Local movie to highlight Seattle sea serpent legend

For hundreds of years, stories have circulated about a mysterious creature inhabiting the waters of Seattle.

Now filmmaker and Shoreline resident Oliver Tuthill will bring them to light with his newest film, "Willatuk: The Legend of Seattle's Sea Serpent."

Narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Graham Greene, the film tells the story of a creature Tuthill names "Willatuk," or "God of Ocean," that is unique to the Greater Seattle area. Several scenes were filmed at Matthews Beach and other North Seattle locations, including Shoreline and Lake City. The film also touches on race relations with Native Americans.

"I loved interacting with the Native Americans," said Tuthill. "I love their spirituality and their fascination with the planet."

Tuthill, a musician, actor, director, writer and still photographer, has been making films since the age of 9. As a child, he screened his own movies for a 10-cent admission.

"I've been making movies all my life," said Tuthill, adding that he made about 100 horror movies as a kid.

Since then, he has produced public service announcements, documentaries and feature-length movies, both fiction and non-fiction. In 2002, he was awarded the Governor's Award in Media for his body of work in educational films on emotional child abuse.

"I love it. It's a passion," he said. "You have to follow your dreams."

Tuthill was inspired to make a movie about the Willatuk after viewing a Native American sea serpent mask at the Burke Museum.

"I thought about working with the local Native American culture," he said. "A story about a mythical sea serpent would be an interesting story to weave in with the history of Seattle and the Northwest Indians, and also to make a statement about the ecological health of the region and the impact that modern society has on wetlands, on the forests and on the water. "

Tuthill said he was also inspired to make the film because of his fascination with the Loch Ness monster. The movie includes eyewitness accounts of the Willatuk, as well as some counterpoint views from a psychologist, among others.

"This documentary is kind of a melding of fiction and non-fiction," said Tuthill, who researched the legend for about half a year before he started filming.

"The sea serpent has been around for many years," said Linda Silvas, a Native American who makes her film debut in this movie.

Silvas plays an elder who is healed when the serpent breathes on her.

"It was great. It was a lot of fun," she said, adding that she would like to participate in the sequel.

Silvas remembers hearing the legend growing up as a child.

"It really is not so far fetched," she said. "It's very possible that there was a Willatuk."

Les Green, a member of the Makah tribe, will play a spiritual leader in the film. He has performed in a number of other films as well, including "Journey to Spirit Island."

"It's a good project," Green said. "I get good vibes off it."

He also grew up with the legend as a child, living in Neah Bay.

"A lot of this stuff is not believed by outside people," he said. "This [film] kind of helps in understanding our culture."

Sugar Ray Seales, Olympic gold medalist boxer, also appears in the film.

"What he has to say is a little surprising and shocking," said Tuthill.

The film is expected to premiere in Seattle late this spring. Tuthill also plans to release a soundtrack CD through his music publishing company, Blue Pony Trail Music. His next project, "The Red Crucifix," will be a psychological thriller inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo."

For more information about "Willatuk: The Legend of Seattle's Sea Serpent," visit www. willatuk.com.

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