It’s tough getting a new film festival off the ground. Filmmakers and audiences alike take awhile to hear about you. Maybe you have to share a venue. There’s competition to get the best local films.
The Destiny City Film Festival, however, is developing a character of its own. Heading into its second year this weekend at Proctor’s Blue Mouse Theater, it has a condensed schedule, extra venues and two eye-popping local films.
“Every step of the way is a learning experience,” says director Emily Alm. A former Tacoma Film Festival programmer, Alm has plenty of festival experience, but she says that finding everything you need is still “a puzzle” — especially while juggling another full-time job. She works in event programming at the Broadway Center.
This year, though, Destiny City is developing its character. The festival has a whole weekend to itself at the historic Blue Mouse, rather than sharing one with the Proctor Arts Festival. The lineup of 27 films (mostly independent U.S. projects, with a few international) is about the same as last year, but condensed into one less day: Friday through Sunday. One of the films — a feature documentary about craft beer start-ups called “Blood, Sweat and Beer” — will be showing, appropriately enough, at the Red Hot hot-dog-and-craft-beer diner on Sixth Avenue (5 p.m. Sunday). Even better than beer, it’s free.
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What hasn’t changed, says Alm, is the festival’s focus on good storytelling.
“I think in films these days that’s a bit lost,” says Alm, who chooses the programming with recommendations from a panel of eight other folks. “But it makes a great film.”
Kicking off the festival Friday (Aug. 28) at 7 p.m. is “A Rising Tide,” which tells the story of young chef Sam Rama (Hunter Parrish, “Weeds”) who ends up having to take some big risks after his family’s Atlantic City restaurant is destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Closing the festival on Sunday (7 p.m.) is “Very Semi-Serious,” a quirky documentary about humor and art as seen in The New Yorker’s cartoons.
In between are a variety of features, shorts and documentaries telling all sorts of stories. Saturday’s collection of Family Shorts (11 a.m.) is free, and ranges from an animation about a Viking chicken to one about a boy who lives his whole life on stilts. Other collections of shorts include Saturday’s “The Stories We Tell” (5 p.m.), which go from inventors to barbers and pit bulls to moths; and Sunday’s “Based on a True Story” (1:15 p.m.), which include a psychogeographer-sex offender, and an actor who gets a gig playing symptoms for doctors. There are films from Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Australia and Turkey.
Only two films are from Washington. Part of it, says Alm, is that filmmakers “just don’t know about (Destiny City) yet.” Another part, though, is competition. The Tacoma Film Festival, for example, is much bigger, prides itself on a strong local component and is held in October — too soon after Destiny City to be doubling up on film content.
One of the two Washington films in the Destiny City festival is “West of Redemption” (Sunday 5 p.m.), a psychological thriller-drama directed by Cornelia Moore and filmed in the drylands outside Spokane. As a married couple is just getting intimate one night, there’s a knock on the door. It’s a stranded motorist who turns out to be the wife’s ex — and gets hogtied in the barn when the husband figures out who he is. In a suspenseful triangle of intent, the stranger doesn’t know if he’ll ever get free, the husband doesn’t know what his motives really are, and the wife hasn’t any idea what’s going on.
“It’s about two men who are stuck in an emotional spot and meet in bizarre circumstances,” explains producer Larry Estes, who’ll be there with Moore for a talkback after the film. “It’s very emotional, very cathartic.”
Estes, a longtime film and video producer now based in Seattle, says he was looking for a remote farm for the film’s location — easier to find in Washington than Los Angeles. Plus, he adds, with a locally made film he gets to go home more often after work, which is much better for family life.
“Tomgirl” is the other local film in the festival, a documentary short made in Seattle and Everett about a 7-year-old boy who defies stereotypical ideas about gender dressing. Producer Stephen Przybylowski, whose wife first met Jake when he showed up to one of her Los Angeles casting calls dressed in a skirt, says it’s important to show films like “Tomgirl” locally.
“Jake was so smart, so articulate, and totally decked out in a skirt,” Przybylowski says. “I started doing research and I realized ... there’s this whole gender spectrum I didn’t know about. Making this project really impacted my life, my wife, the film’s director. ... I don’t know what Jake will be when he’s grown up, but in the end it’s about loving and supporting your kids, and to show this kid that we think is awesome. ... And the point was to be local, to make sure people understand that this isn’t some super-liberal town somewhere else. It’s right here.”
Other components of the Destiny City Film Festival are filmmaker question-and-answer sessions after certain screenings, and recognition of this year’s short screenplay competition winner, Jeffrey Field.
In the end, says Alm, what matters most about festivals is that filmmakers get their films in front of an audience.
“It’s challenging, but it’s something I believe in,” she says.
DESTINY CITY FILM FESTIVAL
What: The second-year festival will show 27 films.
When: Friday (Aug. 28)-Sunday.
Where: Blue Mouse Theatre, 2611 N. Proctor St., Tacoma. “Blood, Sweat and Beer” screens at Red Hot, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma.
Tickets: VIP pass $65, four-movie punch card $20, opening and closing night films $10, individual films are $8 general, $6 senior and military, and $5 student.