Category Archives: Film

‘The Maury Island Incident’ to Screen at SIFF

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) will host one of the first screenings of Washington-produced film The Maury Island Incident on Sunday, May 25. Additionally, the film will screen as an opening night selection when it world premieres at the Big Island Film Festival (BIFF) in Kona, Hawaii, on Thursday, May 22.maury

You may remember reading about The Maury Island Incident in Media Inc. and Washington Film Magazine. The 30-minute short film that tells the forgotten, tragic story – taken directly from declassified FBI documents – of Harold Dahl’s June 21, 1947, UFO sighting near Maury Island, and the first reported ‘Man In Black’ encounter that happened to him the next day.

The film – which was shot in Burien, Des Moines, Tukwila and off the shores of Maury Island during the summer of 2013 – was awarded the competitive Washington Filmworks Innovation Lab funding during production.

SIFF is recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America, and is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States.

“We are absolutely delighted to be invited to premiere at SIFF,” said director and producer Scott Schaefer. “The film has garnered a lot of attention, and we’ve been humbled by the growing community of fans – a great mix of historians, sci-fi fans, civic organizations, UFO and conspiracy buffs, tourism advocates, and folks simply excited about the local connections to the story – that have been waiting to see the film. Where better to share the story and all the secrets, than right here where it all happened 67 years ago.”

Moviemaker Magazine has dubbed the Big Island Film Festival one of “20 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” and “25 Coolest Film Festivals.”

“We’re humbled to be selected for the Opening Night Gala at BIFF,” said screenwriter and producer Steve Edmiston. “We’ll screen outside under the stars, which seems incredibly appropriate for a story about an infamous UFO sighting.”


Seattle International Film Festival:
Part of “Seattle Supersonic Shorts”
Sunday, May 25, 11 a.m. (PDT)
SIFF Uptown Theater
511 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109
Click here for tickets

Big Island Film Festival:
Part of Grand Opening Night
Thursday, May 22, 7:30 p.m. (HAST)
The Shops at Mauna Lani Center Stage
68-1330 Mauna Lani Drive
Waimea, HI 96743
Click here for tickets

View the film’s trailer below:

Washington Film and Series Demand Empties Coffers

Washington Filmworks announced today that the state’s film incentive program has recently approved funding assistance for one episodic TV series and one feature film production. Filmworks also announced that this assistance has essentially exhausted the program’s available funds for such projects for the remainder of 2014. Washington’s film incentive program is capped at $3.5 million per year.

The TV series is “Z-Nation,” slated to begin production in May in Eastern Washington, with episodes scheduled to air starting this fall on Syfy.  The feature film is “Captain Fantastic,” scheduled for production in Seattle this summer.  Both major productions will provide a boost to the Washington film production industry, representing hundreds of cast and crew jobs.  And both are filming in Washington, at least in part due to financial incentives provided through Washington Filmworks, which administers the state’s film incentive program.

However, according to Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington Filmworks, the lack of additional incentive funds in 2014 means other projects that might have considered shooting in Washington this year will choose to work in other states that can provide funding assistance. “There were a number of film projects interested in shooting in Washington,” Lillard says. “But, although they still see Washington as a desirable filming location, they will now shoot in the states that can provide financial assistance.”

Washington’s controversial cap is widely believed to prevent the state’s film industry from being competitive with other states which have larger incentive funds, to entice motion picture and television projects to film in their states. Writer/Director Douglas Horn believes the current situation illustrates the problem well. “Perhaps it was necessary to reach this point where Filmworks has to turn away all new film productions until 2015 so that it is clear to everyone how our capacity and the economic opportunities for the state have outpaced the incentive cap,” Horn said.  Filmworks has done a good job in the past of doling out projects throughout the year, but there’s no longer any way to hide how far the economic potential for film in the state has exceeded the current incentive.”

Washington Filmworks also allocates a portion of the state’s incentive funds to support commercial production projects and in-state film projects by Washington based filmmakers.  These programs also comprise a portion of the state’s $3.5 million cap.



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

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

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

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

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

Tacoma Film Festival
Tacoma, WA Oct 9-17, 2014

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


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.


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.”


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.

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.

Riddell-Haley copy

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 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 ( and HistoryLink (

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.