Genius Awards 2016
Independent feature films.
20 to 25 projects in the works at the moment.
To find an apartment.
"I feel way more inspired by Seattle [than Los Angeles]," says Mel Eslyn, the independent film producer whose current slate includes five movies in release between now and the end of the year: Uncle Kent 2, The Intervention, Dreamland, Blue Jay, and Rainbow Time. "I feel way more at peace and at home here."
She also has two other projects in production, three in postproduction, six in some form of active development, eight on which she's serving as an adviser/mentor—all told, 20 to 25 works in progress. In addition to her work as head of indie film content for Duplass Brothers Productions, and traveling between her home in Seattle, her office in LA, and the location shoots of her various projects, she's also branching out into writing with an eye toward her ultimate goal of directing her own projects. For a filmmaker, this is a good kind of busy.
It just so happens that on the day we're speaking, Eslyn is busy trying to solve a problem that has beset an increasing number of Seattle artists over the past few years: Figuring out where she's going to live. The apartment she has occupied for the past five years, on the second floor of a wobbly old house near Volunteer Park, was recently sold to—surprise!—a condo developer. She and her partner/frequent collaborator/roommate found out last week that they have until mid-October to vacate, so between cups of coffee and conversation, Eslyn looks around her apartment, trying to mentally calculate which of her belongings to keep and which to purge.
The sudden move complicates Eslyn's larger goal to spend more time in Seattle—shooting films but also just living. The time when artists could find affordable solace in our city, trading the industry access of New York and Los Angeles for the comforts of a less cutthroat form of urbanity, is a memory.
"It's a struggle to stay in Seattle," she says. "But it's home to me. I'm really connected to the people in this community, and I care about it so much. It's made me who I am in so many ways."
She adds, "I think it's really important to maintain a strong indie film community with a presence outside of LA. I want to believe we have that. But I'm nervous about Seattle film right now. A lot of really good people have moved away, or have one foot out the door."
Eslyn clearly doesn't want to be one of them. Several projects and people keep her connected to the local community. SJ Chiro's debut feature, Lane 1974, and Webster Crowell's web series Rocketmen both recently reached the editing milestone of picture lock after several years of work each. Eslyn serves as executive producer on both. And she becomes visibly animated when describing the short documentary (with a virtual-reality component) she's working on with Wes Hurley about Hurley's extraordinary family history that they're trying to complete in time for the final deadline (September 26) to submit to the Sundance Film Festival.
"These projects take more time," she says. "And nobody makes any money on them. But they need to be nurtured. I feel so lucky to be able to do that work. Now I just need to figure out where I'm gonna live."