Summer Jobs” and indicate that you’d like to be the filmmaker.

Keep Film in WA

Attendees of the Keep Film in WA campaign launch in Spokane, Bellingham and Seattle listened to Amy Lillard (Filmworks executive director) and Don Jensen (Filmworks board chair) speak about the upcoming legislative session. Photos by Joe Flores.

Attendees of the Keep Film in WA campaign launch in Spokane, Bellingham and Seattle listened to Amy Lillard (Filmworks executive director) and Don Jensen (Filmworks board chair) speak about the upcoming legislative session. All photos by Joe Flores.

The Washington film industry is battling for its future as the 2016 legislative session rolls on.

Flanked by a strong coalition of film industry allies, Washington Filmworks is leading a campaign to fight for the future of production in the state.

Specifically, Filmworks and its “Keep Film in WA” campaign partners are rallying behind House Bill 2542 (HB 2542), which, if signed into law, would increase funding for the production incentive program and extend its sunset date.

Credit Joe Flores 3

Amy Lillard

Prime sponsored by Representative Marcus Riccelli (D-3), the bill doubles the size of the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program fund to $7 million over two years and increases the fund incrementally until it reaches $10 million by the year 2020. The bill will also extend the sunset date of the program to December 31, 2023.

With its current film incentive fund of just $3.5 million per year, the state has had to turn away millions of dollars in business. In 2015, Washington State lost out on $65 million in economic activity after Washington Filmworks exhausted its fund by March. By increasing the fund’s cap to $7 million, and eventually $10 million, HB 2542 would make Washington more competitive when it comes to drawing production from outside the state.

Credit Joe Flores 2

Don Jensen

Washington Filmworks urges film industry professionals to help the campaign by signing the Keep Film in WA petition (KeepFilminWA.com) and by contacting their local legislators to not only provide them with facts and data about the incentive program, but to also share their personal stories of why film is important in Washington State.

Additionally, on January 21, Filmworks organized Film Day in Olympia. Over 200 film professionals and supporters from around the state showed up to lobby their legislators in support of the bill. Campaigners were able to organize and execute over 100 meetings with legislators and got great feedback and insight from the attendees who took the meetings.

Following Film Day, on January 22, was the Hearing in front of the House Finance Committee, during which 9 members of the film community testified on behalf of HB 2542. According to Filmworks, a total of 35 people signed in to support the bill that morning—an amazing show of support.

Stay tuned to www.washingtonfilmworks.org as the legislative session progresses to find out what you can do to Keep Film in WA!

Leaving the Stage Behind: Adapting a Play for the Big Screen

 

IMG_7210Director Bret Fetzer brought the one-man monologue My Last Year With the Nuns to moviegoers with great acclaim. He reflects on his experience in this essay.

By Bret Fetzer
Photos by John Jeffcoat

Making a movie is like running an obstacle course, and the first obstacle in the path of My Last Year With the Nuns was obvious: I was crafting a film out of Seattle performer Matt Smith’s theatrical
monologue — one man talking for an hour and a half. While there are several successful films of someone alone on a stage talking, they’re mostly stand-up comedy, not long-form storytelling. Moreover, I didn’t want to just document a stage performance; I wanted to find a way to make this experience cinematic.

There were three examples I could think of: Spalding Gray’s Gray’s Anatomy, Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, and Josh Kornbluth’s Haiku Tunnel.

 Director Bret Fetzer brought his one-man monologue from stage to screen.

Director Bret Fetzer brought Matt Smith’s (pictured here) one-man monologue from stage to screen.

Both Sleepwalk With Me and Haiku Tunnel tried to create a kind of hybrid movie, going back and forth between a typical multi-character scenario and the central character talking directly to the camera. But neither one quite gels, largely because in a monologue, a significant event can happen in a single sentence; but when you turn that monologue into a multi-character narrative, that event has to be a scene that can’t match the wit and concision of that sentence. The strongest elements of both movies were when Birbiglia and Kornbluth turned to the camera and talked. This convinced me it was crucial to stick to that.

