The Seattle Story Award recognizes an emerging, independent filmmaker who not only embodies diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision, but has a history of transforming people through rich stories — exactly what Seattle does for anyone who spends time there.
This year’s recipient, Lael Rogers, embodies all of that while bringing a fresh female perspective to filmmaking.
Rogers is a writer, director and creative director for Seattle-based studio All is Well. She directed the narrative short “COLLISION” (2015) and episodes 1-3 of the online series Northern Belles (2016-2017). Both projects played film festivals nationally. In addition, her short film “I SEE THROUGH YOU” (2018) premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and is currently enjoying a successful national festival run.
The Seattle Story Award committee, assembled by Film Independent, was excited and inspired by this season’s Seattle Story Award shortlist of filmmakers: Katie Doane Avery, Carlos A.F. Lopez, Nathan M. Miller and Lael Rogers – four diverse finalists with clear and unique voices who embrace and find influence in the city of Seattle. The winning pitch by Rogers not only oozed Seattle flavor, but infused a bit of left-of-center humor, while ultimately delivering a simple human message at its heart.
“I went into my brain for a weekend and came out and pitched them a story about a fluffy punk band playing their first big show at a large, historic Seattle venue,” Rogers explains. “The lead singer starts having an enormous amount of performance anxiety and that manifests in her literally growing a lobster claw for a hand and the band has to contend with that new development before they go onstage.”
Living in Seattle and being surrounded by the city’s culture and climate played a significant role in Rogers’ story. “I think [in] the Pacific Northwest and especially Seattle, there is something about being on the edge of the woods, mountains or wilderness at any given time… There’s a lot more opportunities for imagination and weirdness to come out of those times,” said Rogers.
“Film Independent’s mission is to champion creative independence in visual storytelling wherever it may live,” Film Independent President Josh Welsh explains. “Thanks to Visit Seattle, we’re able to work with extraordinarily talented filmmakers outside Los Angeles and to provide direct support to help them make great work.”
Rogers’ film will debut in New York at a private screening hosted by Visit Seattle, Film Independent and Rolling Stone. Following, her film will be distributed by Visit Seattle through VISITSEATTLE.tv, VISITSEATTLE.tv on YouTube, on FireTV and other national outlets.
“As a city with a rich history of independent spirits, we couldn’t be more proud to provide a platform for a diverse range of voices to help us share Seattle’s unique story through film. We can’t wait to partner with Lael on this project,” said Ali Daniels, SVP and CMO of Visit Seattle.
Check out more of Seattle’s independent films on VISITSEATTLE.tv.
Katie Doane Avery
Katie Doane Avery is a filmmaker whose stories focus on feminine, queer, and Indigenous character-driven narratives that seek to blend cinematic realism with surreal and musical moments. Her short film Polar Sun has screened at imagineNATIVE, Māoriland, the Hamilton Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, and the Cinematheque in Winnipeg. She was selected as a fellow for the Sundance Institute + IAIA Native Writers Workshop and received an MFA in Film Directing from the California Institute of the Arts. She is from the Pacific Northwest, is of Inupiaq decent, and lives in Los Angeles.
Carlos A.F. Lopez
Carlos A.F. Lopez has established himself as a dynamic artist in the Seattle film community for over 10 years through a collection of evocative, award-winning shorts films and music videos. Transitioning from a musician in the underground/DIY scene, he got his primer creating visually arresting music videos for bands; establishing a subversive, comedic and undeniably cinematic style. As a first generation Washingtonian born to a Filipino mother and Mexican father, a diverse upbringing afforded him a spectrum of cultural experiences spanning low income housing in South Seattle, jungles of the Philippines, border towns of Mexico and arts communities of Seattle.
Nathan M. Miller
Nathan M. Miller is a cinematographer based out of Seattle & Los Angeles, who has lensed narrative, documentary and commercial projects across the U.S. and abroad. Nate started his filmmaking career in the tight-knit Seattle filmmaking community. His first feature as a DP, LAMB, premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. At 2017’s SXSW, Nate premiered LITTLE POTATO, which he co-directed with Wes Hurley, where it was the Short Doc Jury Award winner. Nate’s latest project as a DP, PADDLETON, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Currently, Nate is co-directing and DP’ing a docu-series that looks at the hope, hardship, and humanitarian work found in the migrant struggle for a better life, set in and around the Sonoran Desert and the U.S. Border.