Filmmakers in action. Photo credit: Craig Downing

Filmmakers in action. Photo credit: Craig Downing

The Northwest Film Forum (NWFF), one of Seattle’s finest cinematheques and film education organizations, is launching a new program. The One-Year Film Comprehensive offers affordable training for learning professionals. The program is designed to cultivate new voices, augment skills, and educate individuals from the fundamentals of filmmaking to making festival-ready work. To explore this innovative program, Washington Filmworks sat down with the NWFF Education Manager Craig Downing to discuss the Comprehensive and how it breeds a new coalition of filmmakers.

“NWFF started twenty years ago with educational resources, so the One-Year Film Comprehensive realigns with that earlier mission,” explains Downing. So, what exactly is the Comprehensive? “It looks at the tools we have and incorporates it into a sequential film curriculum. It’s an adult program, so it’s 18+, but there are no prerequisites and as long as you’re passionate, inspired, and creative, you’ll be considered.”

Downing is determined to make the Comprehensive unique in a market with comparable programs. “What makes the program different is that it’s run by a cinematheque – we have fundraising, distribution, exhibition, film festivals (Local Sightings), and more. We have an opportunity to offer this turn-piece system as a whole,” details Downing. The admissions process is competitive (only 12 students are accepted), but as soon as they’re accepted they have access to everything under NWFF’s roof. “They can attend any kind of classes we have – on anamorphic lenses, how to speak to actors, audio – anything! Plus, if they want to learn how film festival organization works, they can talk to Program Director Courtney Sheehan (the director of Local Sightings); if they want to know more about fundraising, they can meet with Development Director Line Sandsmark. Every resource we have is at their disposal. The idea is to develop independent, full-rounded, complete filmmakers as artists by imparting these skills.” The Comprehensive filmmakers have full transparency with the staff and an unfettered access to everything in the organization. “With these tools, it’s an excellent program for someone who wants to be a fully rounded filmmaker.”

It’s a valuable program for rising filmmakers, but how does it impact NWFF? “It’s very exciting,” explains Downing, “because we get to see the trajectory of a filmmaker coming into the Comprehensive and emerging out afterwards as a complete, confident, and vocal artist. They begin the Comprehensive learning the fundamentals of filmmaking, and end by having the world premiere of their final project at the Local Sightings Film Festival.”

Downing also mentions that the Seattle film community benefits by welcoming new voices. “At the end, we want our team to work with other filmmakers outside of the program in the community so they can integrate themselves in the unique and inspiring film environment here.”

Downing certainly has created a program that will cultivate new artists and further infuse the Washington film industry with energy and enthusiasm. We thank Downing for his time, and you can check out more about the program here. The deadline for applications is May 15.


Craig is the Festival Director and Founder of Couch Fest Films. For the last three years, he was the head of the film production department of Saga Film in Iceland. Craig has been on the shorts jury for SIFF and has been a shorts screener for SXSW. When he’s not writing or screening films for Short of the Week, he’s testing the tensile strength of his immune system while shooting funding videos for NGOs in third-world countries. He is currently working as the Education Manager at Northwest Film Forum.