Any stereotypes of NWFF as a place mired in humorless, art-house sophistication can be dispelled here and now. In fact, any respect you may have had for us at all may be dispelled. Underneath the Japanese auteur retrospectives and slow Hungarian tone poems is a staff that harbors a very low-brow sense of humor. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) of our office pranks, media gags and otherwise zany antics (written with help from NWFF’s Michael My-Favorite-Movie-Of-All-Time-Is-Jackass Seiwerath).
In no particular order:
Man vs Pig Eating Contest – 2003
“Zack Carlson knows what it takes to win. Grade school spelling prowess took him to the Western United States Spelling Bee Championship in the mid-80s. Now he is planning to take that winner’s attitude to the Little Theatre on Sunday, December 15, where he will challenge a real live pig to a Whopper®-eating contest as part of the Northwest Film Forum’s Ultra: The High Noon of Consumer Culture series. Carlson, programmer for the Grand Illusion Cinema, will gorge himself in an attempt to down ten burgers in ten minutes or less, while his swine competitor attempts the same. Will ten USDA inspected ground beef burgers prove to be too much for Carlson? In this dramatic final salute to the era of consumer culture that pits man against a pig and beef, Carlson will strive to hold his own (and hold it down). ‘I do like the burgers,’ he contends.”
In a close battle of appetite and wits, Zack narrowly defeated his opponent.
Throw The Stranger a Whip – 2008
A DHL delivery mix-up began an afternoon repartee with The Stranger’s (then) film editor, Bradley Steinbacher. Paramount intended to send him promo schwag for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but it arrived at NWFF instead. A leather whip was included in the envelope. A NWFF intern was sent to hand-deliver the package to Brad, but with the whip and promo material removed and a pile of sand in its place. Adam Sekuler sends Brad a cryptic email, “Throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip.” After a few rounds of quoting Indiana Jones dialogue to each other, Bradley finally deduces what has happened, but not until after NWFF enshrines the whip in our concession display case.
deco dawson’s parade – 2003
In February 2003, NWFF hosted a month long residency of Canadian filmmaker, playwright and Guy Maddin collaborator, deco dawson. To honor his arrival, we staged a parade. With costumes, noise-makers, skittish children and a royal crown aloft deco’s head, we thoroughly confused the residents of Capitol Hill with a parade that began at the Little Theatre and (appropriately) ended at a wine shop.
Unintentional Prank: Guest Programmer Asks Press For Beer Money – 2002
A one-time, guest programmer (name withheld) made an appearance before Seattle’s film press corps, and in a drunken stupor, belligerently demanded that before he begins the screening, someone must give him $5 so he could go buy himself a beer. The good-humored press giggled at the joke. The guest programmer didn’t budge (although he may have swooned from drunkness). The silence turned to awkward discomfort. Someone gave him his $5, the show resumed, and the guest programmer got himself a beer (and did not return to program any more events at NWFF).
Ivan Reitman and Ghostbusters 3 Announced as Start to Finish Recipient – 2004
NWFF’s official email digest from April 1, 2004 included this headlining story:
“Northwest Film Forum is proud to announce a ground-breaking partnership with Hollywood Director Ivan Reitman as Ivan’s latest film, “GHOSTBUSTERS 3: THE SEARCH FOR SLIMER,” is given the NWFF’s prestigious Start-to-Finish Award.
In a press conference held outside a liquor store a block from the Chinese Mann’s Theater in Los Angeles, Ivan said, “I’m really glad to have the institutional support of Northwest Film Festival behind me. With the reputation of the NWFF, we’re sure to make a strong appearance at the Berlin Film Festival next year and we’ll be virtually guaranteed to snag a distribution deal with Netflix.”
Michael Seiwerath, executive director for NWFF, although visibly drunk, concurred with Ivan’s enthusiasm. “We chose Ivan’s treatment for GHOSTBUSTERS 3 because we really liked the thoughtful subtext between Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Peter Venkman, and the symbiotic relationship he shares with the time-travelling, ectomorph belly-dancer, Zorpphaxx The Incomparable….”
Only a few years later, NWFF would announce a Start-to-Finish film about blue fish birthed from men’s butts.
Mauled—Scenes from Northlake Mall – 2003
NWFF produced its own candid camera event on Black Friday of 2003. All in one day, three camera crews showed up at malls across Seattle to document the madness of consumer culture. The footage was edited and screened for free that evening to honor Buy Nothing Day. Not entirely with journalistic integrity however, as staff members staged pranks to get the goat of our discount hungry prey. Santa Clause is accosted, a man enters a GAP wearing no pants, and panic inducing measures are added to the year’s most popular toy, Chicken Dance Elmo. Karma strikes however, as retribution for our pranks causes one of the crew to vomit at the sight of people fighting for toys at 6AM.
Point Break Live! – 2003
Creative fireworks exploded when Jaime and Jamie debuted Point Break Live! at the Little Theatre. The formula for raucous fun envisioned by the creators included adding a dash of confusion to the play, by selecting a willing participant from the audience each night to be the lead performer (on one occasion, seriously frightening the audience momentarily as the drunken participant jumped from a tall stage believing he was secured by wires). Confusion inevitably tipped toward chaos, however, as every night the same resident of the Park apartments would call the police on account of the gunfire and screaming. The cops were videotaped and incorporated into each night’s performance.
The Hanna Montana Keyboard – 2009
During Spring 2009, Peter Lucas found the smiling face of Hannah Montana appearing in unexpected locations (above his desk, outside his apartment). The appearances made their climax on April 1 when Peter comes into the office and sits at his computer. Still weary from a slow morning routine, he starts typing at his keyboard and jibberish appears on his screen. Confused why his fingers aren’t typing the letters he meant to write, he discovers that the keyboard letters are all mixed up. Missing the fact that the middle row of his keyboard spells out “mylie cyrus”, he begins to remove the letters and discovers the smiling face of Hanna Montana underneath the keys.
Mustache Contest: Men’s and Women’s – 2000/2003
On January 1, 2000 a number of men in the NWFF community started growing mustaches. On Valentine’s day, there was a contest before a screening of O Amour Natural. Spencer Hoyt won all around best mustache, while Michael Seiwerath won “Best Groomed.” Jamie Hook, with some weak peach fuzz, made a desperate move and ran backstage, cut off his pube hair, and tried to glue it to his lip. He lost.
Two years later, in the interest of gender equality, Jaime Keeling tried to find contestants for an all ladies mustache contest. Desperate to find candidates, she started running up to women on the street, complementing them on their modest ‘stache and asked them to grow it out for the contest. It did not go over well.
Party High Jinks – All Year, Every Year
If there’s one thing NWFF will be known for during the decade of the oughts, it’s got to be the parties. A few highlights from the past 10 years of galas, auctions and fundraisers:
The secret prize at the third NWFF auction is a bouncy castle. Some of the ladies laugh so hard, they pee their underpants. Some confess they were not wearing underpants.
In the final hours of 2005’s auction, Rachel Kessler and Anne Bradfield are lying on the floor of the Scottish Rite temple, locked in the most intense match of arm wrestling in history, while the clean-up crew casually steps over them.
At the 12th Ave Grand Opening, one of the debutantes sucker punches an annoying armless mime, getting both blood and white grease paint on her evening glove.
To teach the gathered audience at our Grand Opening a lesson in Leaps-of-Faith, Jamie Hook announces he will launch himself from the top of our grand staircase, expecting the NWFF supporters to catch his fall. Those who know Jamie best, fully expected him to follow through. But he demurred.
What was the highlight of a fundraising party for Matt Wilkin’s Start-To-Finish film? What else—pillow fights.