WIF Member/Filmmaker Heather Harlow at POWFest 2015

Women In Film Portland member Heather Harlow’s recent short film, The Punishing Business, had the honor of the opening slot for the feature film The Sisterhood of Night at the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival this month. POWFest showcases the work of female filmmakers by honoring pioneers and providing support for the next generation.

Tara Johnson-Medinger, Executive Director of POWFest and local award winning media and film professional founder approached Harlow about showing her film at POWFest. According to Harlow, Johnson-Medinger also fostered several connections for her in the process. “I admire her passion and dedication to creating a space to honor female directors,” said Harlow, “POWFest allows the space for POWgirls to see the successful work of women directors, which can inspire them further.

Harlow described the opportunity to direct her film as exciting, intimidating and a huge endeavor. “Casting the role of Addie presented my first challenge. I knew that finding the right actor to fill this role was imperative to the film’s success. Once I found Melissa through a series of local casting sessions, together we were able to embark upon our research into the character of Addie, who was developed out of the life experience of the writer, Sarah Skibinski,” said Harlow.

Harlow elaborated that Skibinski spent many years working in the shared homes of developmentally disabled people in Eugene, Oregon. “One of the film’s intentions is to shed light on the point of view that developmentally disabled people, despite their quirks and oddities, are not so different from the rest of us, in fact, in many ways, they are exactly the same as us because their behaviors stem from very universal feelings and identical emotions that we all possess,” Harlow stated.

Despite the humbling depth of the film’s intent, The Punishing Business is a story about connection and friendship that takes place between two seemingly opposite individuals. “However, as it turns out, Ellen and Addie share many similarities, they are two outsiders, both looked down on by society, both with hardened exteriors, both know what it’s like to do harmful things without having intended harm, and are both struggling with their internal demons. Consequently they both come to realize that through each other, their demons can perhaps hurt a little less,” said Harlow.

Harlow said the script for The Punishing Business came to her through mutual friends of the writer with some support attached when she decided to finance and direct the project. “The project’s success so far would never have been possible had I not been fortunate enough to have such extremely talented collaborators,” Harlow added. “Award winning filmmaker, James Westby edited the film, Michael Herrman composed an all original score, local Portland legend, Gary Nolton shot beautifully on his Alexa camera, and the list goes on.”

Harlow is an award winning producer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. Her most recent awards include ‘Rising Star Award’ from Oregon Media Producer’s Association and ‘Best Documentary’ at Hollyshorts Film Festival for her latest film Nous Deux Encore, which has won a total of 13 awards to date (www.nousdeuxencore.com). Harlow also co-founded the non-profit Northwest Documentary Arts & Media and has been a digital media producer for many years with a wide commercial client range. The Punishing Business, which stars Storm Large, Melissa Kaiser and Sean McGrath is currently on the festival circuit and premiered at the Portland International Film Festival.

– By Vickie Paul