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Tracy Rector & Lou Karsen: Seattle's best kept filmmaking secrets

Never heard of Longhouse Media? You will.

Cinematographer Daniel Mimura shooting "Clearwater"
Cinematographer Daniel Mimura shooting "Clearwater"
Photo courtesy Longhouse Media
The documentary Clearwater will shoot July 2014.
Courtesy Longhouse Media

Their feature film March Point is the only Seattle made documentary to make it onto the national PBS series Independent Lens.

In 2010, Tracy's Unreserved: The Work of Louis Gong played at Cannes.

And yesterday, the Tribeca Film Institute chose to fund and support just 6 projects out of 620 applicants--and Longhouse Media's Clearwater was one of them.

Clearwater will document a year-in-the-life on the Salish Sea leading up to the epic canoe journey that will take place this July, when over 10,000 Indigenous people will travel by canoe to the remote village of Bella Bella, BC for the 25th Annual Tribal Journeys.

It's one of many incredible projects from the 9-year-old Longhouse Media, a nonprofit that runs media programs in tribal schools, teaches after school workshops, administers adult training classes, programs a film and panel series called Indigenous Showcase at Northwest Film Forum, and has made 360 short films. They also run the SuperFly Filmmaking Experience, which wrangles an impressive 50 youths from around the country to bring them to one location for a wild 3-day weekend of filmmaking, the product of which is shown at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Tracy and Lou are Longhouse Media's driving forces. Tracy is the co-founder and Executive Director. In 2009, she received the National Association for Media Literacy Award. She is also a Sundance Institute Lab Fellow, and a recipient of the Horace Mann Award for her work in utilizing media for social justice. She currently sits as a Seattle Arts Commissioner.

Lou is a documentary filmmaker who has produced a number of award winning short films and a powerful feature length documentary called Renaissance Village, a story about the site of the largest post-Katrina FEMA trailer park.

They'll work together to produce Clearwater, with the help of cinematographer Daniel Mimura, composer BC Campbell, and editors Eric Frith and Jacob Bearchum.

Says Tracy of the project, "We have worked for many years within the tribal communities of the Salish Sea. Our inspiration comes from the water, land, animals and plants; our lens being the ancestral spirits that guide our creative voices."

And if you can't wait until next year to see the finished documentary, you can catch a different Longhouse Media assisted-production later this month at Northwest Film Forum. Winter in the Blood is a feature film, directed by Alex and Andrew Smith, shot in Montana with support and crew that came from a partnership with Longhouse Media. It plays February 27-March 6, with special screenings that feature director Q&As and discussions about Native filmmaking. As a bonus, a "making-of" documentary will screen with the film, for added behind-the-scenes info about Longhouse's role in production.