The landscape of a city consists of more than just its buildings and roads. Cultural institutions influence the ebb and flow of the populace, and help to define a city's spirit. Along with its famed music scene, Seattle has had a strong reputation as a film town. This is thanks in part to its strong infrastructure of art-house cinemas, but also thanks to the now-mammoth Seattle International Film Festival.

When he cofounded SIFF more than a quarter-century ago, Darryl Macdonald probably didn't realize the impact the festival would eventually have on the city. For nearly a month every year, cinephiles and average folk alike have the chance to gorge on some of the best foreign and independent films in the world, many of which would never come to the city otherwise.

Darryl has always been the public face of the festival. At the same time, he always knew that the true stars of the fest--more than himself or the visiting celebrities, or even the visiting filmmakers--were the films themselves. It's hard to imagine SIFF without him, but that may just be what we're going to have to do when he reportedly takes his love of movies to Palm Springs to run the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Word has it, taking control of the beast of SIFF will be the lovely Helen Loveridge, who will be moving up from managing director to executive director, while Carl Spence is leaving the San Francisco International Film Festival behind to handle programming duties at both the Palm Springs and Seattle festivals. Because Darryl would be leaving his post on good terms, no doubt he would continue working with SIFF in some way or other for years to come.

With the onset of fall comes the news of another departure from our fair city. Paul Willis, the Printer's Devil Theatre cofounder who jumped into filmmaking big-time with a feature production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, is moving to New York. A recipient of WigglyWorld's Start-to-Finish grant, he's nearly completed the DV feature. Meanwhile, Willis has also been working on a documentary about the Hank Williams tribute band that plays Wednesdays at the Tractor, so we can only hope that he returns to town when he premieres both movies.

In other Start-to-Finish news, Matt Wilkins is closing in on the finish line with his 16mm feature Buffalo Bill's Defunct. From what I hear it's coming together very nicely, and it looks like I'll be able to see a rough-cut screening shortly. Meanwhile, current Start-to-Finish grant recipient Robinson Devor has started filming Cascadia--and not just in 35mm but in 35mm CinemaScope. The movie is loosely based on Charles Mudede's Police Beat column in this very paper, and the footage I've seen shot (I've begun working as the script supervisor on the picture) looks like it will be gorgeous.