During their time in the program, W+K 12.7 members Jin Ryu and Yi-Fan Lu spent a lot of time walking the streets of Portland, absorbing the city culture and seeking inspiration. When they met Jeff Frase, the owner of Cameron’s Books, a used book store on SW 3rd and the second-oldest in the city, they found a story waiting to be told. The resulting 5-minute documentary has now been selected for the 38th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. Check out our interview with Yi-Fan, as well as the documentary, below.
Yi-Fan Lu, a recent graduate of the W+K 12 program, said that they didn’t go into the store looking to make a documentary.
“We spent a few weeks talking to the owner, getting to know him. We didn’t know that we would make a film,” she said. “But being a filmmaker is Jin’s dream. We all come from outside Portland and wanted to share that perspective. We told him, we can tell your story, we’ll be very truthful. This documentary was the right time, at the right moment.”
They were very interested in the role of a second-hand bookstore, with its constantly changing inventory, in a world where more and more people are using digital books.
“This city worships secondhand selling, and we thought it would be interesting to tell the story [of Cameron's Books]. Why is it still here, why doesn’t it die?” Yi-Fan said. “[Jeff] thinks it’s a natural phenomenon, but it hasn’t affected his store much. The Keep Portland Weird phenomenon has helped his store too, it’s a big influence for the young generation.”
Filming took place over several days, with the help of a director of photography that Yi-Fan and Jin found on Craigslist. Editing took place on weekends over two months. The first version was 10 minutes longer than its current incarnation.
“He had so many really, really cool stories,” Yi-Fan said. “At the beginning we wanted to show the story of the store, and also its cultural influence as a secondhand store [in an increasingly digital world]. As we cut things out, it eventually became the story of Jeff, instead of being about digital culture.”
Still, there are things she wishes they could have included. “There was one lady from Milwaukee who came in with her family whenever they were in town,” she said. “It’s cool how different people have relationships with the store. They come back because they have stories about specific magazines . . . and Jeff is a person collecting all these memories.”
Cameron’s Books is playing as part of the 38th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival at the Northwest Film Center on Friday and Saturday of this week at 7 PM in the Whitsell Auditorium, along with other selected shorts. You may purchase tickets here.
Yi-Fan and Jin have also made the documentary available online; you can watch it below.