Tacoma Film Festival

By Alison Haywood, A&E Reporter

Published in The Mooring Mast Oct. 14, 2011

Tacoma’s cinematic claim to fame is back with its sixth annual screening of original independent films from local artists and around the globe.

The Grand Cinema hosted the Tacoma Film Festival last week.

The festival began Oct. 6 with a formal opening ceremony held at Annie Wright School, followed by a screening of the first film of the festival, “Natural Selection” and a Skype conversation with director Robbie Pickering. The audience consisted of approximately 175 volunteers, sponsors, filmmakers, directors and community members. The Festival showed more than 100 films at four different venues over the course of eight days.

The Grand Cinema, an independent non-profit art house in downtown Tacoma, facilitated the festival. Director of the Tacoma Film Festival Emily Alm organized the event. She said she views the festival as “just another way” to work towards the Grand’s mission, which is to bring great independent films to Tacoma.

Pacific Lutheran’s Director of Multimedia Services Kirk Isakson is a film buff and regular attendee at The Grand.

“What we see at the Grand Cinema are the films that you don’t normally see,” Isakson said. They’re kind of off the wall, they’re a little bit avant-garde … they’re a little different,” he said. “They’re unique, and I think that’s how the Grand Cinema likes to portray itself, it’s a showcase for films that people don’t really expect to find.”

Marketing Director for the Grand Cinema and PLU class of 2010 alumna Kirstyn Ricker said “We’re just trying to boost Tacoma as a city that celebrates art.”

For the Film Festival, the Grand tried to bring in as many people who were involved in the production of the films as possible to answer questions and talk about the production process.

Community member Viki Snow said “I’ve never met the director of a film before.” One film she watched was “Breaking through the Clouds,” a documentary about airplanes. She said hearing the director speak gave her insight in to the “overwhelming task” of how much research went in to the documentary.

Like the Grand Cinema, the Tacoma Film Festival featured films mostly from local and international filmmakers. Executive Director of the Grand Cinema Philip Cowan said the film festival was about half local, half international films.

British director Michael Koltes and Tacoma producer-based Christopher Slaughter introduced their short film “They Walk Among Us” at its world premier Sunday night. Koltes said they submitted their film for the festival for the opportunity to show off their work and network with other filmmakers. The film, Koltes said, was inspired by “meat cleavers and cuddly toys.”

A Scottish writer and producer Alexander MacKenzie attended the festival to showcase his film “Dancing on the Edge” about a young girl who wants to become a ballet dancer but who “turns into sort of a Lindsay Lohan.”

Mackenzie said his favorite part of making the film was “to see their [the actors’] faces when their names come up in the credits. You can’t pay me for that.”

Isakson says it’s a community effort to keep small theaters like the Grand going. Community partners and sponsors, a loyal audience and volunteers made the Tacoma Film Festival possible this year. Isaksons said part of what has contributed to local theaters’ success is the price.

“It’s really cheap,” Isakson said. “For example, at the Blue Mouse [Theater] on Monday night, you can see a full length feature for three bucks.”

Alm said festivals like the Tacoma Film Festival are important.

“Independent film would die if it weren’t for film festivals,” Alm said. “I really believe that.”

For more information on the Grand Cinema, check out http://www.grandcinema.com.

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