The Eleventh Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest

By Lightman, Herb A | American Cinematographer, August 1978 | Go to article overview

The Eleventh Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest


Lightman, Herb A, American Cinematographer


Seattle's friendly, dedicated film community outdoes itself in assembling a program of fascinating topics and outstanding speakers to highlight its annual Seminar

On the final evening of the two-day (June 2-3) Eleventh Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest, held in the Playhouse of Seattle Center, I was called to the podium by Moderator Art Coburn to "say a few words", and those words, as I recall, went something like this: "Few things in life get better each year -except, perhaps, for wine and women-but one of them is this Seminar. I have had the pleasure of attending this event for the past six or seven years and each year it has grown progressively more interesting and more important as a forum by and for filmmakers. This year's Seminar, I can say sincerely, is the best yet. Keep up the good work."

And from start to finish it was the best-excellent speakers, most of them experts in their fields, and almost all of them well prepared with film clips, slides and other audio-visual materials to illustrate their talks.

The festivities actually began the night before with the traditional "sunset cruise" that is held every year to give those attending the Seminar the opportunity to socialize informally with the speakers prior to the actual program. A full boatload, serenaded by a live band, cruised Puget Sound to Blake Island State Park where, in the Tillicum Longhouse (an authentic reproduction of a meeting lodge constructed by Northwest Indian tribes), they dined on the succulent barbecued salmon for which Washington State is famous.

Having served as Moderator for the Seminar twice in years past, I was able to simply sit back and enjoy it this year, relishing the reunion with such Seattle friends as Laszlo Pal, Les Davis and Jeannie Reichert. Present, also, were several good friends from Hollywood, including Vilmos Zsigmond, Doug Trumbull, Warren Miller, and Verna Fields.

Space limitations preclude in-depth comment on each and every speaker's presentation (all of which were excellent), but I should like to comment on some of those which I found to be especially interesting or unusual.

"TUTANKHAMUN: MASS EDUCATION AND ENTERTAINMENT"Michael J. DeCourcey spoke about a series of 60-second "documentaries" for television which his company was currently producing. He illustrated his talk by showing several stunning spots recently completed to publicize the "King Tut Treasures" exhibit, which was just concluding a triumphant run in Los Angeles and was about to open in Seattle.

"GOING DIGITAL OR NOT7-PERSONAL VIEWS OF THE WHITNEY FAMILY"-Michael Whitney, who, along with his famous father (John Whitney, Sr.) and brother (John Jr.) specializes in computer-generated images, spoke about some of the latest techniques his family was exploring and illustrated his talk with several spectacular examples of his brother's work-by far the most technically smooth and artistically innovative computer footage this viewer has ever seen.

"YOU WORK ALL YOUR LIFE TO BE A SUCCESS OVERNIGHT'-Worldfamous for his superbly made and highly entertaining ski features filmed for the "lecture" circuit, Warren Miller gave a very down-to-earth summation of his own lengthy career, its agonies and ecstasies, and the amount of dedication, know-how and perseverance it takes to succeed in almost any phase of motion picture production.

"METHODS OF LOOPING AND ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS"James O'Brien, Dialog Looping Director at Universal Studios, explained the process of post-recording to replace original dialog that is not of acceptable quality. At his studio this is done on the same day as the actual filming, in order to avoid the expense of calling actors back later. He illustrated his talk with "before and after" versions of a sequence which had to have all of its original lip-sync dialog replaced.

"VERNA FIELDS-AN UPDATE"Making her second appearance at the Seattle Seminar, Verna Fields, Academy Award-winning editor of "JAWS" (and such other films as "DAISY MILLER", "PAPER MOON", "WHAT'S UP DOC? …

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