Filmmaker brings stories to life

By Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerOctober 4, 2010 

Geoff Klein has been telling stories since he was a kid growing up in Kennewick.

Then in 1998, with the help of some friends, he took his storytelling technique a step further and directed his first short film based on one of his own stories.

He's been hooked on filmmaking and has cranked out dozens of short films since. But don't confuse this Geoff Klein with the Canadian horror filmmaker with the same name.

This 1979 Kennewick High grad's films are not sad or violent -- strange, perhaps, and there is an element of the bizarre in a few.

Take, for example, "Sleepwalker," which has almost no dialogue and follows a lonely guy whose life is routinely boring until he sleepwalks into a smoky bar and meets the woman of his dreams.

Klein's films are getting accepted into film festivals around the country. Although he hasn't yet won any awards, he has no plans to give up doing what he loves.

"I'm not sure if I'll ever make a living at this, but that's not really why I'm doing it," Klein said.

He says it takes a lot of determination to make films, and it can be a frustrating process. But, "I love it even if it is disheartening sometimes because there's a positive energy you feel when you take a story you've written and bring it to life in film."

The real beauty of making short films is that anyone can do it, Klein said.

"As a kid I liked writing stories and was always the oddball kid on the block who put on puppet shows to tell those stories," he said.

His engaging 91-year-old father, Jim Klein of Kennewick, remembers his son's interest in writing started at about age 11 when he collaborated with a friend on stories. Each would write a chapter, then send it to the other to add the next chapter.

"I think Geoff's storytelling interest might have come from me," the elder Klein said with a chuckle. "I used to write for the Pacific Stars & Stripes military newspaper when I was in the Army (during World War II), and also wrote for an Army magazine called the Troop Information Education Bulletin.

"Of course, in those days we did our writing the old-fashioned way, on a typewriter," he said.

Unfortunately, Klein's father has never had the pleasure of actually seeing one of his son's films because he's been blind for about 10 years. "I did go the premiere of one of his films and got to at least listen to the dialogue and I really enjoyed it," he said.

Geoff Klein, who now lives in Seattle, earned an economics degree from Gonzaga University in 1983. He came home to the Tri-Cities and worked as a house painter for about year before heading to Seattle, where he got married and ended up in his current profession as an internet marketing consultant.

He has a friend who supplies the lights and camera for his filmmaking. Another friend edits, and another provides sound and music. Klein writes all the screenplays and directs the films.

His latest film, "The Furry," which is a spoof about the Wolfman, has been entered in the American Film Institute, Copenhagen, Rhode Island and Bumbershoot film festivals.

Sometimes Klein uses professional actors in his films but he also draws from a vast number of friends and family to act out his stories. Sometimes he even plays a bit part, as he did in Sleepwalker.

He and his friends all have day jobs so their movie making is done at night and most weekends.

"We're a far cry from Los Angeles and we may never make a blockbuster feature, but as long as we keep coming up with ideas we'll continue making films," Klein said.

Klein hopes to start filming his first documentary this year, which will follow the life of a transgender person living in Seattle. He also hopes to bring a film festival to the Tri-Cities in the near future.

It would be similar to Oroville's Tumbleweed Film Festival, which Klein has been involved with for a few years. It celebrates international filmmaking along with a selection of wines and microbrews.

"I think the Tri-Cities would be a great place for a film festival like that," he said.

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