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Next on Reel NW and the upcoming MOHAI film competition

Next on Reel NW and the upcoming MOHAI film competition

Next on Reel NW and the upcoming MOHAI film competition
By Robert Horton

Our guest blogger Robert Horton comments on 'Cue The Muse' on Reel NW and MOHAI's upcoming film competition.

Lots of filmmakers subscribe to the adage that a feature film is largely casting. If that's true for fiction, then a nonfiction film might live by the same philosophy. And Cue The Muse, a film by Jodie Martinson and Greg Matsuda, is "cast" very well, with a quartet of artist-artisans talking about how they ply their trade and find their inspiration: we meet a painter, a ballet dancer, a guitar-maker, and a rock singer. All find the muse in part by sticking to a set of methods that Cue The Muse sets out in a series of rules for creativity.

What if your documentary is not about a person, but about a general subject? MOHAI short film competition I was thinking about this in relation to Cue The Muse because I'm going to be one of the jury members for the third year of the Museum of History and Industry's History Is___ short film competition, which has an open call for contributors as we speak. The idea is to fill in the blank by creating a film about what History is. So you've got a general framework in which to play, but the subject—the casting—is entirely up to you.

I also judged the first two installments of this competition, and it was fascinating to watch the different approaches. Some shorts take a historical-overview tone, others are very personal (how history is embedded in one's own family, for instance). Some are serious, some funny—even to the point of being parodies of history films. Most are live action, but some are animated in very clever ways, including some past award-winners. And they all clock in (this is in the rules) under five minutes.

Reel NW has featured some of the "History Is__" offerings, and you can watch a winner from 2011, Drew Christie's History is Us, in the Reel NW video archive.

This competition was devised as an accompaniment to MOHAI's "Celluloid Seattle: A City at the Movies," an exhibit I was pleased to curate (I'll describe what the exhibit's all about, including the local filmmaking aspect, in a future blogpost). The success of the competition, which has included professional filmmakers, first-timers, and grade-school students alike, demonstrates the symbiosis that can give oxygen to a local film scene—from MOHAI to Reel NW to Seattle International Film Festival and beyond.

So find a subject, fill in the blank, and get started. You've got until March 31 to finish your short. The road could lead to Reel NW, or who-knows-where.

Editor's Note: KCTS 9 is among the organizations judging the MOHAI's "History Is__" competition.


Robert HortonRobert Horton is a film critic for KUOW (Seattle's National Public Radio station) and the Herald in Everett, Washington; he is also a longtime contributor to Film Comment and other magazines. He curates the Magic Lantern film-discussion program at the Frye Art Museum, teaches film at Seattle University, and is a guest speaker for Smithsonian Journeys and Humanities Washington, as well as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. His books include Billy Wilder: Interviews, the upcoming Frankenstein, and the zombie-Western graphic novel Rotten and its prose spin-off The Lost Diary of John J. Flynn, U.S. Agent, and he blogs on movies at The Crop Duster and What a Feeling!. This year he is curator of the Museum of History and Industry's "Celluloid Seattle: A City at the Movies" exhibit.