Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top Chef Production Assistant write up...

It begins with a fantasy.
“Hello, Padma.”
“Hello, Clint.”
I ask, “May I tell you about Alaska, about how much I love Alaska?”
Padma leans in and levels her gaze, “Yes. Tell me about Alaska. Tell me how much you love Alaska.”
And then, as it is a fantasy after all, I would sip a Baltic Porter and take a bite of perfectly cooked lamb, draw upon my obsession with Alaska, and I would tell Padma … everything.
To read the rest of the story click here...

Only salmon fishing on the Kenai could tear me away from a Sunday afternoon on PBS. It was time to settle in front of the rabbit ears with a Coke, some saltine crackers, and a few slices of cheddar. “Sneak Previews” was on, hosted by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
I’d root for Ebert as the two bickered. Siskel was the movie snob, but Ebert loved movies the way a normal person loved movies. For example, he didn’t ding an action flick if it lacked character development. He dinged it if it was boring. He would, of course, praise a movie that could integrate comedy, drama, and action – as well as acting, plot, and good technique. Yet Ebert wasn’t so unrealistic to think that all movies needed or even should need all these elements. He reviewed movies on their intent. Was the comedy funny? Was the drama sad? Did the action film thrill?
If you wanted to know how good a movie could be, you watched Siskel, read Janet Maslin at the New York Times, or listened to Kenneth Turan on NPR. If you wanted to know if the movie was any good as is, you went to Ebert.
Ebert was a great defender of movies. Movies are marshmallow creations that can change the course of society. I love movies and hate myself for loving movies. Ebert helps me feel better about movies. Sure, he lamented the film industry’s focus on action flicks and teen comedies, but good movies he considered required viewing. A good movie can offer a window into another culture, how people unlike you live, and how they get along in the world. A good movie expands a viewer’s horizon and helps develop empathy.
“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” Ebert once wrote.
I think about that when I see movies like “On the Ice”, the Barrow murder mystery that came out last year. “On the Ice” is an Alaskan movie that exemplifies what Ebert was talking about – a cold and frosty window on village-Alaska. You walk out of the theater with a lot more understanding, and empathy, for those who live in the arctic.
Only in the last decade did I understand how well received Roger Ebert was as a writer. Forget the thumb-driven distillation of his reviews; read his reviews. I have a couple litmus tests for good writing. One is whether the writer used the word “synergy.” I believe, based on nothing, that any time someone reads the word “synergy,” a puppy dies. I work in government, and I’m sure the word has convinced people to join the tea party. Can you blame them? What a horrendous word! Utilize is a terrible word too. But I’m off the rails here. Ebert never used the word “synergy,” at least there were no Google results for “+roger +ebert +synergy.” His writing was conversational yet tight, easily read but not stupid. And you can be damn sure Ebert’s love of the language never allowed him to write “Best. Movie. Ever.”
Ebert’s love of movies was highlighted in nearly every one of those beautiful and approachable reviews. His reviews were often more enjoyable than the movies covered. He really wanted movies to succeed. If they were not too bad, he would offer suggestions. Ebert could get snarky, but that was rare and for whatever reason, the movie deserved it. Here’s a bit from his review of “North,” an Elijah Wood film from the early ‘90s: “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it.” I would not recommend this film.
Ebert was a smart guy. It’s said he had a photographic memory. He could describe a scene from any movie he ever saw. But that’s only data. How he processed all that data with his gut reactions into concise, readable reviews and essays is what made him wise. “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you,” he wrote. Ebert wanted you to know whether or not a film had a visceral impact. Did the film make you feel something? Anything more was just extra.
His commentary extended beyond individual movies. He often decried the ratings system. The MPAA mystified Ebert. Why would they allow inexcusably violent films to get PG ratings, yet a stray nipple in a skinny dip scene of an otherwise tame movie would earn an R. Of course, particularly toward the end of this life as he struggled with cancer, his writings covered bigger issues of life and death. At his TED talk, family and friends read experts from his writings on his cancer and the loss of his salivary glands, his jaw, his voice. It is one of the more touching things I’ve ever seen.
Ebert was, in this crumbling culture of bullying, fear and anger, a voice of decency. That’s kind of amazing considering his job was to be a critic. He is someone I try to emulate in my own small time film and TV commentary. The man’s impact far exceeded the sum of his roles as journalist, TV personality, and critic. He exemplified synergy. He was … The best. Reviewer. Ever.
Rest in peace, Roger Ebert.
• Clint J. Farr can be contacted at
Tattoo Nation: the art of skin ink
 Gold Town to show documentary in celebration of Pair-a-Dice Tattoo Parlor's 15th anniversary


