More About Christy Karras

Advice for aspiring filmmakers

I got an email recently from a man in Seattle who’d read a story I wrote in the Seattle Times about the mutually supportive nature of the Seattle film community. He said his son was a budding filmmaker who had already set up a home-grown studio, complete with sound-editing equipment and a green screen, in the family garage. He wondered how he could get in touch with some of these talented and generous filmmakers.

After I wrote my reply, I thought this could be good information to anyone wanting a start in the biz. It applies specifically to Seattle, but some of the general advice would work for any community with even a small film scene:

(Cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke, one of Seattle's most generous and talented filmmakers, shoots a scene from "The Off Hours," directed by the equally talented and generous Megan Griffiths.)

Your son sounds like quite a prodigy! Definitely, most filmmakers get experience by volunteering on sets (and much of the work on these small-budget films is done by volunteers who just want to help out but who also get valuable experience). So he’s on the right track.

The filmmakers I profiled are spending a lot of their time promoting their latest work, taking it around the world through the film-festival circuit, so they aren’t currently filming. They all have some of the same organizations in their backgrounds, though, and I’d look at those places first (those filmmakers are still also closely affiliated with those organizations).

One is the Northwest Film Forum. It offers classes and workshops, but it also does all kinds of other events – screenings, panel discussions – and is always looking for volunteers, who then get discounts on those workshops and such. If he spends even a little time at these events, he’ll eventually run into all the people I’ve written about. Several of them are board members.

Many of the region’s filmmakers went to the Seattle Film Institute, which offers certificate and undergraduate-level courses but which also hosts shorter workshops.

Finally, there’s Washington Film Works, the state office for film promotion. It’s geared toward those already in the business, but it includes resources for those just getting in. There’s even a section on the website with advice on how to do that:

Washington Film Works also keeps track of ongoing productions, both artistic and commercial, in the area.

There’s also a group on Facebook called Seattle Area Filmmakers (under “public figure”) that posts news about events in the film community. My guess is that if your son went there and posted on the wall, indicating that he wanted to volunteer on a set, he’d get some responses.

Many individual filmmakers also have Facebook pages, and although they might be choosy as to whom they brought on as “friends,” they may be willing to answer a message from an enterprising young person.

I hope this helps. Best of luck to your son. It really is a remarkable community here, and those who work in it love what they do.


April 6, 2011   No Comments

Sundance proves Seattle filmmakers are doing fine

Here’s my latest story for the Seattle Times. If you’re reading this because you followed the link from the Times, welcome! Please do let me know (via the form on this page) if you or your organization is doing something I should check out. My aim is to make this a compendium of the things that, on any given day, make life worth living – especially helpful on particularly gray ones.

By the way, in my earlier stories, I discussed the Moondoggies, a local band in MTV’s $5 Cover series. They played at the Seattle film-industry party at Sundance and both impressed onlookers and reminded us of home. Here’s a YouTube shot of the band at the Crocodile:

February 6, 2010   1 Comment

Sundance is a wrap – sigh

Most years, by the time the Sundance Film Festival‘s over, I’m really ready for it to be over. This year, the snow and the work flew fast during the first weekend, while it was hard to tell which movies were really turning audiences on. By the second weekend, though, a few films were standout favorites, and of course I hadn’t seen some of them. And of those, some may never get U.S. theatrical distribution, so this was my last chance.

But it was time to get back to Seattle, leaving me to wonder what I’d missed.

One of these years, I’ll become one of those champion film-watchers, like Sean P. Means at the Salt Lake Tribune. Or Jeremy Mathews, who talks about all things movie on his Same Dame podcast/blog. By the time I saw him at the festival, he’d watched 40 or so movies, which averaged out to 7 a day or so. These guys have butts of steel. Alas, I didn’t bring my donut cushion – and I’m still young enough to care about parties, panels, and other assorted goings-on to sit through that many movies. I’d rather let the iron butts figure out which ones I should see and try to catch those. Avoiding the “dogs” has always been a good strategy for me.

For my take on Sundance overall, as well as the state of the Seattle film community in general (well, as much as I can fit into 500 words), see my story in Sunday’s Seattle Times.

