Karl Krogstad, a prolific, local independent filmmaker and painter who had a strong following in Seattle and beyond, died Oct. 27. He was 71.
Mr. Krogstad made more than 60 films, a mix of short works and features, during a half-century of nonstop creative activity.
Early in his career, Mr. Krogstad was primarily known as a maverick animator equally at ease with clay animation (the anarchic “Eggnog”) and dolls (“The Black and Decker Hedge Trimmer Murders”). One controversial technique was his assemblage of discarded stock footage into found art (“Palm Sunday”).
Mr. Krogstad had many decades-long fans and avid supporters in Seattle. His films were screened to packed houses in such high-profile settings as the Seattle Art Museum and One Reel Film Festival at Bumbershoot. But he was sometimes snubbed and dismissed, both here and elsewhere.
The American Film Institute (AFI) perennially turned down his grant applications. On one notorious occasion, Mr. Krogstad was even thrown out of the AFI’s building in Los Angeles for taking his time staring at portraits in the lobby, according to a 1976 Seattle Times article.
He could hit back. His “Gazebo by the Sea,” a mystical adaptation of a T.S. Eliot poem, ends with a dedication to the AFI for “its lack of concern for the American filmmaker.”
The common denominator in everything Mr. Krogstad did was his expansive, colorful spirit.
“People loved my brother,” said Gregg Krogstad, who was in a high-school rock band with Mr. Krogstad. “He was bombastic, larger-than-life. He was always yelling, not in a negative way, but to get attention or make a point. He was fun to be around. He had a very creative mind.”
Stories about Mr. Krogstad’s promotional stunts and their consequences are plentiful. In 1987, he drew the wrath of then-City Attorney Doug Jewett for plastering Seattle utility poles, bridges and monorail supports with posters announcing a new film, “Idiot Savant.”
Incredibly, Mr. Krogstad faced up to 11 years in jail. But the case was eventually dismissed, and for his trouble, Krogstad got a little more word-of-mouth about his film.
Although Mr. Krogstad struggled for production money, his Seattle crews were typically made up of volunteers. In exchange for their labor, those de facto interns learned valuable, marketable skills from his sophisticated operation.
One of those volunteers was Seattle film and stage director Janice Findley (“Beyond Kabuki”), who met Mr. Krogstad around 1978 and co-wrote and co-starred in his 1982 “Catharsis.”
“There were few film schools outside California and New York then,” Findley said. “He was the only game in town. People who worked for him later worked on ‘Northern Exposure’ and ‘Twin Peaks.’”
Asked to name a favorite film by her friend, Findley pointed to the 2003 “Hocus Pocus Bogus Bogus,” which she described as “brilliant but bleak, questioning the meaning of faith amidst a world of atrocities.”
Mr. Krogstad turned to painting in later years. His large canvases of ethereal landscapes and startling collisions of disparate images have been on display at galleries and sold well, according to the family.
“Whatever he wanted to do, he made it happen,” said his daughter, Kathryn Krogstad. “I don’t know anyone else who could say, ‘I’m going to do this,’ and it’s done. It’s magical.”
Mr. Krogstad loved to laugh and was a force of nature. He cooked up big feasts, stayed in an expensive French hotel where artists Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso had resided, and hosted regular gatherings with author Tom Robbins and film director Gus Van Sant.
He also cherished Kathryn.
“Everything I ever enjoyed doing as a kid, he would get into,” she said. “When I was into my dollhouse, we would go to Dolly’s Dollhouse daily. When I was beading, he made amazing jewelry with me. He was my best friend, caring and thoughtful, and insane in the best way possible.”
In addition to his brother and daughter, Mr. Krogstad is survived by his wife, E. Krogstad, ex-wife Penny Walden and niece Jennifer Krogstad.
A memorial service is being planned for January. Contributions in honor of Mr. Krogstad can be made to Scarecrow Video, 5030 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle, 98105.