Connecting Filmmakers to Audiences: SIFF’s Fly Filmmaking Challenge is Back!

3/15/2018 |
Amanda Bedell |

Short on time, instinct takes over as six Washington State filmmakers dive into the world of creativity because artists matter.

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is excited to shine a spotlight on its annual Film Festival that runs Thursday, May 17 through Sunday, June 10, 2018. Through the Festival Spotlight, SIFF will countdown and reveal what to expect at this year's festival over the next ten weeks. It's a sneak peek of groundbreaking film announcements, diverse filmmaker development programs, insights on where the hottest parties are, and expected celebrity guest appearances.

"Annually, through the Seattle International Film Festival, we as Seattleites get a chance to see something completely unique; the power of film to create connection between audiences and filmmakers with a shared story at the heart of it all," said Sarah Wilke, SIFF Executive Director. "I can't think of a better way to kick it off our festival announcements than with the revival of the Fly Filmmaking Challenge."

SIFF, in partnership with Washington Filmworks, welcomes back audience favorite, the Fly Filmmaking Challenge after a three year hiatus. This year's program documents why creativity matters and how it impacts the world we live in for the better.

For the first time ever, the Fly Filmmaking Challenge hit the road and invited filmmakers from cities across the state to participate. "As a statewide entity that works closely with creative industries, Washington Filmworks knows first hand how creativity and creative professionals transform communities both culturally and economically," said Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington Filmworks. "The six filmmakers selected for this year's Challenge have chosen to showcase a diverse group of people and places from their community which make a delightful, inspired, and unforgettable program for SIFF audiences."

Each filmmaker chose a creative professional living in their community as the subject of their documentary film. From a fashion professional to a creative technologist, from a woodworker to a literary artist, SIFF audiences will experience an intimate look inside each artisan's creative process and understand how their work benefits the quality of life in the city which they live and work.

Given only 10 weeks to plan, produce, and complete a short 5-7 minute documentary short within the creative challenges, filmmakers must think on their feet to present the most compelling film. "Documentary projects often afford months to years of production but this year's team said they are up to the challenge." said Dustin Kaspar, SIFF's Education Programs Manager. "The abbreviated production timeline engages their creative instincts and provides a showcase of their visionary talent through another artist's process.

The final program features six short films by filmmakers from across the state, intended to shine a light on Washington's far-reaching and inspired creative industries. The 2018 Fly Filmmakers are Jeff Barehand (Olympia), Graham Bourque (Ellensburg), Myisa Plancq-Graham (Seattle), Elliat Graney-Saucke (Seattle), Kendra Ann Sherrill (Spokane), Masahiro Sugano (Tacoma).

The Fly Filmmaking Challenge is scheduled to premiere on Monday, May 28 and will screen again on Wednesday, June 6. Purchase a Full Series Pass now at a special Early Bird rate. Series passes include priority seating, admission to all regularly priced Festival screenings, and admission to over five weeks of press screenings. Individual tickets go on sale May 3rd. For more information, please visit

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About SIFF
Founded in 1976, SIFF creates experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world with the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Cinema, and SIFF Education. Recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America, the Seattle International Film Festival is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States, reaching more than 140,000 annually. The 25-day festival is renowned for its wide-ranging and eclectic programming, presenting 400 features, short films, and documentaries from over 80 countries each year. SIFF Cinema exhibits premiere theatrical engagements, repertory, classic, and revival film showings 365 days a year on five screens at the SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, and SIFF Film Center, reaching more than 175,000 attendees annually. SIFF Education offers educational programs for all audiences serving more than 13,000 students and youth in the community with programs throughout the year.

About Washington Filmworks
Washington Filmworks (WF) is the private 501(c)(6) non-profit organization that manages the Motion Picture Competitiveness program as well as a diversity of resources for the creative industries in Washington State. WF mission is to create economic development opportunities by building and enhancing the competitiveness, profile, and sustainability of Washington State's film industry.

About the Filmmakers

Jeff Barehand
Jeff is an enrolled citizen of the Gila River Indian Community of Arizona. He studied at the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory in Washington, D.C. and filmmaking at the American Indian Arts Institute's intensive filmmaking workshop sponsored by ABC/Disney. He is a founding member of the non-profit, the Olympia Film Collective, a South Sound premiere filmmaking hub. He is co-owner of Sky Bear Media, a video production company specializing in producing media for Tribes, Native organizations, and Tribal youth programs. He is a Sundance Native Lab fellow and also the current Board Chair of Red Eagle Soaring, Seattle's only Native youth theatre program.

Graham Bourque
Graham is a filmmaker living in Ellensburg, Washington. He graduated from Central Washington University in 2017 with a degree in Film Production, and has produced a number of short films, documentaries, and commercials. During his senior year, he produced Todd's Vlog which won 1st place in the narrative short film category at the BEA Festival of Media Arts 2017.

Myisa Plancq-Graham
San Francisco native, Myisa, began her photography career exploring the streets of Atlanta in 2011. Her growing appreciation for photography and videography culminated in the creation of Annie Graham Imagery. Creating content by, about and for Black people is her primary filmmaking incentive. Myisa serves as lead director, videographer, and editor for documentary short series UNCODE, highlighting people and stories of the African Diaspora.

Elliat Graney-Saucke
Elliat is a documentary filmmaker focused on equity and cultural knowledge exchange. Currently acting President of the Seattle Documentary Association, Elliat is completing her second feature documentary Boys on the Inside, about ‘boy' culture in women's prisons. She is also completing the documentary Art Heart: Children of Riot Grrrl with Celeste Chan, about coming of age in riot grrrl, queercore culture. After seven years in Berlin producing content in eight countries, she is back in Seattle as an organizer and teacher at Northwest Film Forum and Director of Elliat Creative, LLC.

Kendra Ann Sherrill
Kendra Ann is an award-winning filmmaker from Spokane, WA. Many of her short films have screened at local film festivals such as the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, Seattle Shorts Film Festival, Local Sightings Film Festival, and Reel NW. She is a graduate of the Eastern Washington University's Film Program, where she received the Best Director and Best Screenplay awards, and was a finalist for the the DGA Student Film Awards. Kendra also serves as the Assistant Director for the Spokane International Film Festival and works full time as an editor and producer for the Emmy award-winning television series Washington Grown.

Masahiro Sugano
Masahiro, a Sundance Film Festival alumnus, is an award winning filmmaker whose accolades stretch from a Student Academy Award nomination in 1997 to his most recent 2016 Documentary Award given by the National Asian American Journalists Association. In 2013 he received the Center for Asian American Media's Innovation Fund for his series "Verses in Exile," currently hosted on Masahiro's second feature, Cambodian Son is winner of several awards including the Best Documentary Award at CAAMFEST 2014 and the Audience Choice Award at Bali International Film Festival 2015. As co-founder of artist-ran media lab Studio Revolt, Masahiro creates short films on a variety of societal issues such as deportation. He's also a pioneering force in the art of spoken word videos. Earning a B.A. in Philosophy from California State University, Northridge, Masahiro went on to earn an M.F.A. in Film from University of Illinois, Chicago. Masahiro currently resides in Tacoma, WA and serves as an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington, Bothell.