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Mel Eslyn on set of The One I Love. REGAN MACSTRAVIC

ON THE VERGE OF SOMETHING

BY JESSIE WILSON Programs & Communications Coordinator, Washington Filmworks

ome to Washington State with a production and be surprised by the utopia you find. This is a place where resources run deep, where the arts are famously supported, and landscapes are rich with iconic locations, prime for the picking. Still, Washington’s most treasured production resource might be the human kind: a filmmaking community the locals call “crewtopia.” At the center of crewtopia is a circle of Seattle-based women filmmakers, working to create quality projects while building camaraderie in a thriving local industry. A central figure in this ecosystem is independent film producer Mel Eslyn. Mel Eslyn spoils her crew. A great hostess in life and on set, she works hard to get your best work. Eslyn sees an important part of her job as giving back and her personal mission includes building long-lasting relationships with people who are telling great stories. What’s the key to fostering those relationships? “Giving others respect,” says Eslyn. Bucking the Hollywood stereotype, she reminds others you can be a good film producer and still be a really good person at the same time. Eslyn sometimes works outside of Washington. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the world premiere of her recent work at

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WASHINGTON FILM MAGAZINE 2014

Sundance this year. The One I Love is a feature she produced, and the film revolves around a struggling marriage on the brink of falling apart. It stars Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, and Ted Danson and was shot in Los Angeles last year. While Eslyn doesn’t mind working elsewhere, she chooses to build her career in Washington. “Seattle is a great location,” she proudly gloats. “It has killer crews, top-notch vendors, and an overall better vibe than anywhere else I’ve worked.” Speaking of vibe, Eslyn’s noticed some key differences outside the Evergreen State. One, in particular, turns the notion of Southern hospitality on its head. “The experience we offer crews in Washington is infectious. It’s kind of dangerous,” she laughs, singling out a production in Texas where being mindful of her crew’s needs didn’t go so well. “When I work at home, I’m conscious of giving meal options to crew who are gluten-free, or vegetarian, or vegan.” Yet she found herself in Austin, where she was instructed by her employer to tone back the hospitality. “I don’t just want to make great films. I want to support a community based around a common sense of values,” she explains. When it comes to her personal success, Eslyn is quick to credit the creative ecosystem she’s a part of. As a producer and community member, she considers a respectable piece

Eslyn and Zack Cohen, digital imaging technician. SEAN O’MALLEY

of advice: give back when you can. To that end, she can be found all over Seattle, showcasing films, teaching workshops, and helping emerging projects. But things aren’t as altruistic as they seem. She’s casting a wide net, seeking out others who are hungry to do good work. “There are a lot of us here,” says Eslyn. “Every time I get more engaged, I meet creative and motivated people to partner with in the future.” Eslyn functions as part artist, part businesswoman. As many wise producers know, a strong sense of community is important, but incentives are key to where much of the industry chooses to go. She points out how organizations like Washington Filmworks, the nonprofit that manages the Washington film incentive, and local filmmakers are working together to put the state industry on the international radar. “By helping expand the number of films being made in Washington, the film incentive has allowed our community

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