Festival Travel: SIFF 2017

June brings a wave of summer movie watching on the festival circuit. A few festivals sneak on the calendar after Cannes in May (one of three seasonal “tent poles” of festivals, the others being Sundance in January and TIFF/Telluride in September) to grab audiences before the summer really hits.

As previously mentioned on this blog, this year I joined the programming team for the 43rd annual SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival). With newly appointed Executive Director Sarah Wilke, Interim Artistic Director Beth Barrett (a friend of several years) took the helm this year after veteran Carl Spence’s departure from the festival. After a few conversations last winter, Beth brought me on to the team to help cull through the thousands of film submissions they receive.

SIFF is the longest film festival in North America: 25 days! A whole ‘nother kind of marathon event. E and I had planned a trip to Seattle for mid-June for my sister-in-law’s graduation from Seattle University, which luckily coincided with the last week/weekend of the festival. Since this trip was a mix of business and family time, I didn’t get to experience SIFF in full. Our mornings were spent exploring the city and drinking a lot of coffee.

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Sunny days in Seattle. The weather is always like this right?

Much of that coffee was from La Marzocco, a cafe and showroom located with Seattle’s hip radio station KEXP. La Marzocco is known for their high-end espresso machines, but opened a speciality cafe in Seattle where each month a renowned coffee roaster takes over the space and implements their own special menu. It’s a remarkable feat to consider. Our close friend, Amy, manages La Marzocco and she filled us in on how she and her team curate a new, unique experience every four weeks (long story short: it’s a fast-moving environment and no easy task). We tasted many incredible drinks, but our favorites were the Cafe Miel and the affogoto. Amy was so kind to give us a “backstage” tour of the KEXP studio and office space, filling us in on the history of the station. (The music library was impressive and I loved seeing how they are slowly and methodically digitizing all their materials – an epic job on its own.) If you’re ever visiting Seattle, I highly recommend checking out La Marzocco for a truly unique coffee experience.

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The KEXP music library
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KEXP’s live studio space

Back to festing, we stopped by the festival lounge where E and his sister tasted tequila from a festival sponsor and I got to catch up with friend and SIFF’s Director of Philanthropy, Ben McCarthy. By the time the staff is on day 20+, many are running on a mix of autopilot and few hours of sleep. Seeing a fresh, friendly face is a delight and laughter helps a lot.

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The great team behind the movies…

Later in the week, E and I watched The Grifters (1990), one of several tribute films to SIFF honoree Anjelica Huston. Beth Barrett introduced the film and spotted me in the audience (we hadn’t seen each other yet), which created a hilarious improvised moment in her introduction of the film. It was the first time either E or I had seen this film and we were curious. Huston is great (as she is with pretty much every role) and the film’s ending is dark. So much so, I actually laughed out of uncomfortableness with the twisted, climatic moment. Annette Bening is also a standout (as usual). Both ladies made this noir story work for me. John Cusack, not so much.

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Showing off the bump with SIFF Interim Artist Director, Beth Barrett
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Lounge with SIFF’s Ben McCarthy

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After the screening we ate dinner at Momiji and sang karaoke at Rock Box (which I highly recommend) to celebrate E’s birthday. We then headed to a favorite college bar of my sis-in-laws, in which E, Amy, her husband and I were very much the oldest people in the room by ten years. (Being the sober, pregnant member of this party I was stuck out two-fold.)

Much of the remaining trip was with family and close friends as we celebrated the graduation. Since I only had a small slice of SIFF, I hope next year I’ll be able to spend a little more time with the event. With the long length of the festival, attending an earlier weekend would likely have a different feel since filmmakers or guests can’t stay for the entirety. From an industry perspective, the last weekend is a fun time to attend since the staff are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the vibe is a little looser. I’m excited to see how the festival will grow and change under the leadership of Barrett and Wilke. The Seattle film community is in good hands.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing this past weekend’s travels to Palm Springs ShortsFest (spoiler, it was CRAZY hot) where I was one of the panelists for the festival’s forum. Stay tuned. In the meantime, have you seen The Grifters before? I need to talk to someone about the ending!

Sunday Mornings

Hi friends. I’m still here.

This is what’s been going down over the last three weeks:

Last time I wrote a Sunday Mornings post, I mentioned we were in escrow on a house. The exciting update is that we closed on it and moved in. (Side story: In the eleventh hour, this blog somehow help make the closing happen. The lender needed “online proof” that I was real, as though ALL the financial statements from every client, tax, receipt, or bank statement we sent was not enough. That and E’s IMDb page. Thus the life of a 1099 worker trying to buy a house in the 21st century. Absurd.) Homeownership has already kicked us around a bit and there’s still plenty of projects ahead. (If you know a great Los Angeles-based contractor to recommend, we are in need and all-ears.)

Within 36 hours of moving, we flew to Seattle for a week of SIFF activities and my sister-in-law’s graduation from nursing school. Will be posting about the festival fun soon.

Also, during these last three weeks, E and I learned I’m pregnant with a baby girl. That’s the other major-life-event that’s been happening in our world. We told many of our loved ones in person or over-the-phone when possible the past two months and only recently put it on social media. Being pregnant has been a surreal experience. The news itself was somewhat a shock to us (another story for an offline convo if you’re interested). Between the house hunting and work-filled spring season, I haven’t spent a lot of time letting the news sink in. Not to say that the emotions haven’t been there, because good. lord. the hormonal shifts are real/awful. Now halfway through this pregnancy and living in a new home, this new chapter is starting to sink in …and whoa. If you asked me in January what my summer would look like, this is NOT what I would consider it to be. I am excited, but cautious. Unsettled, but hopeful. And most of the time, just trying to remember to breathe every few seconds.

I hope this Father’s Day is a good one for you and your families. If you can spend time with yours, that’s amazing. (Facetiming the Captain will have to do for me.) If not, then perhaps toast in his honor. (Cheers to you, Tim. You raised one helluva man, who I’m excited to watch become a great father himself.)

And now for a few Sunday posts:

  • ICYMI, Jessica Chastain was on the Cannes jury this year and had excellent feedback about the film selection. Get it girl.
  • Amazon buying Whole Foods is huge news. Here’s one breakdown on why it matters.
  • A powerful thought to repeat this summer.
  • Putting this recipe on the list to try, once our kitchen is completely unpacked.
  • A friend writes a great piece about post-partum body image. (For me, the whole body-changing aspects of pregnancy has been one of the most emotionally difficult parts of it all.)  Please Stop Telling Me I “Don’t Look Like I Had a Baby”
  • I caught up on This American Life during my recent flight. While we’re on the conversation of body image, an interesting listen: Tell Me I’m Fat.
  • A handful of yummy mocktails and punches to sip on your porch or balcony this summer.
  • As I consider our new house layout and what furniture works where, it means I am spending more time on interior design blogs. I feel like much of what I find is created for Pinterest and not actually liveable space. Also, it’s as though people forget how expensive all this decor can be. A very frustrating process. (Yes, #firstworldproblems.) I appreciated Emily Henderson’s honesty in this post on the “Effortless Expensive California Casual” look.
  • Have you been watching Twin Peaks? I’m loving how dark and FUNNY it is. Also, the plot is moving so incredibly slow, but I’m still fascinated. #CaseFiles Twin Peaks

More soon. Although “soon” is used loosely these days.
Hope your day is filled with good coffee, smiles and a little laziness.