Seattle Film Summit–Film Makers Unite!

I attended an interesting meeting Saturday. It was a collection of Seattle film intelligentsia, and even included Sam Kelly, the outreach manager for NFFTY, and Duncan MacFarlane, an entertainment lawyer from out of town. Frankly, I’m surprised I was included.

It’s kind of like a Justice League for Washington film.They have the singular goal of creating a unified film culture and industry in the Pacific Northwest, Washington State in particular. I’ll mention a couple of local heroes that were on hand: Chris Swenson from the Office Of Film+Music, Duncan Kaspar from SIFF, Adam Sekular from the NW Film Forum, and of course, Ben Andrews, the upstart networking wunderkind whose vision started the whole ball rolling. I like to think of myself as one of the Wonder Twins: Form of a bucket of water! Or at the very least, their pet super monkey, Gleek. After all, it is my job to stir things up and say things in public these good folks are thinking, but are careful to say only in private.

What they say in private is interesting, and affects all of us, or will shortly affect all of us, whether we are a film maker, talent or crew.

Why are these people trying to connect film people of every stripe? How do they plan on doing so? How can you be a part of it? First things first, The Why:

Silos.  Chris Swenson pointed out that Seattle film culture is heavily siloed, or divided into insular groups. (He doesn’t like the word clique’.) The culture is divided up in to two main silos: the commercial industry and the narrative industry. But those two groups are fractured even further into people who make commercials, advertisers, independent film makers, documentarians, professional narrative film makers, student film makers, etc. Even film support groups like SIFF, and the Seattle Film Office have little in the way of coordination of efforts. Often efforts are duplicated, or put off for fear of stepping on toes. Even the various film forums like SAF and Productions Peeps overlap users to some degree yet have little or no coordination or consensus. What can be done to bring all of these disparate groups together to benefit all film makers in our state?

Seattle Film Summit. Initially proposed by Ben Andrews (due to an idea given to him by Elizabeth Heile), the Seattle Film Summit is going to be a BarCamp style conference in the vein of Portland’s NW Film Center BarCamps. A BarCamp is a user-generated conference style that was popularized in the software community and has been adapted to the film community by NW Film Center, to great success I might add. Initially only narrative, and particularly indie film makers were going to be marketed to for the Seattle Film Summit, but as the discussion developed it became clear that the goal of the summit should be to include people from every silo, even the commercial industry. As Krk Nordenstrom, a film maker a great deal of commercial experience pointed out, “People who work commercial usually get tired of the grind after a while and want to do something creative.”  And, as I pointed out, creative types, particularly indies, always want to know how to make money at film making. I can see a great deal of benefit to getting the two silos together in a conference.

NFFTY. A good example of merging silos in a conference setting is NFFTY. Sam Kelly emphasized that although NFFTY is a film festival for youth, all film makers are invited to attend, connect, network, and share their expertise with one another. NFFTY runs from April 26-29 in Seattle, and the film expo is April 27 and 28 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, from 11 am to 5 pm. To find out more, visit the NFFTY webite: www.nffty.org/expo.

Attractive People. A BarCamp draws from our own pool of experts to help lead the discussions and break out groups. Who should these people be? Who would be viewed by our community as an ‘attractive’ or ‘high value’ personalities? A lot of local luminaries had their names bandied about, you might be one of them.

Justice League. The meeting wound down with the decision by the group to form a steering committee for the Seattle Film Summit, schedule the next meeting of the steering committee, and reach out to other leaders within the film community to be on said committee. Remember that whole Justice League idea? If we got all of the leaders from the film community in one room working toward the goal of uniting film makers, I think that’s exactly what it could turn into. And that’s a good thing.

The first Seattle Film Summit is tentatively scheduled for summer of 2012. The website is being built as we speak. You can stay tuned here for further updates, or go to the summit organizer’s website, evil-slave.com to check for news and developments. Evil Slave has a forum that has just been set up for the summit where anyone is welcome to post comments or questions.  You can also contact the Seattle Film Summit at: sfs@evil-slave.com.

Film Makers Unite! (Gleek! Gleek!)


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