With the success of their film “High Note,” Great Gus Productions has emerged from a local, tiny family-run business to an award-winning film company.
“After completing ‘High Note,’ we were all still motivated and inspired. It felt natural to continue. At this point we have the next three projects planned out,” said Amy Gustafson, producer of “High Note.”
In a special premiere for the island community, “High Note” will be shown at 11 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Palace Theatre in Friday Harbor.
The film, which is the first project of Great Gus Productions, has already won two awards from the Las Vegas Film in Action film festival.“High Note” was nominated for seven awards and took home Best Guerilla Film and Best Spirit. Brothers Jacob and David Gustafson attended the festival, which they said was an amazing experience, complete with seminars, airing a variety of films, and closed with the awards ceremony where the two were on hand to accept “High Note” awards.
The film began as a collaboration between the two brothers, Jacob and David. Soon other family members were pulled in, as well as good friend Carl Billington.
“High Note” centers around best friends Cliff and Otis. The buddies develop a get-rich-quick scheme stealing from dangerous drug dealers.
Jacob summarizes the rest of the movie:
“Going against the plan, the two spend the night partying, allowing the audience to see that, in a certain light, the ‘bad guys’ weren’t really all that bad to begin with. Simply put, this film is just your everyday druggie, dramedy, indie musical that’s filled with Germans, Jesus, banjos, bongos, beers and bongs.”
Not only does the film feature local actors, but the entire movie was filmed in Friday Harbor. “A keen observer will probably recognize the places that we shot on the island,” said Amy, who is also the sister of the Gustafson brothers.
Working side by side with family can be rewarding and challenging.
“There is literally no separation between work and personal life. I know all the personal things going on in their lives, and they know mine,” Amy said, adding that working so closely with family members is also amazing because there is the opportunity to see all the great things they can do. “On the whole, I really enjoy working with my siblings, and I really look forward to all of our future projects,” she said.
Honoring their Native American ancestry — the Gustafsons are Athabaskan, an Alaskan tribe — Great Gus Productions will include at least one native fact, event or opinion, Amy said.
“In ‘High Note,’ it was the substance abuse playing a big role in our parents’ generation that then impacted us,” she explained, adding that their next project, “Beyond the Shadows” will be more obvious in the plot line, as it directly references Native American genocide. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to assist with “Beyond the Shadows” on a site called Seeds and Sparks. Besides receiving donations, according to Amy, they can earn points by having followers. “Our goal is to reach the 1,000 follower level [before] it unlocks many goodies for us,” Amy explained.
Should they reach that many followers, they could have an opportunity to pitch their movies to the Duplass Brothers, which in turn would open countless other doors for the indie film company. Rewards for reaching the 1,000-follower mark also include equipment rentals, festival entrance fees and other software products.
“This is where I love the island the most. They are our followers, and they are amazing. It is surreal when people stop and ask how the projects are going and rally behind us,” Amy said. “I love the island community. We couldn’t do this without the amazing support of the San Juan Islands.”
To learn more, visit the Great Gus Productions Facebook page at www.facebook.com/greatgusproductions.