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caption: Props from the film 'Thank you, MS PAM' are scattered across the stage at the Local Sightings film festival.
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Props from the film 'Thank you, MS PAM' are scattered across the stage at the Local Sightings film festival.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Mike Davis

'Local Sightings' brings PNW films back to Seattle

Last Friday, the Northwest Film Forum launched Local Sightings, a film festival dedicated to movies made in and about the Pacific Northwest.

KUOW arts and culture reporter Mike Davis headed to the festival's sold out opening night to learn what's on the minds of local filmmakers.

The Local Sightings Film Festival isn't new to Seattle. In fact, this year it turns 25.

Rana San, art director at the Northwest Film Forum, spoke to the festival's origins.

"It emerged out of a need — just like Northwest Film Forum did — for a space for regional, local filmmakers to be able to come together, share resources, get projects off the ground, get critical feedback on their work, and ultimately to be able to showcase their work as they were creating it," San said.

Opening night featured three short films by local film makers: "Reckless Spirits," "Wheels De Amor," and "Thank you MS PAM."

Usually, when you think Pacific Northwest film production, you’re probably thinking Vancouver, B.C. Even Washington-based shows and movies like "Grey’s Anatomy" or the "Twilight" series are mostly filmed elsewhere. And that’s in part because, until recently, the state didn’t put a lot of funding behind attracting film productions. In other words, we weren’t competitive with other locations.

But that changed recently.

In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that expands the funding and incentives available for filmmaking in Washington.

Of course, the three films featured opening night at Local Sightings are all much smaller productions than, for example, "Fifty Shades of Grey."

So funding of these small productions also looked very different.

Jana Bolotin, the director of "Wheels De Amor," said that it wasn't easy for her to find funding.

"I'm fairly new to producing work in such a way," she said. "So I just don't know what I don't know. I don't know what my access is. I had applied to a few larger grants and was rejected. So I did inevitably find the process a bit more challenging. So we ended up doing a lot of self-funding to produce this."

But Bolotin's experience running into funding roadblocks isn’t universal.

"Surprisingly, I think Seattle, compared to a lot of cities, has a lot of grants available for artists," said Vee Hua, creator of "Reckless Spirits."

Hua received local grant funding, private donations, and got a fellowship with Open Television, an organization based out of Chicago, to fund "Reckless Spirits."

San also noted that the forum provides resources for local filmmakers, everything from grant funding, to workshops, editing software, and equipment rentals. The forum is also, of course, a place to screen films.

Opening night might be over, but Local Sightings is still going. You can join in live or online through Sunday, Sept. 25.

And you can find more information about all the films at nwfilmforum.org.