BY JUDITH WALCUTT
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
August 15, 2016
Orson Ossman, a Whidbey native, returns home this week for the 10th year reunion of his 2006 South Whidbey High School graduating class. With him, he brings evidence of his work in the world—writing, producing, directing and occasionally starring in independent films that tend towards the genres he grew up watching on blurry VCR’s on his parents old TV or in Mr. Durbin’s “Film as Lit” class, a storied favorite among several generations of SWHS students. From Erroll Flynn’s “Robinhood” to Gary Cooper’s “High Noon,” Ossman took inspiration from them all.
Ossman’s newest film, “Five Grand” was shot on location in northern California last summer and the production is currently in negotiation with a global distribution company. It will have a one-time, pre-release screening locally at 1 p.m. on Monday, August 22 at The Clyde Theatre. There is a suggested donation of $5 at the door. A “Q&A” will be held with Orson afterwards.
“Five Grand” has won several awards, including a Gold Remi for Best Western at Worldfest Houston (the Houston International Film Festival), top honors as Best Western at The Trail Dance Film Festival in Oklahoma and Best Western at Cinema-on-the-Bayou in Lafayette, Louisiana, among other honors.
Ossman’s first independent, full-length film was “The Phoenix Project,” which was co-written and co-produced with his partner Tyler Pavey. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, it was a nod to speculative sci-fi classics, such as the original Twilight Zone series, which made much out of the creative use of minimalist surroundings and edgy writing. Following national distribution, “The Phoenix Project” film can be seen on Netflix and Hulu.
Following his graduation from SWHS in 2006, Ossman went to the London Film Academy for a year, receiving a certificate in film production and then went on to Chapman University’s Dodge School of Film and Television, where he received his B.F.A. in film production with an emphasis on directing in 2012. Upon graduation, he and his Chapman co-hort formed the Ironwood Gang as an independent film production company. They have been working to create new works in the film medium ever since.
Growing up on Whidbey Island, Ossman was seen in many plays as far back as Martha Murphy’s original Whidbey Children’s Theatre backyard productions and grew into roles at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, such as Careless in Lew Carlino’s “School for Scandal.” He treasures the memory of appearing in his father’s signature role as the young George Tirebiter in the 2005 independently staged production of Firesign Theater’s well-known comedy album, “Don’t Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.”
Ossman had several professional acting opportunities as a boy; he was cast opposite Tim Daly in an episode of CBS-TV’s remake of “The Fugitive” and was cast by Norman Corwin in his “Notes to a New Millennium” special broadcast on National Public Radio. Growing up he was used to being on location with his parents who, he said, “were always producing something, somewhere, for radio, stage or TV. But the best part of having grown up on Whidbey was being allowed to be a kid, to play and to learn from playing. A lot of kids who grew up in show-biz families and started their careers as children didn’t have that pleasure, that privilege, to enjoy their childhoods. I was lucky I had that on Whidbey, the freedom to discover who I was, before I had to play someone else, and that has helped keep me centered in an otherwise crazy business!”