The Thirteenth Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest

By Lightman, Herb A | American Cinematographer, August 1980 | Go to article overview

The Thirteenth Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest


Lightman, Herb A, American Cinematographer


In its thirteenth successful year, this friendly forum of film talk in the Northwest has become one of the most vital events of its kind

SEATTLE, Washington

On our way north from Los Angeles we fly directly over magnificent Lake Tahoe, the place I call home, and then nervously skirt Mt. St. Helens, still smoldering from its latest eruption.

The next thing I know we are on the ground and being greeted by a pleasant young lady named Reneé, who has been sent by the Thirteenth Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest to chauffeur us to our hotels.

Checking in at the Edgewater Inn (which boasts "You can fish from your room."), we just have time to unpack and freshen up before being transported to Pier 51, where The Sightseer is waiting to take us through the waterways and locks which skirt this lovely city. The purpose of this cruise is to give those attending the Seminar an opportunity to meet and chat informally with the speakers-and for the next couple of hours that is exactly what happens. Then the good ship ties up at a dock on Lake Union and we disembark to have dinner at a fine restaurant, with dancing to follow. I am totally, and very pleasantly, surprised when, at the close of dinner, a most elaborate cake is brought out in celebration of my birthday. The cake is a masterpiece of the art, decorated with an incredibly faithful caricature of myself poised eyeball-to-eyeball with a most voluptuous lady.

This is the way the good folks of Seattle welcome you aboard to their annual Seminar, which has become one of the most important events of its kind in the country. Organized just over a dozen years ago by a dedicated group of local filmmakers and technicians, it is slanted to provide an exchange of the latest technology and filmmaking methods for those living and working in the several northwestern states of America and the western provinces of Canada. Drawing heavily for its speakers from the top talents of Hollywood, as well as the local communities, it has become a highly prestigious event, one that is eagerly looked forward to each year by the hundreds of serious filmmakers who pack the Playhouse at Seattle Center for two days at the beginning of the summer.

This marks the sixth or seventh Seminar I have attended and my third stint as Moderator. The fact that with my non-stop schedule I keep coming back year after year is evidence of my respect for the event itself and my affection for the city of Seattle and its friendly peopleespecially people like Laszlo Pal, who is the organizer of the Seminar this year, and Les Davis, who has been its main sparkplug since its inception.

When I arrive at the Playhouse on the first morning (Friday) of the Seminar, the patio is crowded with mostly young people munching complimentary continental breakfast. Inside the doors there is an exhibit area devoted to film equipment and here I spot many good friends from Hollywood who have come up to display their latest wares.

The Seminar leads off with Carl Jones, who first shows about a reel of SAVAGE, a stunning (and funny) documentary on the sport (?) of professional wrestling which he has made. It is a superb little gem of filmmaking and Mr. Jones goes on to describe how, after having spent most of his working life in a totally unrelated field, he has only recently, in middle age, turned to filmmaking. He describes better than anyone I've ever heard the agony and ecstasy of being "hooked" on film and trying to satisfy the demands of this jealous mistress, plus the sacrifices he has had to make in terms of family, friends and finances. All I can say is that, judging from the quality of his work, he has certainly chosen the right career.

Next up is Mollie Gregory, who speaks on AGAINST ALL ODDS: FINANCING YOUR SHORT FILM. She is a pleasant but no-nonsense lady who gets right down to cases on the subject of getting the money to finance short films and low-budget features. Her advice is realistic and valuable. …

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