The Port Townsend Film Festival’s “Women & Film” event, that was scheduled to run April 24 through 26, is canceled due to coronavirus concerns, according to film festival officials.
“Protecting the health of our filmmakers, our film lovers and our staff and volunteers is the most important motivation for PTFF,” said K.C. Upshaw, development director for the Port Townsend Film Festival. “So many businesses and families are navigating new territory. This cautionary gesture is made in support of the choices our healthcare professionals and governing bodies are faced with.”
PTFF Executive Director Janette Force noted that this sort of event closure had no precedent in the history of the film festival.
“The Port Townsend Film Festival was founded in 2000,” Force said. “Two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, we held our second annual film festival. We knew people needed to come together, and it was touching and beautiful.”
Unfortunately, because one way the coronavirus is spread is by infected people coming into contact with others, Force acknowledged that bringing together large numbers of people is the opposite of an appropriate response in this case.
“A number of our guests stay in the homes of locals during events like this, but under the current circumstances, it’s not reasonable to ask people to put up strangers in their homes, or to have hundreds of people waiting in line to see the same films,” Force said. “Our filmmakers, our audiences and the airlines have all been very understanding. No one has gotten upset, but everyone is very disappointed. The airlines have offered to transfer the customers’ money to purchase other tickets. Of course, no one refunds anything anymore.”
But the Port Townsend Film Festival is, by offering customers refunds on their ticket purchases for “Women & Film,” or will instead move those purchases forward to the film festival in September, if they prefer.
“If people wish, they can even donate what they’ve already spent to the film festival, which still has overhead costs, and has already spent hundreds of hours preparing for ‘Women & Film’ that we’ll never recover,” Force said.
The cancellation of “Women & Film” also represents a loss in terms of the unique opportunity to serve a broader community, since Force had looked forward to bringing back “Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops,” the documentary about two San Antonio, Texas, police officers who respond to cases involving the mentally ill.
“Ernie & Joe” played as part of last fall’s Port Townsend Film Festival, but Force had intended to offer an additional free screening of the film in Port Angeles to professionals who deal with similar cases.
“I wanted to give them a chance to see and talk about something that reflected their personal journeys,” said Force, who also lamented not being able to screen a unique film about cancer through “Women & Film” for the same reason. “It’s not a film filled with Hallmark moments. It shows how coping with cancer can be a messy process, with cranky people making occasionally poor choices. And it’s a comedy! People deserve to see stories that capture their actual experiences.”
Looking ahead, Force still sees the Port Townsend Film Festival in September as proceeding “full speed ahead,” with a host of “great guests” and engaging activities on tap for that weekend.
“I’m too excited to give up on that one,” Force said. “The future is really hard to predict, but we all need to hope that things will eventually get better. Hundreds of films have already been submitted.”
The Port Townsend Film Festival is also extending fee waivers to those filmmakers affected by the cancellation of the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, from March 13-22.
“We’re all trying to do what we can,” Force said, noting that other film venues are adopting similar measures to support those in their field who are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, the Rose Theatre and the Starlight Room have closed until further notice, starting Monday, March 16.
“This decision was the most challenging one I have ever faced in regards to the Rose,” theater owner Rocky Friedman said. “It was made after consultation with the Jefferson County Health Department, the Rose and Starlight managers, the Rose board of directors and the Silverwater Cafe, co-owners of the Starlight Room.”
Friedman recommended that those who wish to support the area economy consider purchasing gift cards from local restaurants and shops for future use.
“On Taylor Street alone, Hanazono Asian Noodle, the Tin Brick and the Silverwater Cafe are offering wonderful take-out choices,” Friedman said. “One way to assist the Rose today is to become a member or purchase a gift membership for a friend. Our members receive wonderful discounts and benefits throughout the year, like free weekly popcorn, and are the lifeblood of the theater.”
Those who have purchased tickets for upcoming films, operas or plays should call 360-385-1039 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for refunds.