Things are looking up for film in the Northwest, and its partly thanks to the Tacoma Film Festival. Now in its fourth year, the festival organized by the Grand Cinema has taken an intensely local turn, with nearly one-third of its 132 films made by Northwest filmmakers. Its good exposure for them, good marketing for the Grand, and a unique experience for audiences who see local surroundings and lifestyles on the big screen.
So why a local-heavy film fest?
It didnt start out that way, said Philip Cowan, the Grands director and festival organizer. But we wanted community focus, and there didnt seem to be another festival around here doing that. With so many festivals around the place (Seattle International Film Festival, Seattle True International Film Festival, Northwest Film and Video Festival in Portland, to name a few) Cowan says the TFF felt the need to be different. Hosting a highly Northwest festival had the bonus of not only attracting local films but also coaxing filmmakers to attend, something thats usually difficult on a low budget.
The filmmakers discussions are a big part of it for me, said Cowan.
The result is a festival that features 41 locally made films, with three specific to Tacoma, and 35 local filmmakers in attendance. The venues have spread since previous years, with films screening around downtown and the North End in cinemas, schools, a museum and a church.
The emphasis on local films is a bonus to local filmmakers. This is our first documentary film and we look forward to participating, said Tacoman Rick Lorenz, whose short rescue documentary Mountains Dont Care, But We Do! screens on October 3. The festival gives local filmmakers like us the opportunity to share what we do.
Tacoman Dave Kellman, whose comedy short After You opens the festival, pointed out that local films really bring out the community.
Is film in the Northwest worthy of this attention?
Cowan thinks so. There are some really good filmmakers out there, he said. Some are a bit rough around the edges, production-wise, but they have a good story. Im hoping I can help them come back next year with an even better film.
Part of the quality issue shows in the unusual balance of short films to features.
Because the festival has a policy of filling the number of film minutes with the best films available, rather than allotting so many minutes to features, so many to shorts and so on, this translates to more shorts than anything else: 90, to be precise, ranging from drama to documentary to comedy and family-friendly. Many are local.
For independent filmmakers, its hard to get a budget for a 90-minute film, Cowan said of the imbalance. Plus, creatively, its easier to come up with a strong six-minute film than a strong 90-minute one.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568
Short; 8 p.m. Oct. 1, Annie Wright; also 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at SOTA and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Grand Cinema: This three-minute opening night comedy tells the story of a young woman trying to leave behind her ex-boyfriend. Local Dave Kellman made it in his Tacoma garage with a Tacoma cast and composer, and Seattle backdrops hed shot while driving I-5.
LOVERS IN A DANGEROUS TIME
Feature; 8 p.m. Oct. 1, Annie Wright: The opening night film by B.C. fashion casters Mark Hug and May Charters won awards at the Okanagan Film Festival. Its a spare but poetic tale of laconic emotions and calm western Canadian farmland, as childhood friends try to make it as lovers. www.inadangeroustime.com
FREEING SILVIA BARALDINI
Documentary; 5:45 p.m. Oct. 2, FUMC: Made by Lisa Thomas, a former Grand Cinema projectionist and Gig Harbor resident who now makes films with activist Margo Pelletier on social injustice. Freeing Silvia won the Most Principled Film award at the 2009 Seattle True International Film Festival. The story of the political activist arrested by the FBI alternates black-and-white historical shots with intelligent interviewing. www.thinedgefilms.com
MOUNTAINS DONT CARE, BUT WE DO!
Documentary; 2 p.m. Oct. 3, the Grand Cinema: Tacoman Rick Lorenz documents the development and work of mountain rescue teams in Washington, Oregon and Alaska in this 30-minute film.
Noon, Oct. 3, the Grand Cinema: The 10 family friendly shorts (15 minutes or less) include two Tacoma films: A Fanpire Story, about the teen Twilight hype, and Plunge, about a girl who learns to get what she wants. Also: an orca who dreams, family problems, and what happens when you trap the tooth fairy.
2:45 p.m. Oct. 3, Tacoma Art Museum: Nine shorts, including one by Tacoma student Unika Noeiel on the Daffodil Parade and a look by Seattleite Brad Hutchinson at the last days at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
4:30 p.m. Oct. 5, the Grand Cinema: Andrew Finnegans tale of four employees stuck together in a workplace stairwell over the weekend was filmed in Tacoma, and premieres here.
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE
6 p.m. Oct. 8, the Grand Cinema: This bizarre closing-night comedy of youthful janitors in a strange situation is the product of Northwest film incentives such as WashingtonFilmWorks and the Northwest Film Forum. Made with Seattle actors and Seattle backdrops, it has played at Seattle International Film Festival, Sundance and SXSW.
Film Festival facts
What: Tacoma Film Festival
Who: presented by the Grand Cinema
When: daily Oct. 1-8; opening reception 6:30 p.m. and film 8 p.m. Oct. 1; filmmaker workshop 10 a.m. Oct. 3, awards brunch 10:30 a.m. Oct. 4; closing night 6 p.m. Oct. 8.
Where: The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave.; Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave.; Tacoma School of the Arts, 1118 S. Commerce St.; First United Methodist Church, 621 S. Tacoma Ave.; Annie Wright School, 827 N. Tacoma Ave.; UWT Carwein Auditorium, Keystone Building room 102, 1900 S. Commerce St.; Blue Mouse Theater, 2611 N. Proctor St.
Tickets: Single $8.50/$7 Grand members/$6.50 matinee, senior, student, military/$5 member matinee. All-festival pass $110. Weekend pass $40. Opening night $17/$15 members. Awards brunch $10/$8 members. Closing night $15/$13 members. Filmmaker workshop free.
Information: 253-572-6062, www.tacomafilmfestival.com