UW News

September 10, 2019

Hugo House documentary ‘Where the House Was’ to debut Sept. 21 at Northwest Film Forum

UW News

For almost two decades, Hugo House has been a place for writers in Seattle. Now, a new documentary about the literary venue’s history — and the demolition of its original Capitol Hill home — is ready to make its public debut.

Where the House Was” is a 58-minute feature-length film, four years in the making, produced by Frances McCue, a University of Washington senior lecturer in English, and directed by Ryan K. Adams, a filmmaker with Continuum College.

The film will have its premiere screening at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave. in Seattle, as part of the annual Local Sightings Film Festival, which showcases new works by Northwest filmmakers. Tickets are $13 for general admission and $10 for students. There will be a Q and A session with the filmmakers after the screening moderated by Jekeva Phillips, writer, performer and host of the cable television program Z-Sides.

McCue is a well-known poet, teacher and self-dubbed “arts instigator” who cofounded Hugo House in 1998 with writers Linda Breneman and Andrea Lewis, served as its executive director and even lived there for a time. The film project began when she learned that the venue’s longtime home on 11th Avenue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood — a Victorian-era building that was first a mortuary, then a theater — would be demolished to make way for a new mixed-use apartment building. McCue set about trying to capture what made the venue so special for writers and readers alike. Hugo House reopened in 2018 in the first floor of a new building on its old site.

Its creators describe the film as an “experimental literary documentary”; it combines interviews with authors with archival footage, animation and original poetry to show, as production notes state, “how poetry and place intertwine.”

The creative team behind the film is a group that calls itself Team Demo Hugo — “a collective of geographers, archivists, planners, animators, filmmakers, writers, Seattleites, transplants, poets and literary geeks who came together to document the life of the life of 1634 11th Avenue, the once and current home of Hugo House.”

The production staff also includes UW talents, including Ian Lucero and Luke Sieczek, the film’s editor and cinematographer respectively, who both work with Adams at Continuum College; and alumni Cali Kopczick, Ananya Garg and Claire Summa.

The venue’s namesake, Richard Hugo, was a well-regarded poet and essayist who studied with poet Theodore Roethke at the UW and went on to teach for many years at the University of Montana. He died in 1982 at the age of 58; his papers are in the UW Libraries Special Collections Department.

“In the face of a city being erased and rebuilt around us, it’s important to remember just one place,” McCue said. She devoted her most recent book of poems, the 2018 “Timber Curtain,” to the project and said, “it became, in many ways, the ‘script’ for this docu-poem film.”

The film, she said, “was instigated at the UW and has the flavor of innovation and storytelling that we sometimes experience in great conversations and classes on campus. But such a film needed to head out into the community to thrive.”

“Where the House Was” received support from the Simpson Center for the Humanities and the UW Honors Program. It also will be shown at the Tacoma Film Festival at the Grand Cinema, 606 Fawcett Ave., in Tacoma.


For more information, contact McCue at mccuef@uw.edu.

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