 I do not have a tattoo. I’ve never wanted a tattoo. I’ll likely never get a tattoo. I don’t understand why a person would ever get a tattoo. Women, with tattoos, intimidate me. Though that’s mostly because women intimidate me.

 And don’t even get me started on piercings.

The most significant body modification I’ve ever experienced was changing from a center part to a side part in 1988. I tried being a hippy for a couple of hours in college, but tore the beads off my neck. How the tattooed and pierced handle the hardware hanging off their body parts is beyond me.

 Granted, there was that drunk night. You know, that drunk night - maybe it was college with friends, maybe it was fishing, maybe you were alone and pathetic in a basement - but that drunk night when even the most committed tattoo teetotaler contemplates the needle. For me, it was Charlie Brown. At the time, I felt sympatico with Chuck. Decent, friendly, tries, but is put upon by this cruel cruel world. (I was young. Shut up.) So why shouldn’t I tattoo an angry Charlie Brown flipping the bird on my ankle?

Because, Clint, it’s stupid. You just don’t make body modification decisions when drunk and ornery. It’s a rule we all should have. Body modification decisions should come from a happy place of calm reflection. Then you get drunk to dull the pain of the needle.

Next week, April 15-17, the Gold Town Nickelodeon will feature “Tattoo Nation.” The film is being shown to celebrate 15 years of business for the Pair-a-Dice tattoo shop.

Tattoos are very hip now. As said in the promotional material for the film, tattoos are no longer signs of rebellion. “Tattoo Nation” tracks this progress of American tattoo culture from southern California from the 1960s, when tattoos were very much the domain of the marginalized, imprisoned, or military, to now when even my very non-rebellious family and friends contemplate skin inks. (Hey “skin inks” is almost a palindrome!)

Fortunately for me, “Tattoo Nation” does not get into body modifications beyond ink. The rebels today go for forehead knobs, claws, filed teeth, lip and ear disks, bifurcated tongues, whisker implants, and piercings. And the piercings always seem to be in the most sensitive and dangly of parts. If I had to get a piercing, I’d choose someplace random like my thigh. Look, the Libertarian in me says, “Good on ya, mate!” (The Libertarian in me is Australian for some reason). The Republican, Democrat, Green, Alaska Independence Party, and Whig in me are all slightly nauseous.

 So not only was I pleased with the focus on tattoos over other modifications, I was surprised by how beautiful the highlighted creations are. I know next to nothing about tattoos and was blown away by the art pushed into the dermis with a needle. There are men and women with their bodies entirely covered as they record every significant event in their lives on their skin. I enjoyed the slow pans over the ink. The work, especially the more modern work on body suits and sleeves is unreal. The realism these artists reach is unexpected.

One guy had a photo-realistic tattoo of Michelangelo’s Pieta tattooed to over his rib cage. That was amazing. I’ve seen the real thing and the tattoo artist nailed it. The movie points out that one reason tattoos have moved beyond rebellious subcultures into the mainstream is precisely because the art has become so good. Whereas once you may have turned your nose up to a “love” tattoo over a wilted rose, now you can get the Pieta.

The motivations behind tattooing are often honorable, reflecting a person’s history, family, heritage, pride and culture. These were not decisions made when intoxicated.

The film provides a decent education in tattooing. I now know what black and grey tattooing is and its relevance. I now know the game changing importance of moving single needle tattooing out of prisons and into modern tattoo parlors.

