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Eastern Oregon Film Fest, Where Small Town Meets Big Movies


The facade of La Grande's Granada Theater for the opening night of the Eastern Oregon Film Festival.

The facade of La Grande’s Granada Theater for the opening night of the Eastern Oregon Film Festival.

April Baer/OPB

If you’re sitting in a dark room with a cattle rancher, a fish biologist and an English professor, watching a sci-fi film shot on a $200,000 budget, chances are good you’re at the Eastern Oregon Film Festival.

Filmmakers come from all over the country to share their work, listen to Northwest bands, and learn to throw hatchets at artists’ brunches — a combination that has landed it on the list of the world’s coolest film fests in “MovieMaker Magazine” multiple times.

The little fest is playing out for its eighth successive year in theaters and pop-up venues around La Grande, Oregon, and “State of Wonder” is broadcasting live this week from the festival headquarters.


EOFF co-founder and filmmaker Ian Clark (right) and director Pete Ohs at the opening night screening of Ohs's film "Everything Beautiful Is Far Away."

EOFF co-founder and filmmaker Ian Clark (right) and director Pete Ohs at the opening night screening of Ohs’s film “Everything Beautiful Is Far Away.”

Aaron Scott/OPB

The Little Fest That Could: Christopher Jennings And Ian Clark

From the minute we arrived, festival co-founders Christopher Jennings and Ian Clark have been running around nonstop, greeting guests, trouble-shooting projectors, setting up bands, serving as walking answer boxes, and more. We get them to sit still long enough to talk about how the festival grew out of a film challenge and learn about how they manage to lure filmmakers from all over to a small town in the mountains of Northeast Oregon.


Joseph Cross and Julia Garner star in "Everything Beautiful Is Far Away" with the talking robot head, Susan.

Joseph Cross and Julia Garner star in “Everything Beautiful Is Far Away” with the talking robot head, Susan.

Pete Ohs / Lauren Edward

A Man, A Woman, And A Talking Robot Head Walk Into A Desert … - 12:06

The opening night film is a sumptuous sci-fi fable about a guy, a girl and a robot head hiking across a desert looking for a mythical lake. “Everything Beautiful Is Far Away,” starring Julia Garner and Joseph Cross, premiered this year at the LA Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Fiction Cinematography Award. It’s not hard to see why: filmed entirely in the Imperial Sand Dunes in Southeastern California, the characters wander through hills of white sand against a backdrop of blue sky with colors and lighting so soft and delicate that Garner’s porcelain skin simply glows. The pacing is patient, the dialogue spare, but the whole film is such a potent meditation that when the characters stare straight into the camera, we are more than happy to just lose ourselves in their eyes.

We sit down with the writer and director Pete Ohs.


Jon Raymond speaking to a crowd and the house cat, Amber, at JaxDox Cafe & Books.

Jon Raymond speaking to a crowd and the house cat, Amber, at JaxDox Cafe & Books.

Aaron Scott/OPB

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Screenwriting With Jon Raymond - 21:45

Jon Raymond will be the first to say that he accidentally stumbled into the world of screenwriting. He had just published his first novel in 2004 when a friend of his asked to adapt his short story “Old Joy” into a film. That friend was the director Kelly Reichardt, and that film started a working relationship that took them both into theaters across the world with the award-winning films “Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Night Moves.” Raymond also co-wrote the teleplays for the five-part HBO series “Mildred Pierce” with his friend and Portland filmmaker Todd Haynes, which got him an Emmy nomination. He’s at the fest for a talk about screenwriting, and we asked him to give us the Jon Raymond Golden Rules.


Sara Salovaara's web series "Let Me Die A Nun" is about a lesbian nun and her Jewish stalker.

Sara Salovaara’s web series “Let Me Die A Nun” is about a lesbian nun and her Jewish stalker.

Courtesy Sara Salovaara

Sara Salovaara And ‘Let Me Die A Nun’ - 32:25

Directed by Sara Salovaara, the six-part web series “Let Me Die A Nun” bills itself as “the opposing but intersecting trajectories of a lesbian soon-to-be nun, her Jewish stalker, and the object of her affection.” We had to have Salovaara on to discuss this contemporary, comedic take on the 70s nunsploitation films (yeah, we didn’t know that was a thing either). We also ask Salovaara, a regular writer for “MovieMaker Magazine,” to help us understand just what sets the Eastern Oregon Film Fest apart from all the others.


For the zombie puppet Zed, threatening to eat someone — say host April Baer — is just another way of saying hello. He stars in "Frank & Zed" by filmmaker Jesse Blandard (right).

For the zombie puppet Zed, threatening to eat someone — say host April Baer — is just another way of saying hello. He stars in “Frank & Zed” by filmmaker Jesse Blandard (right).

Aaron Scott/OPB

Zombie Puppets And Other Furry Monsters - 40:33

Portland filmmaker Jesse Blanchard claims “Frank & Zed” is the world’s first puppet movie, which raises the question: How has this never been done before? Is there anything better than puppet-brain-eating puppet zombies? Or fire-breathing puppet monsters and bloody puppet limbs flying this way and that? Festival-goers are getting a first look at this work in progress, in which Blanchard and his Puppetcore Films team crowdfunded and lovingly build every stitched eyeball, puppet skull and hurtling ax by hand. Could this be the next cult classic?

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