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Tomorrow’s filmmakers, today

NFFTY

When the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) rolls out the red carpet later this week, the next Spielberg or Ephron might be among the 200+ filmmakers whose works will be screened during the four-day festival.

They just might not be able to drive themselves to the screening, and many won’t be able to network over post-festival beers.

NFFTY, entering its seventh year, spotlights 215 films from around the world – all made by directors 22 and younger. Filmmakers come from as far as Denmark and South Africa, but at least two UW students will showcase their work this week: Andrew Mitrack will screen his film “One Way Single,” and Alexis Lee will show “The Face of Facebook.”

The main attraction is the sheer volume of screenings: Films, grouped by genre, will be shown throughout the weekend at SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, with many of the NFFTY filmmakers taking part in question-and-answer sessions and panel discussions on a variety of film-related topics. “These youth are definitely on the fast track,” said NFFTY Managing Director Lindsey LeDuc, ’04.

“Kid” isn’t always a misnomer, either. Children as young as 8 have created films for the festival, where the average film is about eight minutes long.

But teens and college students also take part. Many college filmmakers submit their thesis or class projects for consideration, LeDuc said.

One of those students was filmmaker Champ Ensminger, ’12. In 2011, he submitted “Tonal,” a six-minute film he’d shot for a filmmaking class. The film followed a young man’s addiction and relationship with sounds. Ensminger, who now lives in Brooklyn, won the Audience Award for Experimental Cinema for the film.

But, for Ensminger and so many filmmakers, the real fun begins after the credits roll. “NFFTY was a good showcase of the work you’ve been doing, but that’s where it starts,” he said. “It has to be a springboard for doing more work.”

And that connection is what’s fueled NFFTY’s growth over the years. The screenings themselves are just part of what NFFTY does; student filmmakers talk shop, draw up plans to collaborate, and see what their peers are doing, creating a unique atmosphere of creativity and inspiration that lives on long after the festival finishes each year. “By attending, you get to see the voice of this generation,” LeDuc said. “It’s really powerful to have these young artists from all over the world come together to show what inspires them.”

If You Go

What: National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY), showcasing more than 200 films by directors 22 and younger from around the world

Where: Opening Night Gala: Seattle Cinerama, 2110 4th Ave., Seattle, Wash.; All other events: SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle, Wash.

When: April 25-28; visit nffty.org for a complete schedule of events.

Cost: Opening Night Gala: $35, $25 for youth, $20 per person in groups of 10 or more; All other events: $11, $10 for youth, $9 per person in groups of 10 or more.

More info: Call 206-905-8400 or visit nffty.org.

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Q&A: Patrick Lennon, ’09, local star of “Santaland Diaries”

Patrick Lennon

UW alum Patrick Lennon, ’09 (Photo courtesy Susan Doupe)

For many, David Sedaris’ madcap “Santaland Diaries” is a holiday tradition for the new millennium. The essay-turned-stage production follows Sedaris’ season as an elf in Santaland at Macy’s department store. Seattle Public Theater, on the banks of Green Lake, has offered the hour-long, one-man monologue six times in the past eight years.

UW alum Patrick Lennon, ’09, donned the elf hat this year and is currently starring in the production, slated to wrap up on Dec. 24. The Seattle native has acted since middle school but didn’t major in theater, pursuing instead a B.A. from the Jackson School of International Studies. Offstage, Lennon serves as a program assistant for Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UW. Lennon recently talked to the UWAA about his time on campus and “Santaland Diaries.”

Note: This Q&A has been edited for content and clarity.

Why did you pursue a degree in International Studies?

I think it was winter quarter of my freshman year when I took SIS 201 (“The Making of the 21st Century”) with Mary Callahan, and I was completely hooked. As soon as I took it, I was like, ‘I’m done! I have found my major! We are set here.’

I was really happy with that decision. Dr. Callahan was so obviously passionate about the subject, so knowledgeable and engaging. It was like, ‘This is the subject I want to pursue and spend a lot of time digging deeper into.’

Why not theater?

I was very practical and wanted to have a degree that was in something different, not in case acting failed, but more so to be well-rounded. I wanted to have more of a balance in my life.

Read more…

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A Bond for the Ages

Everyone who attended UWAA Member Night at “Skyfall” last weekend received a special bonus. We handed out a program featuring an essay that examined how each James Bond actor reflects our times and hopes about the future. The piece was penned by Andrew Tsao, head of the School of Drama’s BA program and host of UWTV’s Backstory: A Filmmakers Vision. Here is Andrew’s essay:

Andrew Tsao

As the Bond franchise continues to update itself, it is worth doing our own bit of detective work as we go along for the ride. What does the latest installment say about our times, and how does the man who plays Bond embody our own hopes and fears about the future?

Connery was a Scottish Bond, lending a roguish edge to the otherwise loyal servant to Her Majesty. To the English, the Scots have always been feared and loathed as barbarians from the north. Having Connery don the Savile Row suits was in itself a bit of social irony.

George Lazenby was Australian. An outlier from the frontiers of England’s cast offs. He was the Bond who lived through the loss of his wife and forever made Bond’s quest for justice personal.

Roger Moore was quintessentially proper, and embodied something shallow and self-absorbed about England, which of course mirrored the England of his Bond’s time (1973-1985) as it went from the anarchic Punk era to the Iron Lady’s cold hand of social Darwinism.

Timothy Dalton brought a brooding darkness to Bond in the late 80’s, perhaps presaging the crisis of purpose the character and England was going through then. Although the Falklands conflict was in 1982, it took the end of the Thatcher era to bring home the permanent decline of Great Britain as a world power.

Pierce Brosnan was Bond from 1995 to 2002. The Blair / Clinton world of micro wars and regional conflict where the enemy and the mission were both confused. He was a bothered Bond, often questioning his superiors and his own motivations.

There were of course other less well-known Bonds, including David Niven and Barry Nelson, on television.

Now we have Daniel Craig. The son of working class parents, he was raised in decidedly un-posh Liverpool. He brings a Stanley Kowalski-like roughness to Bond, yet seems to relish the finer things that are so much a part of Bond’s lifestyle. He is the post 9/11 Bond, and the films he has starred in are defined by an almost celebratory mayhem that continues to surpass itself with each film. Entire city blocks are leveled in chase scenes and massive destruction accompanies the dogged pursuit of villainy. It is as if the cataclysmic destruction we have now experienced in the west due to mass terror attacks has seeped into the Bond films as a kind of pop-catharsis. Craig is not ruffled by the chaos, however. He remains stoic amid the ruins, as if to say: “This is the world we live in. No use fretting about it, let’s just do what we have to do.”

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