Culture Dose: “We Make Seattle”

Our amazing city gets screen time in an alluring, new short film.

Of course we all know what a fantastic destination we live in, but now two local filmmakers want to ensure that the rest of the world gets in on the secret, too. In their community-funded short film “We Make Seattle,” Scott Berkun and Bryan Zug highlight why our beautiful city proves an ideal home for creative workers and entrepreneurs. 

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 3.48.55 PM

After an inspiring startup roundtable with Mayor McGinn in 2012, the Seattle-loving duo raised funds for their project through Kickstarter and thanks to the support of more than 250 backers plus several local companies (like Tableau Software, Zillow and Filter). With their grassroots-effort film finally complete, they hope the presentation helps the city attract new businesses. Have a look for yourself (link at the bottom of the page).

We recently caught up with Scott Berkun about what fueled the passion for this important project.

Seattleite: Are you both natives of the region? (If not, when did you arrive here?)

SB: I moved here in 1994. Zug in 2000.

S: Can you tell us a bit about the 2012 startup roundtable with Mayor McGinn that sparked this project?

SB: First, the table was square 🙂 So much for how things are named. There were about 25 of us there, including many notable entrepreneurs and startup founders. The Mayor led a discussion with the room that a common theme of doing a better job of telling the story of Seattle to the rest of the country.

S: Why did you feel called to this particular mission?

SB: I’m a full-time author and owe much of my success to the creative community I’ve found in Seattle. I wanted to give something back. I’m good at telling stories so this seemed like a good match of talents. And it was also surprising to us that in all these years no one had volunteered to do it.

S: How did you map out where/who/what you would shoot?

SB: We wanted the film to center on the voices and stories of Seattleites. We made a list of over 50 candidates whose stories were the most compelling, and narrowed it down to five. We recorded many hours of interviews with them and edited it down into a single 5-minute track that was the spine of the film’s draft structure. Then we scouted dozens of locations to find images and scenes that supported the stories from our voices. The final version is 3 minutes long, not including credits.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 3.52.31 PM

S: What did you want the overall message and feel of the film to be?

SB: Unlike most films of this kind, we wanted it to be authentic and not overly produced. We studied many of the “our city is great” films and they’re all far too shiny and polished. We wanted real people, expressing themselves. And most of the footage was shot in public places for the same reason. It feels to us like how Seattle feels. Nearly everything you see in the film is something anyone can do, and mostly for free, here.

S: What were the biggest hurdles you faced? The best surprise(s)?

SB: The biggest hurdle was this was both an ambitious project and a side project for everyone. It took far longer to complete than anyone would have wanted. The best surprise is it came together really well.

S: Why have you decided to make all the footage available for reuse?

SB: It’s a community-funded project: Why not give the materials we made with those funds back to the community? It’s daft to think we can tell the entire story of Seattle in three minutes. We’ve tried very hard of course, but part of what makes Seattle great is the diversity of people and perspectives. We hope there are more “We Make Seattle” films from other filmmakers, who launch off from where our film ends.

S: Can you share a bit about the website you’re developing to complement this film?

SB: We identified six basic questions people have about Seattle and wanted to provide a simple place to find answers. We’re not pretending to be the central source or an exhaustively updated one, but wanted to give people who see the film and are interested a good start towards learning more.

S: Anything else you want people to know about this project to which you’ve devoted the past couple years?

SB: I’d love for them to know we put 1000s of hours of work into this project. Even if they don’t like it, I hope they respect us for trying, and are inspired to make something better than what we made.