This year’s Seattle International Film Festival features a movie set and shot in Seattle by a Seattle filmmaker.
Director Megan Griffiths' film “Lucky Them” kicks off the Renton portion of SIFF Thursday night.
'A Story I Could Tell'
"Lucky Them" is a departure for Griffiths. It's the first movie she's directed that she hasn't co-written as well. But she says she was drawn to the script.
"I really responded to the world of the movie and the characters," Griffiths said. "They all felt really real to me and like people in my life. I just felt like it was a story I could tell."
In the film, a Seattle rock journalist (Toni Collette) is assigned to find a musician who mysteriously disappeared 10 years ago. The musician happens to be her ex-boyfriend. The movie also stars Oliver Platt as Collette's boss and Thomas Haden Church as a documentary filmmaker who accompanies Ellie, Collette's character, on her journey to her past.
Seattle: A City Of Music And Forgiveness
The movie was originally set in New York City, but the producers were looking for a less-expensive option. Griffiths convinced them to make it in and about Seattle.
"It made perfect sense here as a story. It actually felt very Seattle to me," she said. "It's such a music town; it's well-known for that. But also the character of Ellie is sort of an unconventional female character. She's 40 and unsettled ,and not really looking to settle. And I feel like Seattle's a city that's kind of maybe a little more forgiving to that type of character. I know so many people who are like her, myself included."
Griffiths shot much of the movie in the Belltown and Capitol Hill neighborhoods of Seattle. The film includes glimpses of venues like The Crocodile, Comet Tavern and Rob Roy bar, as well as outside locations in Belltown and along East Pike Street between 10th and 11th Avenue. Ellie's apartment is in Fremont.
'Like A Love Letter'
Griffiths has shot films in Seattle before (like "Eden" and "Off Hours"). But "Lucky Them" is the first time she's had one set and shot here. "It was great for me because I've been able to build up this list of places that I've been wanting to shoot and show this city," she said. "I love Seattle so much. It feels like a love letter."
SIFF Is 'Special'
Griffiths is excited for Seattle audiences to see the film at SIFF.
"The festival draws so many people. It's amazing to me that it can run for three and a half weeks," she said. "I think that shows how much the city values that part of its culture. It's just a great audience to show your movie to. And to show them something that is also set here, I think people really love to see themselves reflected on screen and to see their world."
State Incentive Cap For Films Lower Than Others'
Griffiths doesn't think there's a shortage of films that want to shoot here.
"The problem, this year especially, has been that we're hitting a bit of a ceiling in terms of what our incentive can provide for producers who want to come here," she said. "We have a really low cap on our incentive ($3.5 million) compared to a lot of states (Oregon's is around $10 million). And we hit it this year with two projects: a SyFy network series shooting in Spokane and there's a large movie shooting here this summer. But that's all that they can incentivize this year."
'Right Now, We're Turning It Away'
The incentive cap is affecting production, even for filmmakers who call Seattle home.
"I have a project that I am executive producing that was completely planning on coming up and shooting here, and then couldn't come — had to move to Boston," Griffiths said. "And I've heard of at least four or five other films that would've come up here this summer or in the fall that probably won't be able to."
Griffiths hopes the local film community can persuade the Legislature to raise the cap significantly next year.
"Our incentive is completely based on local spend. It's getting more money to be spent in Washington state, on restaurants, hotels, groceries and rental places. It spreads out through so many different parts of the state economy," she said. "It just makes complete sense to me that we would want to attract that business. Right now, we're turning it away."
A big movie star makes an important cameo in the film. Griffiths says it's kind of fun to NOT know who it is, but if you want to find out who it is and what role they play, click here.
"Lucky Them" is showing at SIFF on Thursday, May 22, at the IKEA Performing Arts Center in Renton and Friday, May 23, at the Egyptian Theatre in Seattle. It will also be showing at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle June 13 through June 19.