Jason Cortlund: Writer and Director

Watching television one evening, screenwriterand 2006 Centrum creative residentJason Cortlund saw a news report about old-growth Douglas firs that were being “poached” in the middle of the night. The poachers would sell the wood to buy methamphetamines. Cortlund, who had grown up near Salem, Oregon, was familiar with the story. “I knew the picture, what it was like to be poor, under pressure, and macho,” he says. Research led to the script Lumberjunkies, one of two feature-length film projects that Cortlund is developing.

Cortlund’s first film, Nightstand, in which a U.S. Army helicopter mechanic embarks on an affair with an officer’s wife, played on the festival circuit in 2002. The project was completed with his partner, Julia Halperin, with whom Cortlund has been writing and filming since 1996. Their work has screened widely at film festivals and cinemas across North America and Europe.

Their current work is the Interstate project, a series of short video experiments designed around circus footage at an encampment alongside a busy Texas highway. The shorts critique surveillance. Part One focuses on footage of caged zoo animals—elephants and zebras—while tracers from passing automobile traffic flash across the screen. Part Two is rife with contemporary resonance, featuring a pop song from Iraq—with a gunfire-inspired beat—as the soundtrack for a caged tiger dance video. Part Three is in the process of being edited; Cortlund visualizes a piece that critiques the current vogue of media sensationalism.