At its annual members meeting last Monday, the Northwest Film Forum announced the latest recipient of its Start-to-Finish grant. Designed to support one lucky local filmmaker per year in the production of a feature film, the grant has previously gone to such filmmakers as Paul Willis (Hedda Gabler), Matt Wilkins (Buffalo Bill's Defunct, which will get a theatrical run at NWFF this October), and Gregg Lachow (Money Buys Happiness). Though NWFF didn't award a grant last year—staffers were busy facilitating the move to their fabulous new Capitol Hill digs—the previous winner Police Beat, which was written by Stranger associate editor Charles Mudede, has been enjoying wild successes on the festival circuit. (Though it's received no distribution deal as of yet, I've been hearing rumblings of a Sundance Channel sale.)

Film Forum publicity director Adam Hart told me just how difficult this year's decision was, and though I won't get into who didn't win, the fact that it was tough bodes well for our fair city. This year's recipient of the Start-to-Finish grant also happens to be the recipient of last year's Stranger Genius Award for filmmaking: David Russo.

I'm lucky to call Mr. Russo a friend of mine, but that's not why I think choosing him was a smart call. A supremely talented and highly acclaimed animator, his short films have played at top international festivals, including two consecutive years at the Sundance Film Festival. He's also landed on Filmmaker Magazine's list of the top 25 faces of independent film. These are also excellent reasons why he was a good choice for the grant, especially given his connection to the programmers at Sundance, which will give him a leg up when it comes time to submit the film—but those aren't really the reasons I believe he was a good choice.

No, the reason I believe David Russo was a great choice for the grant is because I read a draft of his feature film script, called #2, and I fully believe it will make a kick-ass film. Russo's film looks at the art world through the point of view of an everyday guy, a janitor, which happens to be a profession that Russo has firsthand experience with. When you filter in elements of his amazing animation techniques and a story that verges on science fiction, #2 becomes a must-see film that needs to get made.

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Speaking of Northwest Film Forum, they're putting on a benefit for the Red Cross relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Thanks in part to New Yorker Films, NWFF will host a screening of the great Jim Jarmusch film Down By Law, set in New Orleans, and starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, and pre-Oscar Roberto Benigni. It plays September 16 to 18, and every cent of the admission price will go to the Red Cross, including donations above and beyond the ticket price. It's a great way to give to a good cause, while watching one of the best independent films of the 1980s.