Arts and Entertainment

Choochokam unveils a first: RainDance Short Film Festival

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Island movie lovers can make history this weekend by attending the very first short film festival at Choochokam.

Just as audiences now clamor to attend “Sundance” and “Cannes,” perhaps one day they, too, will compete for entree into the famous RainDance Short Film Festival.

RainDance features the winners and the most promising entries in the first annual Clyde Digital Film Contest.

The idea for the RainDance Short Film Festival was inspired by Clyde owner Lynn Willeford’s fascination with YouTube, the popular amateur movie Web site.

Willeford had an inkling that the extraordinarily creative people of Whidbey Island were probably experimenting with filmmaking.

So, she met with Choochokam Arts director Patricia Friedman, who embraced the concept as a great addition to Langley’s big annual arts festival. The RainDance screenings will be the first time film has been a part of Langley’s summer celebration of all things creative.

The rules for the contest were fairly simple: Anyone who lives on Whidbey Island or whose parents live on the island could submit as many short films as they wanted on DVD. No film is longer than 20 minutes.

A grand prize of $200 or a one-year pass to The Clyde was awarded for the best film, as were several category prizes judged by a professional panel.

While the winners in most categories have already been announced, the People’s Choice Award will be decided by the votes of the people attending RainDance and the winner will be named at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 13 at The Clyde.

The best films from the contest will show for free on both Saturday, July 12 and Sunday, July 13 at The Clyde during Choochokam.

The grand prize winner was “Somewhere in the City” by Ramsey Denison of North Hollywood, Calif. who wrote and directed the short film.

The film, which Denison produced for his MFA degree in film from the University of Southern California, was scored by composer and South Whidbey High School graduate Eric Lindsay.

Island filmmaking is a bit different from other filmmaking, and only at RainDance can visitors get a glimpse of a movie about two mainlanders caught by an islander trying to surf the ferry dock waves, or the terrifying nightmares of baby dolls, or the sometimes acrobatic antics of a bunch of zany ol’ men fishin’ for chickens and set to music.

Brad Robertson made his film “Columbia Beach Break” when he spied two blokes donning black wetsuits and watching the waves around the ferry.

“As the local de facto nosey guy,

I make it a point to know what is going on around Columbia Beach, so I wandered up behind these out-of-place gentlemen,” Robertson said.

“Hey boys, looking for the Big Kahuna? Going to surf the ferry wake,” Robertson asked them with his tongue in his cheek.

“We’re thinking about it,” one of the surfers said.

Apparently a surfer dude Web site directed them there.

Robertson grabbed his camera and asked if he could shoot them.

After editing the film, he searched for a long time trying to find the right surf music for the film.

When he ran into copyright snafus, Robertson ran out and bought a guitar but ultimately was given permission to use the perfect surf-movie music that, weirdly enough, comes from Spain.

The Clinton resident still has the guitar and is learning to play “Louie, Louie” he said. Maybe he’ll do his own soundtrack next time.

The judges were impressed with the quality of the more than 60 films that were entered, though there won’t be time to show every film made for the contest.

As many short films as possible will be shown between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day of the festival while the commercial films, “Kung Fu Panda” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” will play at the regularly scheduled evening times all weekend.

On Saturday at 3:40 p.m. there will be a special one-time showing of the 20-minute film “Monsoon,” produced by Joseph Itaya and scored by Lindsay, both of whom have donned a tuxedo and sung and tap-danced their way across the stages of the high school, Whidbey Children’s Theater and The Clyde over the years.

Indeed, many of the names and faces of the filmmakers will be familiar to island festival visitors.

For the full schedule www.theclyde.net and click on “Special Events.”

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