The technical aspects of the filmmaking were good as well. There is some intriguing camera work, use of split screen and creative editing.

Maybe it’s the technical writer in me, but I would have liked more context. This movie will most likely be enjoyed by insiders who already have an education and history with tattooing. The film’s focus was narrow. How the Chicano style of tattooing that came out of southern California in the 1970s has gone on to take over the world. There’s some mention of Asian styles but it’s mostly in passing. My guess is there are many more skin marking styles around the world that were not mentioned at all. Plus, I would have loved more nuts and bolts information on the process of tattooing. What is in the inks used today? Exactly how does the needle get the ink under the skin? How long do tattoos last and what happens to them over time?

Mostly however, this movie put me into a happy place of calm reflection ... maybe my pale skin would make a great canvas. Any use of color ought to pop! Color; like the yellow in Charlie Brown’s shirt… hmmm.

 Clint Farr can be contacted at "Tattoo Nation" will be shown at 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Gold Town Nickelodeon in the Emporium Mall.

Monday, March 11, 2013

JUMP: A glimpse into another mind

Posted: January 24, 2013 - 1:00amBy CLINT J. FARRFARR NORTH PERSPECTIVES
There is a line of rock doves on a power line near my house. They’re lined up perfectly. At the right angle, it’s just pigeon, wire, and sky. It is an arresting visual. I want to put them in a movie. I want to put them into the Juneau Underground Motion Picture, or JUMP, Society film festival.
The JUMP film festival is unlike any film festival in the country. Greg Chaney is a local filmmaker who has participated in all 20 of the JUMP film festivals and about a dozen other festivals across the nation. Chaney believes JUMP is “absolutely” a community forum. Any Juneauite can show a film as long as it fits the generous parameters of the JUMP festival requirements.
Courtney Nelson agrees. Nelson feels JUMP allows “a glimpse into the mind of another community member.” Nelson will have submitted three films to JUMP including the upcoming festival where Nelson and a group of students address Native American history. Chaney once submitted a film mocking exercise programs by showcasing weight lifting with eyebrows. (“Superciliary Exercise Program” was initially rejected and then accepted to a film festival in England because, in the words of the festival director, “We couldn’t stop thinking about it.”). Antoine Doiron has worked on and promoted his upcoming film “Space Trucker Bruce” at JUMP. Izzy Christenson takes on the debate between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones on gun control. And Corin Hughes-Skandijs once depicted a character peeing his pants rather than exerting the effort go to the bathroom as a liberating life choice. I’m not sure that’s the glimpse we wanted into Hughes-Skandijs’s mind, but there it is. Juneauites minds are active and varied, serious and silly, wily and warped, and JUMP provides the window.
If not for JUMP, many of these folks would not be making films in the first place. There are practical reasons. Nelson likes how JUMP gives her a deadline, something to work for. Others appreciate JUMP for forcing them to enhance the professionalism of their films, like making sure the music is legal and the actors have signed waivers.
More than anything however is how JUMP jumpstarts Juneauites’ dreams of filmmaking careers. Doiron said, “JUMP has inspired me to become a filmmaker.” Between his first film and now, Doiron has nearly completed a feature length film “Space Trucker Bruce,” Because of JUMP, “I realized … that filmmaking is my passion and my career.” Nearly every person I talked to dreams of that potential.
Some are actively turning their dream to reality. Chaney figures JUMP taught him how to edit. By gauging his and others’ works, Chaney developed a sense of when to enter and leave a scene so the pacing doesn’t drag. This “sense” for editing became important for Chaney when he found himself with a hundred hours of footage from a couple that walked from Washington State to the tip of the Alaska Peninsula. By editing this footage to two hours and less, Chaney created “Journey on the Wild Coast,” his most successful film to date. “I really had a sense of what would work given my experience.”
