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Vancouver shines at regional Emmy awards

As far as Beth Harrington is concerned, Vancouver was the really big Emmy winner at a Seattle awards ceremony held by the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Harrington, a longtime documentarian and Vancouver resident, picked up a regional Emmy for “Fort Vancouver,” a half-hour documentary film she wrote and produced for the Oregon Public Broadcasting TV series “Oregon Experience.” Harrington’s “Fort Vancouver” won Best Historical/Cultural Program.

Also scoring during the Saturday night ceremony in Seattle was the live-sports broadcast crew from Columbia River High School. Thrilled to win a high school production award for their live coverage of a Jan. 18 basketball game were Brody Duke, director; Keegan Duke, audio operator; Miles Campbell and Jaeylyn Gaylor, camera operators; Jaxon Pace, graphics; Rhys Holmes, replay; and Jordan and David Ryan, announcers.

“I was so excited to see them get their award,” Harrington said. “I thought, what a cool night for Vancouver. It’s a win for everybody.”

This was Harrington’s first Emmy win after being nominated more times than she cares to recall (at least six) for both regional and national Emmys, she said.

“I’ve definitely been feeling like Susan Lucci, but no more,” Harrington laughed. Lucci is legendary as the “All My Children” soap-opera star who was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress 18 times, across two decades, before finally winning with her 19th nomination.

“I was kind of feeling resigned, like this might be one of my last opportunities — and it might not ever happen,” Harrington said. “So this is pretty sweet validation for me.”

It’s sweet validation of her relocation across the nation, too, she added. You can still hear some native Boston in Harrington’s accent; when she met a volcano scientist during a documentary shoot for the public TV show “NOVA,” and moved to his hometown to get married 23 years ago, she said, it left her wondering whether she could keep making nonfiction films in a place where she had no roots.

“I don’t know if there’s a story for me to tell here,” was her worry at the time — but how wrong that turned out to be. “To have this film be the film that gets the award, and it’s all about Vancouver and the fort, is so great,” Harrington said. “I’m delighted that this furthers the good work that they do at the fort. It was a great shoot” that was aided tremendously by local National Park Service staffers, their stellar on-site costume shop and many volunteer historical re-enactors.

“I couldn’t have asked for better partners to make this film,” she said.

Harrington, who earned a degree in American Studies (and used to sing backup with Boston band Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers), has built a career documenting American history and culture. Her most celebrated films before “Fort Vancouver” were full-length studies of the women in country music, “Welcome to the Club” and especially “The Winding Stream,” a festival award winner. She’s now working on a documentary about David Greenberger, an East Coast artist and elder caretaker, called “Beyond the Duplex Planet.”

She’s also hoping this Emmy will help her leverage more partners as she pursues a very different kind of project. While still driven by her love of century-old American music and culture, “The Musicianer” is Harrington’s first foray into fictional storytelling; it means to tell the eerie tale of a time-traveling, yodelling street busker across eight episodes of a digital TV series. The pilot of “The Musicianer,” which was filmed in Vancouver and Portland, has screened at the Kiggins as well as up north in that other Vancouver; now, Harrington is hoping that this new award will put some serious financial wind into the ongoing project’s sails. She’s got the whole eight-episode story arc plotted and partially scripted, she said. What she needs now is backing.

“Hard to tell” whether a regional Emmy will help with that, Harrington said. But as she applies for grants and film festival screenings, she’s assuming “it’ll be more helpful to write ‘Emmy winner’ on it than ‘Emmy nominee’.”

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