Bellingham is a vibrant, historic city full of creative, hard-working people, schools, and businesses. We’re surrounded on all sides by gorgeous Pacific Northwest forest, the Puget Sound, and the North Cascades’ Mount Baker. So it’s no wonder that this incredible place is becoming a hub—and draw—for both local and national filmmakers. Below is just a taste of what my friends in the Bellingham/Whatcom County film community are up to these days.
Started first as Bellingham Film Festivals in 2012 by local Avielle Heath, Bellingham Film has become the over-arching organization that connects and fosters the growth of all Bellingham’s film-related community, from professional video production companies to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) filmmakers. The group is run by a team of volunteers, who themselves are also filmmakers on a simple mission to provide networking, education, and development opportunities that will create living-wage film-related jobs for actors, writers, producers, directors, and crew in Whatcom and Skagit County. The group is also encouraging the use of this area as a film location at the indie, national, and international level. Stimulating the local economy with film-related business will hopefully mean talent doesn’t need to move to New York or L.A. to grow their art.
To achieve this goal, Bellingham Film organizes a number of events in collaboration with area theaters and filmmakers. Bellingham Script Studio gives writers the chance to hear their developing projects read aloud by local actors and receive feedback in a pro-writer environment. Mixers held every other month offer networking and education opportunities. Their annual Bellingham Commercial Awards recognizes locally-made commercial film work and 2-Day Flick encourages the boldness of guerrilla-style filmmaking. The group also coordinates with Washington Filmworks to lobby for film incentive legislation in Olympia. Filmmakers from across the Pacific Northwest as well as experienced New York and L.A. transplants attend their events that are open to the public. Each of the other film projects below are connected in some way to Bellingham Film.
Produced by ShivHans Pictures and Electric City Entertainment—also known for the recent indie hit Big Eyes—Captain Fantastic was recently released to theaters. It was filmed at multiple locations throughout Whatcom County and the Pacific Northwest, the subject of this recent article in The Bellingham Herald.
Bellingham actor Elena Stecca was among the many extras needed for this indie film starring Viggo Mortensen as a single father of six trying to raise his children off-the-grid in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Elena has also appeared in full-zombie in episodes of the SyFy Channel’s Z-Nation filmed in Spokane, WA. She is represented by Seattle’s Flannel Background and also works as a book keeper for a local filmmaking company, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. Local Brittany Byrtus also worked on the film as a Production Assistant. She has worked with many companies in the film community including Hand Crank Films after studying filmmaking at Western Washington University. Both Elena and Brittany attended a Q & A at the Pickford Film Center after the Captain Fantastic premiere. The local film community would love to lure more indie films and their makers from across the country into considering Whatcom County as a film location, hopefully hiring more skilled locals to help on their productions.
First inspired by a 2007 serial play by Ben Eisner at Bellingham’s Idiom Theatre, Dark Darkness has become one of Bellingham’s most well-known film projects. Helmed by local Co-Producer and Director Wilson Large, episodes of Season Zero of this adventure-comedy-fantasy web series enjoyable to everyone, but especially the comic-loving gamer, “follows four flawed characters who become reluctant allies when they use their individual powers to establish themselves as ‘Dark Lords’ and combine together to navigate the million shades of gray in the darkness.” Their productions have involved more than 90 area artists as well as the skills of connected L.A. transplants including CSI: NY’s Jesse Collver, set designer Mel Cooper, and the incredibly experienced, Garvin Eddy.
Episodes have been screened and won awards at film festivals in Bellingham, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. including July’s Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival (STIFF). Of course, its called Season Zero for a reason. Large already has big plans for the future of Seasons One and Two that were written long ago. In addition to screening Season Zero in more film festivals in the near future, Large will pursue fundraising and state incentives for his projected $2 million budget as either a continued web series or a full-length feature film. He loves the vibe in Bellingham because “the filmmaking community here is talented, collaborative, and supportive.”
This fall will mark the fifth year for this horror short film festival hosted by the Pickford Film Center each October. Its mission: to provide Northwest filmmakers the opportunity to compete for a $1000 prize and gain critical feedback on their narrative shorts from a panel of judges chosen for their experience in horror, filmmaking, and digital storytelling. Many local filmmakers are currently running around Whatcom County in fake blood and monster attire to capture the footage they’ll need. Bleedingham recently released this season’s first promo video to encourage filmmakers to get their Bleedingham submissions in by October 1.
Based on local historical detectives, performers, and owners of The Bureau of Historical Investigation, Sara Holodnick and Marissa McGrath, the documentary Sin, Gin, Gore, and Lore: The Good Time Girls Film was directed by Dan Hammill who also happens to be a Bellingham City Council Member. Shot over many, many months throughout Bellingham’s historic downtown, the witty, artful film includes some of the darker side of the city’s roots while following its subjects on their bumpy quest to become young female business owners. Local musician Sarah Goodin wrote and performed this song for the film which will be making the national and international festival circuit this fall and winter.
Although several national films have come out recently about our tireless pursuit of a manned mission to Mars, none have approached it with the wacky, unique style of Writer/Director Patrick Timmins’ Tin Can Odyssey. Now rolling out weekly episodes of its second season, Tin Can explores the absurdities living deep within our culture and was shot mostly in a converted studio behind Timmins’ Bellingham home. I had the pleasure of participating in this project almost since its inception both as an Assistant Director and as the Absolute-Zero Space Company’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bernadette. Like many micro-budget Bellingham productions, I also helped with make up, costumes, lighting, and craft services here and there. The project has brought together more than 20 local artists following their dreams, building their skills, and enjoying the friendships that develop while being creative and silly.
Filmmaking-Based Small Businesses
Hand Crank Films, EJ Visuals, Current Media, Varvid, and ThreeSixty Productions are just a few of the successful commercial video production companies based in Bellingham. Their many years of hard work and hours of quality video have paved the way for some newer companies raised in the digital age including Clarito and Kristina Zapanta’s IAj Multimedia, Micah and Jake Knapp’s Knapp Brothers Studios, and Colin Dalvit’s Kinetikos Animation Company. A number of modern, emerging filmmakers have also chosen Bellingham as their home, including Eddie Hayes, whose commercial crabbing documentary footage made its way onto the Discovery Channel, earning more than 2.6 million views on YouTube.
Of course, there are too many incredible local projects and film artists to list them all here. Please comment below to add a mention of the ones we’ve missed and perhaps we can share more about them in the near future. As always, you can follow, like, and share to stay up to date on any of the fascinating Whatcom County film projects above.