Port Townsend ready for its close-up for film fest
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Decades-old utility poles were removed from Taylor Street this week, just in time for the Port Townsend Film Festival.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Downtown becomes center stage this afternoon, as the Port Townsend Film Festival kicks off its 13th year as a small-sized celebration with a huge heart.

“You don't know until you get here the level of energy that's present and the respect that it draws from the film community,” said Andrew Burke, a freelance film editor who is one of 270 volunteers for the three-day festival that will continue through Sunday.

“I'm always amazed at the caliber of people who come to participate,” Burke added.

Crowds are expected to gather at about 4 p.m. today to welcome the film festival's special guest, veteran actor Bruce Dern — who played the villain in many of his 140 filmed performances since 1960 — who will make his first public appearance at the festival at opening ceremonies today when he pulls up in a motorcade in front of the Haller Fountain at Taylor and Washington streets.

Dern's motorcade arrival will precede a salmon dinner served by the Silverwater Cafe to festival pass holders, after which Taylor Street will become the public portion of the event where people meet each other throughout the weekend.

The festival features 76 movies, including three free movies that will be shown on Taylor Street by being projected onto an inflatable screen at 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday.

The removal of Taylor Street's last utility poles Wednesday should greatly increase the sight lines for the free movies.

“ET” will be shown tonight, followed by “The Empire Strikes Back” on Saturday and “Tootsie” on Sunday.

A special brownie will commemorate “ET” at tonight's salmon dinner.

The Silverwater Cafe developed a recipe that contains Reese's Pieces, the candy featured in the film.

Because Lucasfilm is allowing the festival to show “The Empire Strikes Back” for free, a special “thank-you” picture will be taken of the crowd prior to the screening, said festival Executive Director Janette Force.

Force said advance ticket sales are about the same as last year, though no numbers were available because of the different levels of passes being sold. she said.

Several types of passes are available, ranging in price from $35 to $1,250.

Rush tickets also will be offered for $10 when a venue doesn't fill with pass holders.

Students in local schools will get access to unique behind-the-scenes events today.

As is the tradition, the festival's special guest will give a presentation in the Port Townsend High School library to students.

Dern will be at the high school at 2 p.m. today

Country singer Chely Wright, the subject of “Wish Me Away,” will talk to students at 1 p.m. today at Jefferson Community School.

Wright will use the lessons of the movie to talk about bullying.

Bullying is also the topic of a presentation at 11 a.m. today at Chimacum High School by director Alrick Brown, who will discuss his movie “Kinyarwanda.”

Students from both Chimacum and Quilcene schools have been studying for several weeks the film that documents the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“This movie addresses the social unrest that leads to bullying, telling the story about how some people feel the need to be stronger than everyone else,” Force said.

“Film is how kids are taking in information these days,” she added.

“They are very visual- and audio-oriented, and film takes them to a level that lectures don't reach.”

The festival is busing 35 students from Quilcene to hear the presentation, Force said.

Even though movies now compete with more sophisticated home entertainment systems and Internet content, they provide an organic experience that still resonates for audiences.

“No matter where the story comes from and what it is recorded onto, people still want a shared experience,” Burke said.

“They still like to get together and see things.”

This year, Force expects the quest for rush tickets will be more competitive.

“In past years, you could just show up and get in on a rush seat for a lot of the films,” Force said.

“This year, the interest in rush seats is really increasing, so if you want to get in to a specific film, you'll need to plan ahead.”

For more information, visit www.ptfilmfest.com.

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 20. 2012 5:51PM
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