For ten years, The Summit (previously called The Seattle Film Summit) has been a place where filmmakers and creatives come together to celebrate the art and effort of film, widen their networks and learn how to make a career as a creative, especially in Washington state.
For this year’s Summit, the event has been split into two legs, the first taking place over the weekend and the second leg finishing off in November.
The first leg of The Summit event, which took place Sept. 7 and 8 in Renton, expanded into other realms of “creative economy” that include music, fashion, gaming and publishing.
“In a pivotal time, we artists need to come together,” The Summit founder Ben Andrew said before the opening screening for the first block of films. “We’re not here to criticize, but to celebrate.”
A large part of The Summit is the showcasing of films, and this year’s screenings at the Regal cinema at The Landing in Renton boasted a majority of “Washington films” where places in Washington were either the subject or set location.
One Washington film was “Harvest,” a documentary directed by Dr. Jessika Satori about the story of her father, who was a farmer in Eastern Washington, with footage that was compiled over 50 years. Another Washington-based documentary was “Badass Women Doing Kick Ass Shit” by director Abie Ekenezar, which is about women of color throughout the state (and country) who have either run for office or have recently been elected to political positions, including King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion and former Washington State Senator Mona Das.
Another was “Spotlight Dance” by director Shelly Martin, which was awarded the “Best Picture” award at last year’s Renton Film Frenzy, a 78-hour film challenge presented by The Summit. This short documentary is about Spotlight Dance Studio in downtown Renton and the teaching philosophy of owner and artistic director Amanda Record.
Along with documentaries, The Summit screened short films across several different genres, both in-person at the Regal and streaming online in the days following.
Some were set in Seattle, like Brad M. Johnson’s video-date-gone-wrong thriller “CHAT,” or Samuel Chudler and Tommy Heffernan’s dinner party comedy “Friend’s Best Friend.” But others ventured throughout Western Washington, like Ty Huffer’s Christmas horror “Three Houses Down” being filmed in North Bend and Katelyn Downing’s climate change-inspired drama “Pyrocene,” which was filmed in Belfair.
The heist-comedy short “Hot Foot: Heist” by director Khemarintr Nuk Suwanchote was even filmed at the Hyatt Regency in Renton and Southport, where The Summit was also located.
“The beauty of Washington is that you can do lots of different things,” said Andrews.
The first two days of The Summit also included mixers, where local writers, directors, producers, actors, sponsors and media could meet and network with each other and with guest Stewart Lyons, a producer on “Breaking Bad” and co-executive producer on “Better Call Saul.” Lyons’ role at The Summit was to offer pitch discussions and help “bridge the gaps” for local filmmakers wanting to make a name for themselves.
There was also a table reading and discussion, where the winning screenplays or teleplays from the Northwest Screenwriters Guild (NWSG) script competition were brought to life. The winner for Best Feature was “Christmas of the Dead” by Brett Bowker, Best Pilot winner was “Gin’d Up!” by Lynelle Souleiel, and the three Shorts Winners were “Tadpole” by Michelle Deni Malouf, “SPIN” by Richard Sater and “Strong Island” by Brett Bowker.
As for the rest of The Summit 2023, the educational track, vendor expo and career fair portion of the event will include panels, guest speakers and further chances for local creatives to network. The second half will be called The Summit: Creative Reconnection & Inclusion and it will take place Nov. 4-5 at Harbor Island Studios in Seattle. Harbor Island Studios is a recently-opened production studio and a major public investment by King County, designed to help the area’s creative industry grow in a similar way to Vancouver, B.C., Portland and Atlanta.
“There’s more filmmaking here than people think and Harbor Island is a great space,” said “The Invasion” director Matthew Rush. “There’s a lot of creative people who are here, but the infrastructure isn’t there.”
Other creatives at The Summit shared Rush’s sentiments about the state of Seattle’s film industry. Harlie Sullivan, the lead actor in Tommy Meisel’s cam model short “When The Man Comes Around,” had moved to L.A. years ago to pursue acting, but eventually found herself finding acting work while living in Tacoma.
“I wanted to start life over and found opportunities in Washington, but I would like [the film industry] to be bigger here,” she said.
Andrews, who has worked as an actor in Hollywood, knows all too well about the need for film and creative industry outside of L.A. and why he created The Summit ten years ago.
“It’s all exploitation,” said Andrews. “I think that’s shameful. The goal is to give creatives paths to create better art and this is my way of building community.”
For more information on The Summit: Creative Reconnection & Inclusion in November, visit seattlefilmsummit.com.