This post comes from Warren Etheredge, one of several hosts who travel to SXSW to promote the resources Washington State has to offer production, showcase the best of Washington wine and food, and engage content producers and filmmakers in meaningful discussion.
This is the conversation we should be having at SXSW.
I heard this statement paraphrased and repeated frequently over the course of the opening weekend of the film component of Austin’s urban-seam-bursting, genre-busting festival. Filmmakers don’t just want to have fun at SXSW, they want to enjoy meaningful dialogue about their craft and the content of their work, and swap valuable, behind-the-scenes stories to ensure their future success.
This is exactly the opportunity Washington Filmworks (WF) provides by hosting dinners and cocktail parties at festivals and in cities nationwide. In early March, WF returned to Austin for its second annual series of soirees, presented in conjunction with The W Seattle and with the support of filmmaker Ben Andrews and his production company, Evil Slave, LLC. My role, simply, is to corral the best and brightest movie-makers, producers, actors and screenwriters to join us for drinks and/or a multi-course meal paired with spectacular wines courtesy of Chateau Ste Michele. This year, we hosted dozens of sweet and savvy up-and-comers such as Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, the co-directors of Fort Tilden that won the festival’s Grand Jury prize and Paul Colins and Anlo Sepulveda whose mesmerizing doc, Yakona, scored the Audience Award in the Visions category.
Over dinner, I encourage guests to explain the obstacles they face, expand upon the help they need and, in so doing, create an opening for Washington State to establish meaningful connections with rising stars and prove the organization capable of meeting the majority of filmmakers’ needs. This is a terrific place to shoot and WF Executive Director Amy Lillard always positions the state and its incentives in a compelling, competitive frame, motivating producers like Andrew Corkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene; We Are What We Are) and Giles Andrew (Hits; Sequoia) to consider the Evergreen State seriously. Many productions have come to the Northwest thanks to Amy’s tireless smile and efforts. Of course, these events also create opportunities for everyone. For example: Jonathan Matthews was introduced to Courtney Sheehan, the Northwest Film Forum’s Programming Director. Consequently, she, saw his documentary Surviving Cliffside and has added the movie I describe as Winter’s Bone meets Honey Boo Boo to NWFF’s Fall calendar. Producer/filmmaker Kiara C. Jones confronted Redbox about their failure to support independent film and has gotten the video vendor to consider slotting festival-winning films in their lucrative kiosks. Mark Ghazal, founder of The Venture Studio, connected with Anitha Vadavatha, sales strategist for Ondi Timoner’s A Total Disruption channel, to examine how to create greater access for indie filmmakers to the tools and gatekeepers needed to make their films financially viable. Other guests included:
- Filmmakers Hugh Sullivan (The Infinite Man), Joshua Seftel (The Home Team), Anja Marquardt (She’s Lost Control), John Jeffcoat (Big in Japan) and Amy York Rubin (Little Horribles)
- Producers Julian Cautherley (The Crash Reel), Victor Moyers (Break Point), Dax Phelan (The Canyons) and Kelly Parker (Game Girls)
- Kate Becker Director of the Seattle Office of Film + Music, and many more.
This year’s dinners at SXSW may be the most successful yet, sating guests with great food, hearty conversations and professional relationships bound to bring more work to Washington and more rewards to the filmmakers themselves. Believe me, these are memorable conversations that pay off for everyone in our region and for all of those talented filmmakers lucky enough to attend.
Warren Etheredge has conducted over 2,500 interviews. He hosts The High Bar, his Emmy®-nominated television series devoted to “raising the bar,” and Reel NW on KCTS. He is the founder of The Warren Report and one of the founding faculty of TheFilmSchool and The Red Badge Project.