The process of watching the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival submissions was fun and inspiring. I saw tons of shorts with style and substance, in a variety of genres—drama and comedy, crazy true stories in documentaries, and vivid animation. I’m always excited to see films from a specific region to see “what’s happening.” Not from an entire country, but from a specific area, city by city, and even down to neighborhood by neighborhood.
I know that great movies don’t just come from two big cities on either coast, and it’s my job to find new voices from all over, whether it’s someone just starting out or a filmmaker who has been working for years. The whole concept of the NW Fest, to concentrate on the region, is a great idea. You always hear about the hotbeds of Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, BC...but you really hope for great films and art to pop out of Montana or Walla Walla or off a snowcapped mountain too. The Festival shows that’s possible.
Most exciting for me was to see the breadth of experimental and avant-garde work being made in the Northwest, with so many filmmakers trying out new things to marry sound and image. Even if you argue that everything has been done, it’s great to see artists trying hard to make a film in their own way, in their own voice.
Of course, an added part of the treat was getting to hang out in a cool town with damn nice people. It’s impressive to see so many movie theaters showing such great stuff, plus the street art, music, museums, and great old architecture that have been saved—actual culture. Enjoy.
Mike Plante is the senior shorts programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arizona. Prior to Sundance, he served as a film programmer for the Arizona Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, HBO Comedy Arts Festival, and CineVegas. He also makes and distributes his own films and podcasts under his “Cinemad” banner.
The Big Northwest Award (Best of Fest): LAKE BEAST by Vance Reeser
A film that creates its own world with an inventive style and fablesque story—and without telling you what to think.
The Truth Award: CHERYL’S SPIN by Kathy Witkowsky
A documentary that shows how a film can capture a personal voice and let it resonate beyond just the words.
The Why Not Award: DEER FATHER by Alex Brinkman
For having the attitude that if you can make up a unique, weird character and just play it cool, you’ll have a great film.
The Hawkeye Award: CHARADE by Salise Hughes
In a world ruined by internet mash-ups, CHARADE shows that you can still steal famous movies and stars, think about them deeply, and make a new art film that’s interesting and fun.
The DIY of All-Time Award: VANESSA RENWICK
For a career of doing it herself.
PAST FESTIVAL JUDGES
||B. Ruby Rich
|Jo Ann Danzker
||Gus Van Sant