Category Archives: Film

Six Northwest Film Festivals Make Top Fifty List

Kudos to six Pacific Northwest film festivals for making the 2014 Moviemaker Magazine list of the “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee”.  The Media Inc staff was delighted to see that the Northwest was heavily represented on this year’s list, which included international entries from Europe and Canada. These are the festivals where filmmakers whose movies are screened get the most bang for their buck when it comes to potential press opportunities, distribution and acquisition and other criteria.

Moviemaker singled out these Northwest Film Festivals as being worthy of this year’s list:

Ashland Independent Film Festival
Ashland, OR – Spring 2015 ashlandfilm.org

BendFilm Festival
Bend, OR – Oct. 9-12, 2014 bendfilm.org

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Missoula, MT Winter/Spring, 2014 bigskyfilmfest.org

National Film Festival For Talented Youth (NFFTY)
Seattle, WA April 24-27, 2014  nffty.org

Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)
Seattle, WA May 15-June 8, 2014  siff.net

Tacoma Film Festival
Tacoma, WA Oct 9-17, 2014  tacomafilmfestival.com

See the complete list of  Moviemaker Magazine’s “50 Film Festivals Worth The Entry Fee” here.

 

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The Wilderness of James: Oregon-shot film premieres at SXSW

Photos by Scott Patrick Green

Director Michael Johnson (right) on the set of The Wilderness of James.

Director Michael Johnson (center) works with his cast on the set of The Wilderness of James.

Taking on the three-headed beast that is South by Southwest can be daunting, especially for first-time feature filmmakers. With the festival’s enormous amount of music, film and interactive talent, it’s easy to get swallowed up and forgotten.

But with The Wilderness of James, Portland native Michael Johnson won the battle handily, earning rave reviews from media outlets like The Hollywood Reporter, as well as filmgoers.

“It was definitely an honor to screen at South by. We had some really good screenings and we got really good feedback from audiences,” says Johnson. “I think everyone feels really good about it.”

­James is indeed writer/director Johnson’s feature film debut. It’s a coming-of-age story about an isolated teenager, James (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is struggling to deal with the loss of his father. His bizarre fascination with death begins to worry his mother (Virginia Madsen), who forces him to see a psychiatrist (Danny DeVito). As tensions mount with his mother at home, James begins to explore the wilderness of an intoxicating city, Portland.

The film started out as a short story penned by Johnson, entitled Charm.

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Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the title role in the film.

“I don’t think I was planning on turning it into a feature script,” he says. “I started with a short story about James and then became fascinated with him—why he behaved the way he did. I wanted to flesh it out further, and it became the screenplay.”

After finishing the script in 2011, Johnson handed it off to his friend Glenn Howerton, an actor best known for his role as the narcissistic “Dennis” on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

“Glenn read it and really responded to it,” explains Johnson. “It was something very different for him and he wanted to be a part of it.”

Howerton became an executive producer on James, and he and Johnson immediately got to work putting the film together.

“The first thing we did was get the lead, Kodi, before any production company was involved,” says Johnson. “That was the most important thing to us.”

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Director Michael Johnson and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Johnson describes Smit-McPhee’s audition: “Kodi grasped and latched onto the material like I couldn’t believe. We were all so impressed by his thoughtfulness and perspective at such a young age. After meeting Kodi it was done; nobody else could play James. Kodi was the first onboard, a major help in giving the project credibility and a life.”

The next step was to shop the script out to production companies. They received an immediate response from several companies, including eventual partner Super Crispy. For the next five months, Johnson, Howerton, and Super Crispy producers Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling worked and reworked the script, “making it as good as it could possibly be,” says Johnson.

James was shot over 22 days in Portland, where Johnson grew up (he now splits his time between Portland and Los Angeles). Although he had never shot a feature here before, Johnson had done music videos and a lot of commercial production when he worked at Portland-based company Kamp Grizzly, so he knew who to call to get the job done.

“It’s a really small production community here in Portland; we all know each other,” explains Johnson. “I was able to get hooked up with the right people fairly quickly and get on track. I talked to a lot of people who have made great movies in Portland, who have helped pave the road for how to get something done here.”

Director Michael Johnson (right) on the set of The Wilderness of James.

Director Michael Johnson (center).

The city itself plays a major role in the film, as James explores the eccentricities and wilderness of his surroundings.

“Portland is such an integral part of the story,” says Johnson. “We had to shoot it here.”

It also helped that the production was able to utilize the Indigenous Oregon Production Investment Fund (iOPIF), an incentive program that provides rebates of 20 percent of goods and services and 10 percent of Oregon labor.

“Vince (Porter) at the film office was extremely helpful from the beginning,” says Johnson. “He really walked me through the steps to apply for iOPIF. He was great—nothing but helpful.”

Johnson also credits his Portland-based crew—some of whom he’d worked with before and some of whom he hadn’t—with making the entire experience a success.

“They are all people that I’d work with on future features,” he says. “Independent films are tough because people aren’t getting paid a ton, not like commercial work. But people really get behind the project; they really rally behind it.”

All those crewmembers rallying around James were certainly cheering the film on at South by Southwest in March, and are, like most of us, eager to see what’s next for hometown hero Michael Johnson.

