Scarecrow Video has got to be responsible for some of the excitement emanating from the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps the locales to be found in that enormous span of land, from bridges, to diners, small towns, and grassy fields are part of the matter too. Or finding so many great filmmakers from Seattle and surrounding areas could also be because they have their own inspirations from where they live. They want to make movies because they come up with ideas that are inspired by what they see, that haven’t even been thought about by others to the point of making a feature or short film. Pacific Northwest filmmakers know enough about cinematography, acting, editing, and even if they have weak knowledge of some of the process, they constantly want to learn, and for some of them, it’s as if they’ve known it all their lives. Take Michael Harring of “Driving Around, Following Strangers”, who now lives in L.A. He not only filmed a brief scene in Scarecrow Video, but also made the roads, shops, and a diner breathe with new, devastatingly emotional life. It’s as if what he pointed his camera toward had only finished construction that day.
Now we come to Aaron Bourget, who, according to his website, moved to Seattle in 1997 and worked as a guard at the Seattle Museum of Art. He saw in his day job not only a paycheck, but inspiration for the shorts he wanted to make, about characters outside the realm of run-of-the-mill society. In “Off the Hump”, a collection of 15 of his short films from 2000-2004—which should also serve as an incredible calling card—he reaches into the hallowed halls of his mind and presents comments on people who complain about art museums not supporting local artists, and builds the entire base of his shorts on all aspects of filmmaking, such as what it takes to make an idea work, to simply writing a script. He films with a black-and-white immediacy, on video, and you can imagine him as the type who’s ready to pick up a camera as soon as he’s confident in his script and what he plans to shoot. The actors he employs are also of the same mindset as him. No one looks like they regret the experience.
Bourget understands the filmmaking process innately, and treats it as a process, not a soapbox on which to complain about the hardships that come with gathering actors, cameras, lights, and making a movie. His views are light-hearted, especially in “My Captive Audience” where his fishing buddy changes every few seconds (to represent the people who might watch his works); in “tyypo” where the screenplay being typed is shown on the screen, and also how changing the letter of one word can also change the intentions of a character; and in “Number Three” where the Artist Trust has given a filmmaker $1400 to make three films and he tackles two of them by way of the security camera at the bank and a camcorder at a electronics store. Bourget also looks at what it takes to sell a film, in “Selling Prunesdale” in which a filmmaker attempts to sell a cowboy (presumably a prominent member of the town) ideas on the best way of promoting Prunesdale, California, all of which have nothing to do with the actual town.
Bourget is proof that if you want to make a movie of any length, get off your duff and do it! Hem and haw over the flow of your story, worry about how your characters might be portrayed by potential actors, search for a tripod, but just do it! Through the model animation of “Avant Guard” and the documentary/news report style of “Superflake” (snowflakes being cloned? It’s only possible by Bourget), his shorts are perfect lessons in style and entertainment, for filmmakers, and everybody else. Bourget is now in Los Angeles and hopefully he will do to the city what he did in Seattle, and have just as much fun making L.A. look new.