Gray’s Anatomy is a more interesting case. Like Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box, Gray’s Anatomy stuck to Gray’s monologue, but director Steven Soderbergh took Gray off the stage into a variety of odd settings—the one I remember most has Gray in a chair on some kind of conveyor belt, moving slowly across the screen. The result is visually intriguing, but doesn’t do much to support Gray’s voice; in fact, I’d argue the visuals work against the rhythm of the storytelling—and in storytelling, rhythm is crucial.IMG_7423

So I wanted to make the camera as nimble and fluid as Matt’s words. Matt talks about kids he grew up with, and the nuns and priests who made their lives difficult, but his stories are just as much about places: The shack where the newspaper boys played and fought, the church where Matt was a negligent altar boy, the ravine where secrets were kept and runaways hid, the classroom where a spelling bee became a tool of punishment. So I decided to make these places as significant as other actors would be.

Almost every time Matt’s stories shift to a new location, so does the movie—sometimes multiple times within each episode. These locations not only frame the stories (or perhaps “ground them” would be a better way to put it), but the shift from setting to setting gives the movie a visual rhythm that’s in sync with Matt’s verbal rhythms. I hoped the effect would be lively, playful, and perhaps give the audience the sense that they were entering into Matt’s memories as he told these stories. The reviews of My Last Year With the Nuns suggest that I succeeded in leaving the stage behind.

My Last Year With the Nuns is currently available via Vimeo-On-Demand at www.mylastyearwiththenuns.com.

Bret Fetzer has been writing screenplays, plays, and short stories for over 30 years. His plays have been produced around the U.S., as well as a production in Chile. His short stories have been published in a variety of literary magazines and collected in Petals & Thorns and Tooth & Tongue. He’s written film reviews for Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, and Amazon.com. He has been the Artistic Director of Annex Theatre, the theater editor for The Stranger, and a vacuum cleaner salesman for the Kirby Company. He wrote the narration for the documentary Le Petomane: Fin-de-siecle Fartiste. He has previously directed a handful of short films; My Last Year With the Nuns is his feature-film debut.

Eugene Film Fest Celebrates 10 Years

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy introduces The American Gandhi team at EIFF 2015. Photo by Mike/SUSMI Global.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy introduces The American Gandhi team at EIFF 2015. Photo by Mike/SUSMI Global.

By Mike Dilley Executive Director, Eugene International Film Festival

The Eugene International Film Festival celebrated its 10th season with the world premiere screening of The American Gandhi, starring James Patrick Stuart (All My Children, Still Standing, Monsters vs. Angels). The EIFF has celebrated filmmaking with awards, receptions, workshops and networking with celebrity mentors throughout its first decade.

Hosting the red carpet gala, premiere and VIPs associated with the making of The American Gandhi was a fitting tribute to the pluck it takes to bring a story to the screen. Producer Hari Ghadia was presented with the festival trophy for Best Film in the 2015 Eugene International Film Festival. The film was also awarded at the EIFF with the Best Cinematography award for its locations and sets used in filming. “I would like to thank the jury of EIFF for this award. We hope to start a global conversation about illegal mining with this inspirational story,” said Ghadia, while accepting the award.

Guests from as far away as McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and Melbourne, Australia, have joined with others from across North America and Europe to enjoy the camaraderie of the festival, wineries, brewpubs, river paths, bicycling, and easily accessible locations such as the Oregon Coast.

James Patrick Stuart starred in The American Gandhi, and attended the festival in Eugene. Image courtesy of SUSMI Global.

James Patrick Stuart starred in The American Gandhi, and attended the festival in Eugene. Image courtesy of SUSMI Global.

It is no stretch of the imagination that the screenplay for The American Gandhi originated in Eugene, a region that many in world arts call home. There is something about the quality of life that makes people creative.

