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Mayor Harrell Honors Donna James with 2024 Mayor’s Film Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film

Mayor Harrell Honors Donna James with 2024 Mayor’s Film Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film

SEATTLE (May 9, 2024) – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell awarded Donna James the 2024 Mayor’s Film Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film. Mayor Harrell presented the award to James at the 50th Seattle International Film Festival Opening Night Gala at the Paramount Theater. 

Donna James, Mayor’s Film Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film recipient.

 “This award honors those who contribute to the growth and reputation of Seattle as a filmmaking city. Donna’s leadership, dedication and hard work embody the spirit of this award,” said Mayor Harrell. “Donna made our city a destination for film productions and encouraged the growth of our creative economy. She was among the first in the nation to champion the economic impact of the film industry, saying it is more than an art, but also brings jobs and dollars to the region.”

“How exciting to be honored for the work that was instrumental in establishing Seattle as a major film location,” said Donna James. “I am thrilled to be recognized for my work investing in Seattle’s film community and industry.”

“Our creative economy helps make Seattle special,” said Markham McIntyre, Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development. “By championing our local film industry, Donna has made it possible for so many people in Seattle to have a career in the industry.”

Serving on the SIFF Board of Directors from 2014 – 2022, James supported the organization and Board in reopening the Egyptian Theater, purchasing Uptown Cinemas, and she helped lay the groundwork for the purchase of the former Cinerama theater. She was also crucial in the launch of SIFF’s Cinema Italian Style in 2008 through the Seattle-Perugia Sister City relationship.

Prior to SIFF, Donna James served as the first director of the former Seattle Office of Film and Music. Her foundational work while leading the film office for decades included creating a “one-stop-shop” permit coordination process and a low-cost $25-a-day permit fee. That policy, which is still in effect, attracts and retains film production, film business, and film crews in Seattle. Under her leadership, Seattle hosted feature films including Sleepless in Seattle, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Ring, and Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

James’ was also appointed to the Washington Filmworks’ Board of Directors in 2010 by Governor Jay Inslee. She spent five years on the board recruiting local and state support to fund the local film industry.

What People are Saying

Tom Mara, SIFF Executive Director
“SIFF is honored to host Donna James as the 2024 Mayor’s Film Award recipient, a true pillar of Seattle’s film economy and a vital member of SIFF’s history. Donna is a champion of independent filmmakers and her incredible work has helped make Seattle a hub for them to grow and share their art. Her impact on SIFF’s place in the community has changed our organization for the better; from her role launching SIFF’s Cinema Italian Style Festival, now in its 17th year, to her 8 years on our Board of Directors where she helped steward the acquisition of multiple SIFF theaters.”

Amy Lillard, Washington Filmworks Executive Director
“Donna James’ contributions to the Seattle film industry are legendary. She has worn many hats during her decades-long involvement with the local film industry. From executive to board member, from advocate to fundraiser, but most notably as a lover of film. In her role at the City of Seattle she was fearless in her pursuit for opportunities for film and coined the phrase film is an economic driver that provides our local film community with family wage jobs. It’s this vision that continues to inspire our work at Washington Filmworks. Thank you, Donna.”

The Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film is awarded to an individual or entity which has raised the profile of the City of Seattle and its film industry and community through an outstanding film-related achievement, or major contribution to the growth, advancement, and reputation of Seattle as a filmmaking city.

The Seattle Film Commission, established in 2023, advises and makes recommendations to the City of Seattle on the development of policies and programs to enhance the economic development of Seattle’s film industry. The goal is to support City of Seattle creative economy priorities by providing equitable growth opportunities for local film industry businesses and workers, connect talent to quality jobs, advance racial equity within the industry, and make Seattle a premier location for film production.