Port Townsend Film Festival returns to a theatre near you

Posted 9/23/22

The red carpet has been cleaned of three years of dust and is ready to roll out for this year’s 23rd annual Port Townsend Film Festival.

Taking place from Thursday, Sept. 22 to Sunday, Sept. …

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Port Townsend Film Festival returns to a theatre near you

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The red carpet has been cleaned of three years of dust and is ready to roll out for this year’s 23rd annual Port Townsend Film Festival.

Taking place from Thursday, Sept. 22 to Sunday, Sept. 25, more than 60 films have been selected, with filmmakers from almost half attending the festival in person.

Before rolling out that red carpet for the incoming international guests, Danielle McClelland, executive director of the festival, will kick things off at the opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

“This is a moment to call in the legacy of the storytellers,” McClelland said.

“It’s the first festival for me,” McClelland added, “so I’m introducing myself to the community and starting us off.”

It’s also the moment where the winners will be announced, but there’s still plenty of reason to stick around for those who don’t hear their name.

“Everybody wants to be here! There’s so much value for the filmmakers in interacting with each other. Many of them will not have met one another. They have an opportunity to network throughout the time of the festival,” McClelland said.

But it’s not all business and awards; human-to-human relating is so much of what the festival is about.

“The biggest impact I think film festivals have for filmmakers is the opportunity to have their film shown in front of a live audience,” McClelland said. “For many filmmakers, a film-festival circuit … is the first time that they’re really seeing that live audience reaction on a larger scale.”

From that point on, a flurry of films will run ‘round the clock all weekend long, including Thursday night’s free outdoor showing of “A League of Their Own,” in honor of the new streaming series reboot.

Friday afternoon, the Raker’s Car Club will show the incoming filmmakers a true Port Townsend welcome on their way to the red carpet at 4 p.m.

“We have about 30 filmmakers who are coming into town and all of them will be escorted to the red carpet in a classic car that they get to choose,” McClelland said.

The filmmakers will then dine on Taylor Street in the midst of it all with a meal catered by the Silverwater Cafe.

After a good night’s rest, a panel of 10 or so of those filmmakers will arrive at the Jefferson County Museum of Art & History on both Saturday and Sunday mornings  to an audience — open to the general public as well as ticket-holders — with behind-the-scenes stories.

“There’s often a lot of hilarious and nail-biting, anxiety-inducing stories about the joys and the horrors of making movies,” McClelland said.

The talks will be led by festival director of programming Jane Julian, in collaboration with John Cooper, who consulted on this year’s festival after working for three decades at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

“He started at Sundance as an intern and eventually became the festival director for the last 10 years and retired in 2020,” McClelland noted. “That sort of arc of the development of film festivals and independent cinema in general has been a really important and really interesting history.”

“And now we’re all trying to imagine what the future looks like now that we’ve lived through the pandemic,” she added.

In the course of the conversation of old and new, Cooper kept bringing up his experience at Sundance when “Napolean Dynamite” premiered.

“It was one of the smallest budget films to go as big as it did,” McClelland said.

In honor of that achievement and with a little help from Cooper, Jared and Jerusha Hess, the husband and wife duo behind the film, will come for a screening and post-film conversation at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Expect them both to bring plenty of skills.

Outside of the silver screen scene, there’s still more to see. A live performance of taiko, a style of Japanese performance art that mixes drumming with dance and other elements, will take place at the American Legion Hall at 4:45 p.m. Saturday. This lively art form has been used in religious ceremonies and theatrical performances, and now has spread around the world with taiko groups as far flung as Europe. The performance will come after an advance screening of “Finding Her Beat,” a documentary shedding light on the plight of women who were long excluded from taiko.

Saturday’s free film at the outdoor theatre on Taylor Street is something of a nod to the Rose Theatre, which has played such an integral role in the festival’s history.

“Sing” is an animated film about a slightly delusional showman who finds himself with his back against the wall while trying to save his father’s once-glorious theatre.

“I just sort of thought it would be a wonderful reference to the outstanding legacy of the Rose Theatre that Rocky Friedman has been able to create and the need and important for that space to continue,” McClelland said.

For more information or to buy tickets, go to ptfilmfest.com.

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