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Originally published Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Sami Kubo | From shy painter to the Sundance kid

Filmmaker Sami Kubo has just turned 18 and is feeling quite festive. That's because she has already taken a movie to the Sundance Film Festival, where she was one of the few students across the country to have a film featured.

Scene.

Door opens. Theme song to "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" whistles through Starbucks (Really. It does). Filmmaker Sami Kubo walks in. Checks her phone for messages. Those at the few occupied tables fail to notice.

For now.

Scene.

Kubo has just turned 18 and is feeling quite festive. That's because she has already taken a movie to the Sundance Film Festival, where she was one of the few students across the country to have a film featured. Then that film, "Disorder," played in Seattle in March at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. And now "Disorder" gets its third festival screening at the Seattle International Film Festival's first FutureWave on June 7, a program of new works by tomorrow's filmmakers today. After that, Kubo will have to pencil in time to graduate from Ballard High. Then another of her films, "Fish," was selected for the Los Angeles Film Festival. After that? She's off to see the world and study filmmaking.

This is about the birth of a filmmaker: A once painfully shy painter, now director, producer, shooter, writer. An artist discovering her life's passion.

"I was a painter, and I'm always a painter. But the first thing that opened my eyes to making films was going to a screening at my high school. Some of it sucked, but some of it was good. I remember this one film about skateboarding. It made me really want to skateboard. That's when I really wanted to be a storyteller."

Films, she soon discovered, "are so dependent on other people and other peoples' input. It's the worst and the best, but it's made me a more well-rounded person. I never spoke when I was a kid. For a while my parents thought something was wrong with me! But then I heard about Reel Grrls (a Seattle program empowering girls through media production), and they showed me what I could do."

Part of what she does is ride the bus, "eavesdrop on people" and write down what they say.

Views out every window become possible scene locations. Ones like "that bridge at Interbay that goes over all the trains. I love that place. There's so much depth of field. There are birds always on the wires there. I think about that shot. It would be great."

At the moment, though, there's much to do. "This whole month is super hectic for me. Trying to keep track of all my actors, some of them are kind of flaky. But that's what you get when you're not paying them."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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