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Make the Most of Your Seattle International Film Festival Experience
Few directors have shown a film at the Seattle International Film Festival as often as Megan Griffiths. She’s the beloved local filmmaker behind critically acclaimed films such as Sadie, The Off Hours, and Eden, and television programs including Room 104. Last year we spoke with her about her feature I’ll Show You Mine and this year we checked back in to learn more about her latest film—and her seventh film to screen at SIFF—Year of the Fox. To hear it from Griffiths, there is no better place to show a film than in theaters right here at home.
“When you have a world-class film festival in your hometown, you want to go back year after year,” Griffiths told me.
Year of the Fox is a coming-of-age story set in the '90s about a teenager named Ivy (Sarah Jeffery) who is about to graduate from high school. Her adoptive parents have separated, with one staying in Aspen and the other going to Seattle, so she periodically travels between the two cities. As time passes and she continues to grow, Ivy begins to realize that the wealthy enclave her father inhabits harbors darker secrets.
The film is a collaboration between Griffiths and another stalwart of Seattle’s film scene, Eliza Flug, who has worked as an executive producer on East of the Mountains, Potato Dreams of America, The Paper Tigers, and Thin Skin, directed by The Stranger's own Charles Mudede.
"We're friends and I had kind of known a little bit about where she's from with her early life, but when I read the script, I was just really pulled in by this world that wasn’t my own,” said Griffiths. “It felt like some part of the '90s that was like nothing I’ve experienced but is something we’ve all heard so much about since then, with these predators that were running through wealthy communities. I was really intrigued by Eliza’s front-row seat to those events and that world.”
Specifically, Griffiths said that the character of Ivy was one that she wanted to explore further.
“As you’re coming of age as a woman in society, in any part of society, there is a lot of power that comes with that and a lot of danger that comes with that. I just think that’s a really interesting age to look at generally.”
The director was also glad to have an opportunity to partially shoot in Seattle.
“Obviously, I love that there is a Seattle connection because I love shooting here. This is a different slice of that world than I think most of us think of because ‘Seattle '90s’ in a Google search is just going to get you a bunch of photos of grunge musicians. That wealthier side of Seattle is different from what I think most people associate with the city.”
When it comes to this project and other features, Griffiths said it is work where she gets to leave more of her stamp compared to when she comes aboard to direct television episodes.
“As a director, I’m just so much more involved from the beginning to the end of a feature than I ever would be in television, unless I was a showrunner. There is a lot of creative ownership that I feel for features.”
Speaking of television, Griffiths also has opinions regarding the ongoing Writers Guild of America writers' strike, where workers are demanding to negotiate a fairer deal for those who have been cut out from profits in the streaming boom.
“I am also a WGA member so I am technically on strike myself,” she said. “I highly support the picketing that’s going on in LA. There is nothing happening here in Seattle, but I’m supporting from afar. There is nothing that would exist without the material that we all work from, which is the scripts, so I’d love to see that be more valued. I hope it gets resolved quickly, but I don’t know that it will because there is a lot of stubbornness when it comes to these negotiations and a lot of money on the line for the corporations on the other side of the negotiations. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but I hope it ends with a bunch more fairly compensated writers in the world.”
As for what film Griffiths herself is looking forward to seeing at the festival, she highlighted many of the other locally produced works that are in the Northwest Connections programming.
“I’ve been focused on the local films. I’m super excited to see Sudeshna’s film Anu. I was cheerleading for that as it made its way through the journey of production. The Northwest shorts are peppered with names that I love. My friend Calvin Reeder has a short there that I wasn’t able to see at South by Southwest called Harbor Island that I’m excited about. Clyde Petersen has a feature, Even Hell Has Its Heroes, which I'm really excited about. Most of what I’ve had a chance to really dive into is what’s happening in the Northwest filmmaker zone.”
With those local films in mind, our conversation turned, as it had a year ago, to the general state of film and television production taking place our the region.
“I’m very optimistic and hopeful about where things are headed because of the increased incentive and because of the development of the film commission, which is new and exciting, and the development of a soundstage, which is something we’ve needed and wanted for a really long time,” Griffiths said. “I probably haven’t been this optimistic about Seattle film for a while and I’m really looking forward to all these things coming together. It’s nice that they’re all happening at the same time and feels like it’s building towards something. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pull in more business, develop more local talent, and become more of the industry hub that I feel like we have the potential to be.”
Year of the Fox makes its world premiere Saturday, May 13, at SIFF Egyptian. Director Megan Griffiths, writer/producer Eliza Flug, producer Lacey Leavitt, actors Balthazar Getty and Sarah Jeffery, plus numerous extended cast and crew members are scheduled to attend. You can also catch it on Sunday, May 14, at SIFF Uptown.