“Journey on the Wild Coast” has been to a number of film festivals and won a number of awards. It was selected “Best of Fest” at the 2010 Anchorage International Film Festival. It won the Seven Summits Best Feature from the Mountain Film Festival. Perhaps most spectacularly, the film won a Special Jury Award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Chaney’s story about having to climb over people to get out of his seat to give a speech when completely unprepared is pretty awesome. (Nobody expected Chaney’s film to win, including Chaney, so it’s not like he got an aisle seat). “It’s all down to JUMP,” added Chaney.
One advantage of the JUMP festival that (ahem) jumps out again and again is that Juneau filmmakers love the availability of an audience.
Hughes-Skandijs is one of the more prolific of the local filmmakers. “It’s been really cool to see some of the regular contributors hone their skills over the years...including myself. I think that’s something that can be completely chalked up to the JUMP guys for providing that outlet, where an … audience can tell you what you need to be working on.”
“The immediate reaction of the audience provides filmmakers something film schools cannot — figuring out what audiences like.” Christenson does not necessarily need to show his works at JUMP to have an audience, as much of his work is posted online. However, JUMP provides Christenson the ability to introduce audiences to new editing techniques and receive feedback. Christenson busted onto the JUMP scene with a mash up of Teletubbies and Daft Punk. He was six. The rest of us dinosaurs need JUMP as our main audience. For Christenson, now 14, JUMP is used as an airing of his more absurd endeavors.”
Chaney has put a number of comedies into JUMP.
“Having a JUMP audience not respond to something you thought was funny can be pretty profound.” Imagine having a joke fall flat at a party. Imagine you worked for hours on that joke. “On the other hand, you may not intend something to be funny but find out it was.”
JUMP is a film festival without a competition. This allows the audience to walk away with their own personal favorites. JUMP is unique in that respect. Most festivals are competitions and hard to get into. According to Chaney, the competitive aspect of festivals elsewhere sucks the fun out of them.
And fun is the other common theme. It’s fun to make movies. It’s fun to shoot, to work with the actors and even to edit. Christenson very much wanted me to relate that though filmmaking is hard, it has to be fun. And when you look at Christenson’s work, so detailed and minute with hundreds if not thousands of edits in a short time; or Doiron’s work, where five seconds may take two days of computer processing time, and you see that it’s much more than fame and fortune driving these folks. It has to be fun.
What inspires the filmmakers is as varied as the works they produce. Sometimes it’s simple. Antoine’s first movies were made for a Spanish class. Christenson often goes back to a television staple of his childhood, “Blue’s Clues,” for inspiration. For Hughes-Skandijs, soundtracks and film scores undam the creative juices. Sometimes inspiration is impressive and grand. Nelson’s step dad was an Emmy award winning title designer for feature films. He introduced Nelson to the creative world of Hollywood where she got to witness him meeting with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola.
Inspiration could be birds on a wire. Do gray birds on a black wire against a gray sky suggest something poignant? Or should I go for silly and have actors dodging bird poop in slow motion while “Flight of the Valkyries” plays in the background? Whether I go for poignant or puerile with those pigeons, it will have to wait until July. I missed the deadline for this weekend’s festival.
Filmmaking is a luxury of our modern lifestyle. To have time to ruminate on something so useless as the aesthetics of bird on a wire is, in the grand scheme of things, quite remarkable. If an asteroid hit the Gobi desert, dust blocked the sun, and daily survival became a reality, I’m putting the camera down and those pigeons are going into a soup. But that hasn’t happened and we still live in a time when a person can capture the images and stories that give them pause.
You can celebrate the luxury of filmmaking this weekend by seeing Juneau’s premiere showcase of locally produced film shorts at the biannual JUMP festival this weekend. For more information on times and tickets, go to
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at

Film series highlights new direction for art house theaters

Not-so-silent films, shown with live accompaniment from local musicians, are among the varied offerings at the Gold Town