James Rolleston

James Rolleston played the title role in the movie "Boy," a charming New Zealand film you may never have the chance to see after Sundance. (photo by Jill Orschel/Sundance Institute)

February 4, 2010   No Comments

The festival so far


(Director Tony Scott drops his hat and gestures to co-star Kristin Stewart and Melissa Leo of Welcome to the Riley in the press line at the Racquet Club Theatre at the Sundance Film Festival, Park City Utah, January 23, 2010 Live at Sundance/Calvin Knight)

I was a guest on Radio West this morning (Tuesday), discussing my impressions of Sundance. If you missed it, you can catch it again at 7 p.m. on KUER FM90, or you can download the podcast anytime from

I had a lot more material than we had time, so I thought I’d add a few thoughts on how the festival’s gone so far.

Celebrity sightings:

Joseph Gordon Levitt (you may remember him as the kid from the TV show “Third Rock from the Sun”) is doing a couple of projects – the film “Hesher” is getting pretty good reviews. He also did a presentation as part of the festival’s Frontier on Main on his venture called Hit Record, which is a place where people can come together and collaborate on projects and then share the profits. His website is

As he describes it, “In a nutshell: we create and develop art and media collaboratively here on our site; we use my position in the traditional entertainment industry to turn that creativity into money-making productions; and then we share any profits with the contributing artists.” He seemed genuinely nice and won over a lot of people at the festival this year.

Then there’s “The Runaways,” a retelling of Joan Jett’s early years in an all-girl rock band. For celebrity watchers, it was notable because it starred Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. Some others were more impressed that Joan Jett was in town (she was executive producer of the film).

I’m still bummed about The Roots, but Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt were in town for a Sundance concert celebrating music in film, and it was nice to see them in an intimate venue. (Lyle Lovett wrote music for a movie here.) After that, I headed for the Seattle party to hear the Moondoggies, a tight band featured in $5 Cover, the project I’m writing about for the Seattle Times.

And Jimmy Smits is apparently super nice.

As for the overall vibe: It’s John Cooper’s first year as director of the festival. He’s done some new and different things – disagreeing on if it’s good. For one, he re-categorized some movies. There’s the “Next” section, focusing on low-budget films. Some people thought this would backfire and become a sort of ghetto, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Some of the most talked-about movies are in that section.

There’s a visual theme with every festival. This year, it’s kind of got an off-kilter, rough-edged, edgy, grungy feeling. I think that theme is ugly and the whole “Rebel!” thing is a little cheesy, but that’s just my opinion. Obviously, the movies are the most important thing.

A couple movies have been bought by distributors, including “Buried,” which stars Ryan Reynolds as a guy who gets buried alive and has to figure out how to escape. Obviously not a good movie for anyone with claustrophobia.

January 26, 2010   No Comments

Let the madness begin!

Sundance Film Festival logo

It's Time!

I’m launching this blog just in time for the Outdoor Retailer convention and the Sundance Film Festival. For a long time now, the last week in January has been my busiest of the year, and this is gearing up to be a big one.

I’ll be writing stories about Sundance for the Seattle Times, but I’ll be adding a lot here that you won’t see there (including, I hope, some juicy gossip and celebrity encounters). Outdoor Retailer is a trade show for the outdoor recreation industry, which means people like me go there to find out about the latest and greatest in outdoor gear. I’ll pass along what I find out about that, too.

I was at the Salt Lake airport yesterday watching the hordes descend. It struck me that it’s pretty easy to tell which were in town for which event:

Sundance clothing: tight designer jeans, funky hats, ridiculously inappropriate outerwear, orange Puma sneakers or high-heeled boots
OR clothing: nondescript relaxed-fit jeans, baseball caps or wool hats, ridiculously overbuilt outerwear, comfy leather shoes
Sundance luggage: pricey
OR luggage: got free at a previous show
Sundance rude behavior: refusal to get off phone even when talking to customer service person
OR rude behavior: talking loudly and obsessively about snow quality and their last outings
Sundance build: slender bordering on sickly
OR build: athletic
Sundance male/female ratio: about 50/50
OR male/female ratio: about 70/30

Of the two, you would think Sundance would be more fun. It’s busier, with more going on in more places. But the affable crowd at OR will probably be having a better time in Utah.

Stay tuned for more updates…

Linas Phillips (writer/director/actor) in a scene from "Bass Ackwards," a film I'll be following. Photo by: Sean Porter / A Furnace Films Release

Linas Phillips (writer/director/actor) in a scene from "Bass Ackwards," a film I'll be following. Photo by: Sean Porter / A Furnace Films Release

Linas Phillips (writer/director/actor) in a scene from “Bass Ackwards,” a film I’ll be following. Photo by: Sean Porter / A Furnace Films Release

January 21, 2010   No Comments