Current regularly scheduled summer events – the Pacific Northwest Handmade Filmmaking Camp, the Rocky Mountain Handmade Filmmaking Camp, and the Wilderness Film Expedition – are all cancelled for the 2020 season due to the novel Corona Virus pandemic.
We feel we owe the global community an explanation. We are based in the United States, and the United States has not, as a nation, adequately responded to this health crisis. Our national leadership has thus far failed to coherently mobilize the powers of the federal government to prevent the illness, death, impoverishment, and suffering of potentially millions of people, or to compassionately and effectively mitigate the social and economic hardships that are already unfolding. There are local and hard-fought national efforts that have helped, but no national strategy. At the moment, we Americans are not even welcome to travel to Europe and much of the rest of the civilized world. It is profoundly sad to have to admit that given the rising rate of infection here, this is an eminently rational way for other nations to respond.
The bottom line is that however it might be in other countries, here social distancing and mask wearing remain essential.
Our events are multi-day immersions in the embodied practice of handmade filmmaking. As such, they are exactly what is not possible during an out of control COVID-19 pandemic. They are communal experiences that depend on physical interaction – with people as well as things – sharing sometimes restricted spaces, equipment, and meals. This physical component is, in fact, an intrinsic part of what we offer.
Film, from our point of view, is a physical medium. Our events are conceived to extend the inherent physicality of the medium to include the inherent physicality of human existence, and to find in the dichotomy between the material strip of film and the ephemerality of its projected image an analogy to the mind-body dichotomy so central to the human experience. The one is a mirror by which we can come to better understand both. Social distancing is not only not possible at our events, it is actually antithetical to both their spirit and enactment.
We are great proponents of the scientific method, and this applies as much to deciding how to respond to a pandemic as it does to understanding the material foundations of the film medium. We must therefore be guided by what science recommends in this crisis. With testing essentially non-existent and absent any meaningful coordinated response, the only tools we have are things that can be done individually: social distancing and mask wearing.
We as a society thus have no choice but to endure the many negative side effects of this approach, including acute financial distress, loss of access to friends and family, along with the end of socializing, performing arts events, direct collaboration, suspension of travel, and the cancellation of events like ours.
This sort of self-imposed isolation should be a temporary measure, replaced by more nuanced and effective measures, but the political chaos and intentional incompetence in this country have so far prevented any such development. The uncertainty here is even beyond the inherent uncertainty that a pandemic forces upon us all. At the moment, it is impossible to say that our events will happen in 2021. We will see.
Meanwhile, we will be finding new ways to contribute to the world around us as time goes by.
Stay safe, and be well!