Posted: November 29, 2012 - 1:01am



Collette Costa, manager of the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater, is a woman of many passions, two of which are being channeled through the theater’s ongoing “Not So Silent Film Series.” One, obviously, is silent film. The other is keeping the Nickelodeon, and independent cinema houses in general, from going extinct.
It’s tough to run an independent cinema. From what Costa and others tell me, movies are expensive to distribute and show. Theaters do not make money off movies. (Does this qualify as “irony”? I’m never sure.) Conventional movie houses use high concession costs to stay in business. Independent cinema has to go another route.
Costa’s route is to move from “being a 90 percent movie theater and 10 percent special-event venue to being something closer to a 50/50 split.” That means producing new and unusual movie-related entertainment that will entice Juneauites to put down their media devices, brave the cold, and come over to the Nickelodeon for something really special. This shift into “eventizing” the cinema is one that can be seen in art house theaters all over the country, as they struggle to stay relevant — a change Costa considers to be revolutionary.
“It’s like the biggest thing to happen to movies since the invention of sound!” she said.
Sometimes, being new means venerating the old.
Costa has spent years figuring out how to share silent film with Juneau. Then “The Artist” happened.
“(It) was such a smash, I decided to use it as a slingshot for this series ... to give modern audiences a chance to discover how amazing silent films can be,” she said.
Thus the “Not So Silent Film Series” began. Costa’s goal is six to eight shows a year, showcasing a diversity of films. Each show will feature different local musicians. The first in Costa’s series was the old vampire flick “Nosferatu” shown to the musical accompaniment of George and Bridget Kuhar of Playboy Spaceman, who composed an original soundtrack for the film
The next film — to be shown this Saturday — is Buster Keaton’s 1926 classic “The General.” “The General” receives a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which lends credence to Costa’s assertion the film is considered by critics to be “one of — if not THE — best silent film ever made.”
Keaton co-wrote and co-directed “The General”. He also performed his own stunts — and broke his neck at one point. The film features “some of the most daring, exciting, unbelievable stunts ever put to film,” Costa said. There were few special effects then. If something crazy happens in the movie, it’s because an actor did something crazy.
“When you see him run across the top of the speeding train, then jump onto a water tower, he actually did it,” she said.
“The General” begins as the Civil War is declared. Keaton plays a southern railroad engineer who loves his train engine named “The General.” Through a series of outlandish situations, Keaton chases a train, thwarts the Yanks and gets the girl. At the time, this was one of the more expensive movies ever made. There are full scale Civil War battle recreations and real trains wrecked. Through it all is Keaton’s trademark deadpan humor and stony face.
Local old-time band Rumblefish will provide the music for “The General,” a pairing Costa said is particularly apt considering that many old-time songs were written during the film’s Civil War-era setting. Rumblefish includes Andy Ferguson, Erik Chadwell, Sergei Morosan, and my daughter’s first grade teacher, Jack Fontanella. In addition to music, they will incorporate sound effects for the movie such as noise makers and percussion, a common practice in the silent film days.
“There was often nothing silent about these movies,” Costa said.
Many people probably assume silent films are dull, dated, and boring. Certainly I was one of those types. I never considered silent film an option until I stumbled upon a showing of “Metropolis” at the Grand Illusion, Seattle’s venerable independent cinema. The film was engaging. It was recently scored by Queen. It wasn’t, as I’d often assumed of silent film, boring.
I am excited to see Costa bring the best of the era to Juneau. She challenges anyone who thinks they do not like silent movies, or thinks they are boring and unwatchable, to come see “The General.” For the sake of silent film, for independent cinema for that matter, perhaps you should take up the challenge.
“The General” shows Saturday Dec. 1 at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.. Saturday’s 4 p.m. showing will be a Family Show, so bring the kids. The evening shows are all-ages but a no-host bar will be set up with specialty cocktails. Tickets are $15 in advance at Rainy Retreat Books or online, or $18 at the door.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at

Gear up for new Bond flick with a look back at the action on the slopes

Posted: November 8, 2012 - 1:02am



A confluence of cinematic and natural forces is at hand. Snow has fallen and James Bond movies are 50 years old. In honor of this convergence, I give you the Bond films with the best ski scenes -- perfect movies for a hot chocolate kind of night.

