Above: Lynn Shelton professes her love for James Keblas
A lot of people love James Keblas.
Last night at The Showbox for his farewell roast, the room was oozing with love for the outgoing director of the Office of Film + Music, who was ousted after nine years at the position in a surprise decision by Mayor Ed Murray.
A giant painting of Keblas by Sub Pop receptionist Derek Erdman hung in the corner over a table that was collecting donations for the newly established James Keblas Fund, which will benefit the Northwest Film Forum and the all ages music venue Keblas helped create, The Vera Project. Coincidentally, Keblas' successor, Kate Becker, also helped create the Vera Project.
Lynn Shelton, one of Seattle's most prominent filmmakers, beamed in via webcam at the roast, vouching that "I would have no career without James Keblas."
Megan Griffiths, similarly a Seattle filmmaking powerhouse, said "I was rocked to my core when I found out he wouldn't be doing this job any more" before launching in to a spirited karaoke rendition of "Blaze of Glory" by Bon Jovi.
For those who directly dealt with the Office of Film + Music the past nine years, Keblas' successes are written on the wall. But for the rest of us in town who reaped the cultural benefits of his work indirectly, all of the hubbub around his departure might be a little confusing. What exactly did this Keblas guy do for Seattle? Why do people love him so much?
Film-wise, one of Keblas' greatest victories was streamlining the film permitting system in Seattle—buying directors the right to film on City property for a mere $25 a day and arranging for special film crew parking passes at the city's metered spots. Indie filmmakers like Shelton and Griffiths thrived in town from the cheap and easy permits, resulting in a "110% increase in demand to film in Seattle since 2005," when Keblas took over the director position, according to Washington Filmworks.
In order to capitalize on the film growth in the city, Keblas also led the Commericalize Seattle campaign, which aimed to incentivize film work in Seattle even further in an attempt to lure more commerical work into the city—work that ultimately accounts for the majority of creative filmmaker's incomes.
On the music end of things, Keblas is the one who got the word "Music" in the "Office of Film + Music" in the first place—an office that was originally called "Office of Film and Video." Keblas also helped create the City of Music campaign, which helped foster the music culture in Seattle and expand its visibility, most notably by getting local music played in Sea-Tac Airport.
And that, is why people like the man so much.