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January 30, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Seattle at Sundance: ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ inks deal

By Christy Karras

Special to the Seattle Times

“Safety Not Guaranteed,” a feature film made in the Seattle area that had its world premiere at the just-concluded Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, was picked up yesterday by FilmDistrict, the distributor that put out last year’s hit “Drive.”

The Hollywood Reporter said that FilmDistrict paid seven figures for the film, a decent amount given that “Safety Not Guaranteed” was produced for a relatively low budget and has few big-name stars.

The wacky but often tender story about a man who believes in time travel and the young reporter investigating him was shot on location in Washington, including locales around Seattle.

Although the film’s director, Colin Trevorrow, and screenwriter, Derek Connolly, are not from here, they used a mostly local crew. That included key positions like co-producer (Lacey Leavitt), cinematographer (Benjamin Kasulke), production designer (Ben Blankenship) and art director (Lisa B. Hammond).

“We had no business attempting a shoot of this complexity on our modest budget,” Trevorrow said today in an email. “The natural grandeur of the region was a benefit, but it was the skilled professionals who call Seattle home that allowed us to shoot 24 locations in 24 days and achieve the near impossible.”

Trevorrow said his film would not have been based in Washington without the state’s film incentive program, axed this year from the state budget. While the “Safety Not Guaranteed” crew was celebrating the film’s success in Park City, Washington State Filmworks director Amy Lillard was in Olympia, lobbying the legislature to reinstate the incentive, which offers funding assistance for productions shot using local workers and resources.

“Film is the rare art that is also a business, and the incentive program allows government to support the creative community while simultaneously invigorating the local economy,” Trevorrow said. “It’s good economics, it’s good politics, and most importantly, it’s smart preventative care for the creative health of Washington State.”

The “Safety Not Guaranteed” screenplay also won Connolly the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, presented late Saturday at the festival’s awards ceremony, where local filmmaker Lynn Shelton was a member of the jury for the festival’s U.S. Dramatic competition.

“The Waldo Salt Award is a great honor,” Leavitt said. “It’s a great honor for Derek, who wrote a fantastic script. And it’s also a great honor for Colin, the cast and crew because unless a script is executed well, no one knows how good it is.”

Another local filmmaker got good news at the awards ceremony: Jason Knoll was the first assistant camera on “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which won the Grand Jury Prize and Best Cinematography award. That film also got a deal at Sundance and will be distributed nationally in 2012.



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