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Arts: Seattle Puts a New Twist on the Sundance Film Festival

The "Dear Seattle: Love Letters to the City" filmmakers panel at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, featuring Jon Jon Augustavo, John Ramsey, Josh Taft and Megan Griffiths. Photo courtesy VisitSeattle.org.

By Jenny Peters

Everyone knows that the Sundance Film Festival is the place to be for independent filmmakers and as the 2018 version of the annual fest held in Park City, Utah, wrapped up, movies with big buzz included award winners “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” “Burden,” “Nancy” and “The Kindergarten Teacher.”

But there was another fascinating initiative that happened during Sundance 2018, as Visit Seattle brought their unique brand of moviemaking to the party. In conjunction with SundanceTV, the “Emerald City” introduced four short films that jump off from the theme “Dear Seattle: Love Letters to the City,” at an afternoon screening and evening bash, both held on Main Street at the SundanceTV HQ.

The four directors included Nirvana/Foo Fighters musician Dave Grohl, who made his appearance at the post-screening Q&A via Skype from Byron Bay in Australia. He reminisced about the Seattle he knew as part of Nirvana’s rise to fame; that’s what his film “How I Ended Up in Seattle” is all about. His producer, John Ramsay, who has collaborated with Grohl on the Emmy Award-winning documentary series “Sonic Highways,” as well as “Sound City,” joined the other directors on the dais as they discussed their mini-movies.

“Dave is such a great storyteller, which you can tell from this short film,” Ramsay said. “To go to Seattle with him is amazing experience.”

The Seattle skyline, part of the inspiration for the “Dear Seattle: Love Letters to the City” screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy VisitSeattle.org.

The other three filmmakers are Seattle natives, including Jon Jon Augustavo, Josh Taft and Megan Griffiths, the award-winning full-length director of “Eden,” “Lucky Them” and “The Night Stalker.”

“I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Seattle,” explained Jon Jon Augustavo, whose “Just a Kid From Seattle” is an autobiographical look at a young Filipino’s struggle to leave the city that shaped him. “I never wanted to make a film about the city I was from.” Augustavo, whose music video productions with fellow Seattle native Macklemore have made him an industry darling, changed his mind when the Visit Seattle opportunity came up. “Making this Seattle short film really made me think about Seattle and what it is, and what it is to grow up there,” he reflected.

Another view of Seattle, the inspiration for the “Dear Seattle: Love Letters to the City” screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy VisitSeattle.org.

Taft, whose film “Water” explores the natural beauty of Seattle’s water-influenced landscape was quite a departure from his music videos for bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. “I wanted to elaborate on what it feels like to be in the city we love and grew up in,” Taft said.

Finally, Megan Griffiths’ love letter to Seattle, “The Sound,” marked her return to the short form, as well as to the place she calls home. “I travel a lot, I’m in L.A. a lot,” she explained, “and when I come back to Seattle and see the skyline, there’s this kind of ‘ahhh’ feeling, this release moment. That level of calm and comfort and groundedness and lack of pretension is what makes me love it and that’s what I wanted to put into my short film.”

To see these beautiful love letters to Seattle, check out VISITSEATTLE.tv or Sundance.tv/visitseattle. And if they make you want to visit the Emerald City to check it out for yourself, start with VisitSeattle.org for ideas on what to see and do in Washington’s largest city.

Follow Jenny Peters on Twitter @jennpeters and on Instagram @jetsetjen1

About Jenny Peters (164 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's 10Best.com, AARP.org, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (www.criticschoice.com), which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.