Experiencing Interruptions?

Space Needle: A Hidden History

Space Needle: A Hidden History traces the creative inspiration for the Needle's shape back to a work of art.

The story unfolds like a mystery to create a new origin story of this icon of the region. The narrative connects dance, art and architecture, and explores the creative legacies of architect Victor Steinbrueck and Seattle-born, African-American dancer, Syvilla Fort.

The film features interviews with Jeff Wright, whose family owns the Space Needle, Peter Steinbrueck, the son of the architect who put the curve in the design, and David Martin, art historian and curator at the Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds.

Two original works were commissioned for the project: a poem written and read by Seattle poet Jourdan Imani Keith called 'A Ticket Up: For Syvilla Fort, Ballerina,' and a dance by Nia-Amina Minor (Spectrum Dance Theatre) who choreographed and performed the poem. The music is by Seattle composer and cellist, Gretchen Yanover.

  • BJ Bullert
    Fishermen's Terminal Revisited, Dancing Lives, Fishermen's Terminal, Chief Seattle, Earl Robinson: Ballad of an American, and more
  • BJ Bullert
  • Erik Dugger
    The Growing Season, Super Girl, Screenagers, and many more
  • Joseph Hudson
  • Tom Speer
  • Peter Steinbrueck
    Key Cast
  • Jeff Wright
    Key Cast
  • David Martin
    Key Cast
  • Nia-Amina Minor
    Key Cast
  • Jourdan Imani Keith
    Key Cast
  • Gretchen Yanover
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    17 minutes 30 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    21,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
    4k and HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Bumbershoot 2019
    August 30, 2019
    World Premiere
  • Gig Harbor Film Festival
    Gig Harbor, Washington
    September 28, 2019
    Official Selection
  • Tacoma International Film Festival
    Tacoma, Washington
    August 28, 2019
    Official Selection
  • Seattle Public Library
    October 22, 2019
    Event with post screening discussion
  • Anderson Film Festival
    Anderson Island
    United States
    September 14, 2019
    Best Short Film
Director Biography - BJ Bullert

BJ Bullert grew up in Seattle, the youngest of four, the daughter of a civil engineer and a stay-at-home mom.

She never imagined being a filmmaker - her mom wanted her to be a flight attendant or a bank teller, but it wasn't to be. Instead, she went to college at The Evergreen State College, and then to Boston University where she studied with historian Howard Zinn and philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre.

She later went on to earn a M.Litt. from Oxford in politics. During her history of ideas studies at Oxford, she perceived how insular the academic world could be as hard-working scholars wrote for small audiences of peers, disconnected from the larger world where US proxy wars were killing tens of thousands in central America and apartheid reigned in South Africa.

She switched directions away from academia and discovered the fun, potential and pitfalls of documentary film making.

In the 1980s, she co-produced two films with a fellow filmmaker John de Graaf - God and Money (PBS 1986) and then Circle of Plenty (PBS stations 1987). Then, after hitting a fundraising wall, she returned to university for a doctorate. While in grad school, she produced and directed Earl Robinson Ballad of an American (1995).

With doctorate in hand, she taught at Muhlenberg College and American University, and was awarded a Shorenstein Fellowship at Harvard. Then she returned to the Pacific Northwest.

Back home, she produced several documentaries with a regional focus: Alki: Birthplace of Seattle (1998), Chief Seattle (2001), a short film, Space Needle at 40 (2002), pair of films about Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal (2005 & 2015), Everett DuPen: Sculptor (2007) and Dancing Lives (2013). For more information, visit www.seattlefilms.org

Since 2007, she has been on the Core Faculty at Antioch University, Seattle. www.antioch.edu/seattle

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Director Statement

Space Needle: A Hidden History had been incubating for two decades. After I read Victor Steinbrueck's "My Space Needle Story" in the late 1990s, it confirmed what I felt intuitively, that the Space Needle was a 'she.'

My goal is to connect Needle as gendered with the story of women rising: the Zeitgeist of now. I'd like women and girls to see themselves in the icon of our region: a symbol of strength, endurance and resilience, a ubiquitous presence who witnesses the goings on, silently, with an open heart - perhaps even as a Syvilla Fort.