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Media Inc. Announces Film Production Focus, Adds Editors

Longtime Pacific Northwest publication Media Inc. has announced it will re-focus its content and increase its editorial resources to provide exclusive coverage of the region’s film and video production industry. Media Inc. has been an industry leader for thirty years, covering the Pacific Northwest creative, film production, marketing and advertising industries.  The re-formatted magazine and digital edition will now provide dedicated coverage solely to the region’s film and video production industry.

As part of the magazine’s new focus, the editorial staff has grown, with the addition of Seattle-based Executive Editor George Riddell and Portland-based Associate Editor Susan Haley.

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Their combined film, video and television experience spans over three decades. They join the existing Media Inc. staff to develop stories and oversee coverage of the Pacific Northwest film and video production industry. “This region is home to a vibrant filmmaking scene comprised of thousands of film professionals and businesses,” Riddell said. “Media Inc. is now their magazine. We’re going to be developing content and resources that are important to what they do.”

Haley’s specific responsibility for covering the Oregon film industry is a significant change for Media Inc. “The film and production community in Oregon has been growing for several years,” she said. “With multiple TV series and feature films in production each year, it’s an exciting place to be.”

SIFF Seattle International Film Festival

SIFF Turns 40

Four decades of memories at Seattle International Film FestivalSIFF Seattle International Film Festival

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Seattle International Film Festival. Recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America, SIFF is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States reaching more than 150,000 annually. The 25-day festival is renowned for its wide-ranging and eclectic programming, presenting over 250 features and 150 short films from over 70 countries each year.

Forty years of films means forty years’ worth of memories, from film screenings and discussions to parties and awards. Here are some highlights:

1976 – Founded by Dan Ireland and Darryl MacDonald, the first annual festival kicks off at the Moore Egyptian Theater, which was an independent cinema at the time and now functions as a live concert venue under the name the Moore Theatre. The festival, which lasts two weeks, features films from Germany, Italy, France, Egypt, Switzerland and the U.S., among other countries.siff_alien

1978 – In its third year, the growing festival features a director tribute/retrospective, honoring Stanley Kramer (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), who had recently moved to Seattle.

1979 – Ridley Scott’s Alien holds its world premiere screening at SIFF. Other selections include George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and the Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock.

1980 – For the first time, SIFF begins hosting post-screening discussions with filmmakers. One of the biggest film screenings of the event is the world premiere of George Lucas’ The Empire Strikes Back.

1985 – After losing their lease at the Moore Theatre, Ireland and MacDonald found the Egyptian Theatre in a former Masonic Temple on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. New festival features include midnight screenings, retrospectives, all-night movie marathons and short film competitions. The Egyptian remains a prime festival venue to this day.siff_Braveheart_imp

1985 – SIFF announces the first-ever Golden Space Needle award, which is voted on by the audience and presented to the event’s most popular film. The inaugural award goes to Brazilian-American drama Kiss of the Spider Woman.

1988 – This is SIFF’s 13th year in existence, but the festival’s directors are a bit superstitious, so they call it the 14th annual event instead. (If you did the math, you would have noticed that 2014 is only 39 years!)

1995 – Mel Gibson’s Braveheart makes its world premiere screening. Also, SIFF is the first festival to broadcast an entire film (Party Girl, featuring Parker Posey) over the Internet.

1996 – British film Trainspotting, starring Ewan McGregor, holds its U.S. premiere, and wins the Golden Space Needle award for best film. Director Danny Boyle wins Best Director.siff_Lastdaysposter

1998 – Based on a short story by Seattle’s Sherman Alexie, Smoke Signals is screened as SIFF’s gala film. The all-Native American production, directed and co-produced by Chris Eyre, is also honored at Sundance this year.

2004 – Although Donnie Darko had a limited theater release in 2001, a director’s cut of the cult classic is released back into theaters in 2004, following the wildly successful sales of the DVD. SIFF is the first venue to screen the new version of the film.

2005 – The North American premiere of Gus Van Sant’s Last Days closes out the film festival. The controversial film is a fictionalized account of the last days of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.siff_Eden_Poster

2008 – This year’s opening night film is Battle in Seattle, based on the WTO riots of 1999. The film marks Stuart Townsend’s directing debut.

2012 – Seattle dominates this year’s festival, as both SIFF’s opening night and closing night films (Your Sister’s Sister and Grassroots, respectively) are local productions. Megan Griffiths’ film Eden also screens this year, and the film’s star, Jamie Chung, wins Best Actress.

2014 – What’s in store this year? You’ll have to wait until May 1, when SIFF announces its slate of films, events, parties, and more.

Information courtesy of SIFF (www.siff.net) and HistoryLink (www.historylink.org).

Two Oregon-Shot Films Hitting Theaters

Shot in the spring of 2009 in Eugene and Lane County, Something Wicked is finally being released in theaters. The film was delayed for years because of the death of lead actress Brittany Murphy.

The psychological thriller, directed by Darin Scott, arrived in Eugene theaters last Friday and is scheduled to hit theaters across the Northwest later this spring. For showtimes, click here.

Meanwhile, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves, filmed exclusively in Southern Oregon, is set to hit theaters on May 30.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard, the film is about three environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam. Night Moves world premiered at Venice, was honored in 2013 with the Deauville American Film Festival’s Grand Prize and also played at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013.

Check out the trailer below.