Director and co-writer Joseph Mungra is no exception. He has created a number of independent films, shooting within the region, in Hollywood, Greece and now India. Joining him in creating The American Gandhi were area residents Kale Dawes (co-author and sound design) and casting director Linda Burden-Williams.

In The American Gandhi, Mark Martin (James Patrick Stuart), an experienced mining analyst, is hired by his billionaire friend Brad Harrison (Jim Storm, The Bold and the Beautiful) to manage and upgrade rare earth metal mines in India. Confident, but naive, Mark finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. Does he cater to rampant police corruption and blatant disregard for the law, or follow his conscience? No matter the choice, he will pay a price.

Northwest Film Forum Enters New Leadership Era

Line Sandsmark and Courtney Sheehan. Photo by Julio Ramirez

Line Sandsmark and Courtney Sheehan. Photo by Julio Ramirez

By Mary Erickson Associate Editor

Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum has entered a new phase of executive leadership, joining two positions of artistic director and managing director into a co-leadership structure. Courtney Sheehan will serve as artistic director, and Line Sandsmark will assume the managing director position; they have been serving in these positions in an interim capacity since July 2015. Both will jointly report to the Board of Directors.

For a smaller-sized organization like the NWFF, this structure makes sense. A single executive director position often gets overwhelmed with the different hats they’re expected to wear, and there’s a need for a large team in order to delegate duties. In the NWFF’s case, according to Sandsmark, the support structure isn’t big enough to adequately support an executive director. Having two positions jointly cover the leadership role is more efficient and, as Sandsmark notes, “improves cross-departmental collaboration” within the organization. “We feel this is a natural evolution to serve in these positions,” says Sheehan. “This allows us to be nimble, flexible and adaptable.”NWFF_5 (2)

The NWFF aims to broaden its involvement and resources for its community, both geographically in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and for the wider cinema-going audience. “We are continuing to look for ways to bring people together around film,” says Sheehan. In addition to regular film programming, the NWFF is also focusing more on larger scale live events and community conversations. It is also emphasizing accessibility to a broader audience, through the films themselves, through filmmaking tools, and through film education. “We are exploring how film can serve the community,” notes Sheehan. For example, for 10 days in January 2016, the NWFF hosted its annual Children’s Film Festival, screening films from all over the world. Part of the NWFF’s improved access and outreach involved bringing this festival to the Carco Theatre in Renton, Washington.

The NWFF is also providing opportunities to the community in the form of two production projects. Citizen Minutes is a community video initiative that presents conversations via short video. These shorts are presented both online and as weekly newsreels prior to screenings at the NWFF’s cinemas. The second project is Cue Northwest, a partnership with a local record label Brick Lane. The project will provide a $5,000 budget for a filmmaker in residence to produce a film inspired by an EP record. The inaugural round will screen the film at the NWFF’s Local Sightings Film Festival in the fall of 2016.NWFF Marquee_Image courtesy of NWFF

While the programming vision moves forward, so too does the vision for the facility itself. The NWFF has been at its current location in Capitol Hill for 11 years, and the space is in need of some updating to accommodate its current and future constituency. The NWFF has recently been awarded funding from 4Culture, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, along with other funders, to enable renovation of the lobby and building façade. “We’ll be expanding the lobby to accommodate more activity,” says Sandsmark, “and we’ll be able to replace the temporary marquee that was installed in 2004.”NWFFlobby (2)

As the NWFF moves into its 21st year, the organization continually finds ways to thrive and make itself relevant. “We’re highlighting the idea of community and collective experience through film, education and artistic support,” says Sandsmark. She acknowledges that the road is tough for arts organizations, but she sees rejuvenated support from the community. Theater admissions were up 10 percent in 2015, and membership numbers hover around 1,000 members. The community-oriented focus of the NWFF echoes throughout its programming, events, education and even its leadership.

Learn more about the Northwest Film Forum at www.nwfilmforum.org.

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