• “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”: George Lazenby has huge hands. His 1969 one-off appearance of as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” has many unintentionally hilarious scenes, such as the one where Lazenby seems to nearly crush Diana Riggs’ head as he cups her face in a caring gesture. The others involve skiing.

Since this film revolves around an evil genius’ mountain-top lair, there is more skiing than in any other Bond film. And there has to be a lot of skiing, because the mountains in this movie are huge. Bond escapes the mountain-top lair, skis to a resort town, meets Riggs, and drives to a cabin. You would think they’re at a much lower elevation. Yet they wake up, somehow find skis and boots that fit, and take off down the mountain just as the henchmen locate the cabin. This is followed by a massive (and massively silly) ski sequence involving a race against an avalanche. How long can you ski down the same mountain without need of a chairlift? It’s so stupid. I love it!

• “The Spy Who Loved Me”: In 1976, Roger Moore starred in “The Spy Who Loved Me” with Barbara Bach as the Russian spy XXX. (Har). This film featured an evil genius in an underwater lair, climatic fights between submarines and soldiers, SCUBA battles, and seven-foot Richard Kiel as one of the best Bond bad guys ever, Jaws.

It is the film’s beginning, however, that is pure ski-film bliss. Summoned by M via a highly advanced ticker-tape watch, Bond finishes making out with a blond Russian double agent in a random ski lodge high in the Austrian Alps. The agent notifies a group of Russian agents on skis with a newfangled walkie-talkie that has — wait for it – an extendable antenna. Bond quickly realizes he is being chased and stylishly carves the mountain with perfect parallel turns. At one point, Bond skis backwards and shoots a Russian baddie with his ski-pole/high powered rifle. The bad guys close in and the mountain drops away into a sheer 3,000 foot cliff! Is this the end? Of course not! Bond drops off the cliff, his skis fly off, and — in what must be one of the first filmed examples of BASE jumping — a union jack parachute opens. The Bond theme starts! England rules! Awesome!

• “For Your Eyes Only”: In 1982, Moore returns to the slopes for “For Your Eyes Only.” Given the title, there are lots of awkward close-ups of the angry eyes of Melina played by Carole Bouquet. Bond helps Melina avenge the death of her parents by Russian spies. Bouquet may be one of the prettier Bond women, and her character is strong and talented with a cross-bow, but the actress is a little subdued, perhaps stoned, through most of film. Melina, in sum, is “I’m grieving. My parents are dead. Look into my angry eyes. Where’s my crossbow?”

The evil genius’ cliff-top lair is in the mountains of Northern Italy. There are ample examples of outdoors activity, but the ski chase is really the show stopper. As the evil henchmen chase Bond through a ski resort, there is a run on a luge, tree skiing, jumping on a table of skiers eating lunch, motorcycles with spiked wheels, and one talented Russian on cross country skis. This is one of the best constructed action sequences in all of Bond’s history. As with the Lazenby picture, there is the chairlift issue. They never need a chairlift. It’s a lot of skiing for never needing to go back up the mountain.

• “The World is Not Enough”: Finally, there is 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” starring the suave Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan’s Bond warms the heart of evil Elektra on the cool slopes of .... oh, whatever. This movie starred Denise Richards as a nuclear “Fizz-a-cyst”. It’s horrible. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again. Skip it. You’ll never get those two hours back.

If you are looking for a night out, the 23rd Bond movie comes out this weekend at Glacier Cinemas. “Skyfall” has received over a 90 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has broken box office records in Britain, and is rumored to have a ski scene. “Skyfall” promises to continue the excellence of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. What was once silly, formulaic, sexist, sophomoric, dumb, and weirdly innocent is now dark, artistic, and accomplished cinema. I love the new Bond.

That said, I miss Moore and Lazenby hamming it up for the camera, lurching through unconvincing fight scenes, questionable special effects, and really (really) big mountains. There is stupid, and then there is Bond-stupid — wonderful, fun, escapist Bond-stupid. With these movies, you can unapologetically lower your IQ tonight. Have fun!

