More About Christy Karras

Colin Trevorrow, director of “Safety Not Guaranteed”, gives props to his Seattle crew.


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YouTube DirektColin Trevorrow, director of "Safety Not Guaranteed", gives props to his Seattle crew.

January 23, 2012   No Comments

It’s that time of year…

…when I get back to posting on the blog. Really, one of my resolutions is to be better. I always have so much more to talk about than fits in my published stories.

It’s time for Sundance and Outdoor Retailers, two of my favorite events. I went and said hello to some of my outdoor industry peeps yesterday. Planning to write more about the cool stuff I saw in upcoming blog posts…

But you all want to know about Sundance. Mom dropped me off at my conveniently located condo last night (she’s a champ!), and I’ve been taking care of some business this morning.

As usual, I’m writing for the Seattle Times. Here’s a link to my preview story for them, which ran in last Sunday’s paper.

Seattle’s been in the throes of “Snowmageddon” this week – which I flew out early to avoid. Those who tried to leave yesterday were not so lucky. But when their flight didn’t happen, intrepid Seattle filmmakers do what they do best: They made do, renting a big van and driving all the way to Park City just in time for the Q&A for “Your Sister’s Sister” this morning. Kudos!

I’ll be seeing “Your Sister’s Sister” tonight.

I’m planning to add something here daily during the festival (and regularly, I promise, after that).

See you in the snow!

Sundance started early, on Thursday, with a visit to Outdoor Retailer. One of the hat makers at OR (Deluxe Knitwits) made this one-of-a-kind hat, which they wouldn't sell to me.

January 20, 2012   No Comments

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

Hear this woman

(Thee Emergency performing at Chop Suey in a shot from "$5 Cover." MTV photo.)

I went last night to a special screening of “$5 Cover: Seattle,” the MTV project I covered extensively during Sundance. This was the first time we all got to see Lynn Shelton’s 12 short narratives in a row, which is definitely the way to see them. Though each tells its own mini-story, with Seattle’s independent musicians as characters, they all weave together, and sometimes a story that arises in one is resolved in another down the line.

The shorts were great, as were John Jeffcoat’s mini-documentaries about the bands and the even wider-ranging “B-side” docs produced by Sue Corcorane. But the striking thing about the whole event was the over-the-top talent on display. If you’re not checking out the independent music scene in Seattle, well, then, you’re missing out on one of the best things about living here.

I also found it interesting that while Seattle’s all-male bands get a lot of publicity, and rightfully so, the women are just as worthy of note, if not more so. Among the standouts in “$5 Cover: Seattle” (which will hit the network’s website in June): the two-woman powerhouse Thee Satisfaction, garage-pop Tea Cozies, Thee Emergency, whose lead vocalist, Zana “Dita Vox” Geddes, proves she has screen presence and acting chops as well as a voice to die for. Thee Emergency is the last band you hear in this preview for the series:

Click here to see the trailer for “$5 Cover: Seattle.”

March 2, 2010   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

Bloody well done

"Tucker & Dale" Q&A with director Eli Craig. Photo by Brandon Joseph Baker for Sundance

If you love campy horror that gives uppity teenagers their due, or hillbillies, or movies that simultaneously take the piss out of and show a lot of respect for classics in their genre – or if you just want a crazy bloody hilarious good time, then “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is the Sundance movie for you.

It was for me. After many hours over the last couple days dealing with email, Web, photo, AND phone malfunctions (why do all these blow up at the same time – and of course right when lots of people are trying to reach me…or at least I think they are, but how do I know, when they can’t?), I was ready for some blood.

Every year, the festival’s Midnight series gives us some doozy genre movies that make up with enthusiasm what they lack in budget, and this is a classic example. “Tucker & Dale” concerns a couple humble hillbillies who get on the wrong side of some snooty college kids when they both head for the deep, dark, possibly killer-infested woods. Although it supposedly takes place in West Virginia (of course), it was filmed in Canada (of course).

The leads are sympathetic and funny and never cheesy. The movie features a few great lines (“I should have known that when a guy like me talked to a girl like you, somebody would end up dead”) and scenes that had everyone laughing out loud even as they cringed.

Another nice touch: Writer/Director Eli Craig‘s entertaining Q&A after the film, which was also both sweet and hysterical. Craig said the reason his movie ended up low on the nudity scale was that none of his Alberta-based cast was willing to take her shirt off. A local stripper volunteered to be a stand-in for one of the actresses, but when she appeared on the set, “She was about 40 years old and extremely rugged-looking,” Craig said. So the shot ended up being filmed from a distance – a great distance.

Turning more thoughtful, Craig mused on his film’s underlying themes of “our classist society” and marveled on getting into Sundance: “I can’t believe the things people always told me would pay off – hard work, believing in yourself, never giving up – all paid off.”

Tucker & Dale movie

(A scene from "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil." Photo by Dan Powers)

January 28, 2010   1 Comment

Me on the radio…

Listen to me on RadioWest here (I’m the first 20 minutes or so):

Radio west

January 26, 2010   1 Comment

Sean v. Joan Rivers – it’s a tie

More of Sean’s awesomeness…

January 26, 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