Scott Blake: I wanted to make a Western because I hate Westerns.
  • Beth Crook
  • Scott Blake: "I wanted to make a Western because I hate Westerns."


Benjamin Kasulke: Many directors are like most of us--they dont have all the words.
  • Beth Crook
  • Benjamin Kasulke: "Many directors are like most of us—they don't have all the words."

Zach Weintraub: Ive watched a lot of foreign films and gone, How do I know if theyre doing a good job acting?
  • Beth Crook
  • Zach Weintraub: "I've watched a lot of foreign films and gone, How do I know if they're doing a good job acting?"

Lynn Shelton sat in traffic for an hour to be there. Chris Jeffries was spied texting Sarah Rudinoff during the Smirnoff cocktail party. Ellen Forney did not come dressed as wood this week (like last week), although she was there, along with Robin Held and Korby Sears and Matthew Offenbacher and Juniper Shuey and the staff of The Stranger and the staff of the Frye. The museum's curator Scott Lawrimore wore a lemony yellow. Emily Nokes tweeted, "I love going to the Frye because everyone wears such colorful pants."

David Schmader led the conversations with the finalists for the 2013 Genius Award in Film, sponsored this year by Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card.

Finalist Scott Blake went first, and he seemed stunned—just stunned—at how much it costs to make movies. "There are no barriers to filmmaking except money," he said. His 25-minute short Surveyor, distilled to 10 minutes for the showcase, cost $15,000 to make, although he conceded part of the cost was having to pay a fine for not having the right permits to shoot where he shot it, in rural Oregon. As for the content, he said: "I wanted to make a Western because I hate Westerns." He graduated University of Washington with a literature degree. The impetus for Surveyor was the disconnect between the way the West has been documented in historical records and the way it has been portrayed in Westerns.

Cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke, who's worked with so many directors on so many different kinds of films it didn't make sense to show just one, showed a collection of previews instead—for Safety Not Guaranteed (directed by Colin Trevorrow), Keyhole (directed by Guy Maddin), and The Lie (directed by Joshua Leonard). He emphasized his main interest is in collaborating, and that that means something different for each project because every collaboration is a completely different experience, depending in part on how different directors use language to try to convey what they want. "Many directors are like most of us—they don't have all the words," he said. He mentioned Guy Maddin's Keyhole and cracked, "No one on earth knows what that movie is about." When asked about the visual gloriousness of Megan Griffiths' The Off Hours, Kasulke humbly offered that the credit for that should go to Griffiths' production designer Ben Blankenship.

Zach Weintraub showed ten minutes from his 2011 feature The International Sign for Choking (a movie made in Buenos Aires for, impressively, only $9,000). He talked about his practice of taking very long shots and just seeing what works. He lets actors improvise the dialogue and, in some ways, create characters based on themselves. Asked by Schmader what a script of his looks like, he said The International Sign for Choking was a 17-page Microsoft Word document describing what would happen: "It looks a lot like a regular script, but no dialogue." One audience member likened his style to Antonioni's The Passenger. Another asked about Weintraub's switching back and forth between English and Spanish, and his use of subtitles, and Weintraub cracked: "I've watched a lot of foreign films and gone, How do I know if they're doing a good job acting?"

Read more about all three finalists right here. Unless you just want to know who looked the best, which case Nokes has you covered:

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