In a few weeks the Bellingham area will be treated to an exceptional professional development opportunity. The Cascadia Film Workshop launches for two weeks this June on the campus of Western Washington University (WWU) and will provide unique access to career mentorship. After 8 seasons as executive producer-director of the USA network series Psych, Oscar and Emmy nominated director and producer Mel Damski is focusing his efforts on building these inspiring workshops. While not currently offered for credit, Damski has hopes that the program will help pave the path to a full-fledged film school at WWU.
At present, the Cascadia Film Workshop offers two courses – Acting for the Camera is taught by legendary director Lou Antonio whose career spans six decades on stage, camera, and behind the camera, with credits including Cool Hand Luke, Star Trek, Boston Legal, and The West Wing. Damski describes the course as “perfect for stage actors who want to move into film.” All talent will leave the course with a DVD of him-or-herself in a short scene directed by a seasoned Hollywood director. The second course, Introduction to Directing will be taught by Mike Pavone, writer for the hit show Prison Break, and Damski. This intensive course will cover “every aspect of directing from Soup to Nuts, from idea to color timing,” says Damski.
Both program workshops are offered during the evening to welcome WWU students and the greater community. And while Acting for the Camera is designed for actors with some level of experience, Introduction to Directing offers instruction for everyone from beginners to pros.
An important component of the Cascadia Film Workshop will be to illustrate to participants that there is a wide selection of jobs available in the industry, many varieties of filmmaking, and numerous paths to the director’s chair. The film community creates careers through a number of avenues, including commercial, narrative, documentary, theater, gaming, interactive, or corporate work. Damski and his fellow instructors are well equipped to address this reality and to share their years of experience forging their own careers. “It’s not easy to just start out as a director,” he says. But people can successfully navigate their way into the role from other positions. “On Psych, I mentored seven new directors: actors, writers, editors, and an assistant director.”
Programs like the Cascadia Film Workshop are an imperative part of the future of the creative community in Bellingham and greater Washington. “Bellingham has a very high number of artists per capita so it’s a great atmosphere for creative people” says Damski. He’s not alone in seeing opportunities for growth and career development in the region. Entities such as Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism are working to facilitate multimedia and film production in the area, and the Pickford Film Center offers great film programming for local audiences, but is also working to connect community through filmmaker workshops, competitions, education and industry events.
Washington Filmworks is excited by the energy and dedication in Bellingham and the Cascadia Film Workshop promises to be a meaningful career investment for those who can participate.
Interested in learning more? The registration deadline is fast approaching. Learn more at the program website.
About Mel: Mel Damski has directed 29 movies and hundreds of hours of series television, from MASH to Boston Legal. For the last eight years, he has been the producer-director of Psych on USA network. He has been nominated for an Oscar, two Emmy Awards, and earned a Christopher Award for Everybody’s Baby: the Rescue of Jessica McClure.
A graduate of the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film Studies, Mel has taught at AFI, USC and most recently NYU. He is the founder of the Cascadia Film Workshop.