Seattle International Film Festival

Old friend (and project regular, it seems) Phil Seneker sends me a message on Twitter saying he’s got an extra ticket to the Opening Night of the Seattle International Film Festival, if I’m going to be in town and feel like going. I’ve got a couple of days until I have to be at the next project, so I figure what the hell.

The plan is to meet him at the event’s Will Call area and the webpage says the event starts at 5:30, so I spend the day editing UP COUNTRY in some Seattle coffee shops. Around 3pm, I give Phil a call, but there’s no answer. 4pm, no answer. I jump on a bus and head downtown to the event (which is more or less next to the Space Needle). I walk by the Red Carpet, where Ty Migota (THE SUMMER HOME) is shooting footage for something, but no Phil. Nor is he at Will Call. His phone rings and rings. No answer. Twenty minutes or so pass. Nothing.


Finally, I figure Phil’s not going to show and go looking for someone who’s working, which isn’t actually that hard. They pass me up the line. I explain who I am and who I write for and, simple as that, I’ve got a General Admission pass and two free drink tickets. Because, really, if I can’t talk my way into a film festival, then there’s really something wrong with me.

I’m inside maybe 5 minutes when I run into Phil, who’s headed out to give me my ticket. Turns out he’s actually working the event.

I figure I might as well help him out, since he’s actually working, which involves very little. Mostly I keep track of his shotgun mic for him and point it at the podium during the introductory speeches.

One pretty interesting thing they’re doing this year is partnering with Starbucks to offer a selection of SIFF shorts over Starbuck’s in-store digital network around the country. Essentially, until the end of the festival (June 12), you can go to any Starbucks. Log into their Wifi and it’ll take you to the digital network (it’s easy. I do it pretty much every day) and you can watch SIFF shorts right there. It’s a pretty fantastic way to get some of the shorts out there to a wider audience and actually provide some additional value for filmmakers.

SIFF’s Opening Night Film is Justin Chadwick’s THE FIRST GRADER. Phil and I duck out as it starts, fully intending to watch at least part of it until we realize that the VIP section is still open and still serving.

The movie ends (oops) and the VIP section fills up with, well, VIPs. I take a bunch of photos and Phil shoots some b-roll. When you walk around a VIP section with a camera, people pose for lots of photos. They figure you’re supposed to be there. And I guess, in a way, I was.

Tom Skerritt & Friends

From what I can tell, it’s not a bad festival they put on at SIFF. It’s not really the sort of thing that seems, from the schedule, to program a lot of indies, but if you’re in Seattle, it’s a nice way to see a lot of world cinema all in one place.

And, hell, I still have my drink tickets.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.