New film presents an Alaska Alaskans might relate to

Posted: August 29, 2012 - 11:01pm



Alaska in film is often ominous: intriguing and beautiful, but deadly. Alaska-based film and television productions understandably use the theme of person versus nature. (Well, that or bears splashing in a salmon stream to happy music.) “Deadliest Catch,” “Into the Wild,” “Runaway Train,” even “Limbo” touch on this idea.
But to Alaskans, there is much more to our wilderness than the threat of death. Sure, Alaska can kill us any number of ways. You can fall off a cliff or crash a small plane. But most Alaskans will die of old age. So cheating death isn’t the main point of our “struggles” with Alaska’s environment.
“Wildlike” a film under production this summer in Alaska, offers a more nuanced view, one in which the Alaskan wilderness is seen as a positive force. Schuyler Weiss, a producer of “Wildlike” with Tandem Pictures, provided a synopsis, which goes something like this:
“A struggling mother sends her troubled daughter Mackenzie to her uncle in Juneau, Alaska. The uncle is trouble and Mackenzie runs away. She tries to get to mom in Seattle, but winds up deeper into Alaska’s interior. McKenzie ends up following and forming an unlikely bond with a loner backpacker named Bartlett. Together, they discover sanctuary and redemption in Alaska’s wilderness.”
Sure, nitpickers will point out the difficulty of ending up in Alaska’s interior trying to go south from Juneau to Seattle, but the nitpickers would be missing the point.
Weiss puts it well: “Alaska represents a place to escape to, and escape into, for our two protagonists... Alaska is a place of natural wonder on such a scale that it gives true perspective to the characters’ lives and their personal challenges. It is the redemptive force in the film.”
Nice. Finally, a film that will depict an Alaska Alaskans might relate to; where our wilderness is a place of growth, not a place to die.
This is the Alaska I know, where the environment allows us to find ourselves. Alaska is a giant reset button, cold to the touch. Alaska is a place to reformulate the alchemy of who you are. Alaska is a place where Harvard PhDs live remotely off the land and high school drop-outs become millionaires. Alaska is the lost and found bin for misplaced souls. Alaska is for, as Weiss says, “redemption.”
So Alaska isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
This adage also applies to shooting a film in Alaska.
“We have had to be extremely meticulous in our planning due to the distances involved in shipping anything to and from Alaska,” Weiss said.
Further, Alaskan business may lack materials a production might need. Future productions will benefit as local businesses gain experience, and inventory, from current productions.
Finding actors in Alaska can also pose challenges.
“Alaskan actors could also use a little more support with more casting directors and some local talent reps,” Weiss said.
A quick review of the Internet Movie Database reveals the “Wildlike” folks found Teddy Kyle Smith. Smith played the dad in “On the Ice” and was the best thing in that movie. The man can hold a scene by its neck. I’m excited to see Smith will be in another movie.
Despite the challenges (and beyond the draws of the scenery and Teddy Kyle Smith), Weiss has found that Alaska is worth it, in part because of Alaskans themselves.
“(There is) tremendous enthusiasm for film in Alaska … people have gone out of their way to accommodate us and make our film possible,” he said. “You have a very rich environment for filmmaking.”
The production will be coming to the very wet environment of Juneau as early as next week. Weiss’s description of Juneau makes me want to live there: “Juneau is such a fascinating city, with an inherent drama of its own -- hemmed in by sea and mountains, the atmosphere is naturally cinematic.”
The production may need extras in Juneau too. Weiss said interested people can contact them through their Facebook page at
I am happy to see New York production companies, Green Machine Films and Tandem Pictures, shoot a film in Alaska. They will hire locals and spend money on Alaskan businesses for food, lodging, equipment, vehicles, shipping and travel. They will shoot a story of young woman who will use her wits to overcome obstacles and discover her true self and strength. Above all, they will present Alaska as more than a place simply to survive, but a place to heal and a place to thrive.
“Wildlike” is scheduled for release in 2013.
* Clint Farr can be contacted at