Staff and volunteers — in back from left, Carol Jorgensen, Chris McFaul, Nancy Rohl, Jan Halliday, Victoria O’Donnell and Cheryl Lopez; in front from left, Donna Bodkin and festival Executive Director Janette Force — gear up for the 18th annual Port Townsend Film Festival, which kicks off Friday morning. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Film Festival suits up for 18th annual event this weekend

PORT TOWNSEND — Staff and more than 300 volunteers are in the final days of preparation for the 18th annual Port Townsend Film Festival, which starts Friday.

“Our volunteers bring such a variety of skills,” said festival Executive Director Janette Force.

Volunteers have helped organize and deliver programs to the eight film venues, printed tickets, organized passes, created software and even made hand-made signs, she said.

Artist David Kellum, with help from Northwest Waterjet and Manufacturing, created a light-up wooden sign that will be outside each of the theaters this year.

“People come to us and ask to help,” Force said. “It’s just really great.”

This year’s festival boasts 89 films from 14 nations.

“The most beautiful thing for me is there’s not a film I’m not excited about,” Force said. “That’s not always been the case, but the quality we’re getting sent [now] is unparalleled.”

The festival is more than films; staff also has organized events that tie in with some of this year’s films.

On Saturday, before the free screening of “20 Feet from Stardom,” the festival will host a street dance from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. with Motown music.

“It’s really important to us that people see film as more than entertainment,” Force said. “In ‘20 Feet from Stardom,’ it’s more of an inspirational message.”

The Saturday screening of “20 Feet from Stardom” will also feature the film’s director and the film festival’s special guest, Morgan Neville.

Neville is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker. His documentary, “20 Feet from Stardom,” won the 2013 Oscar for Best Documentary. The film follows four women who worked as backup singers for some of the biggest stars in the U.S.

Neville will introduce the film on Saturday and also will attend a question-and-answer session on Friday after the screening of his film “The Music of Strangers” at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St., at 6:30 p.m.

Neville will speak at Port Townsend High School to student and community members at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the school’s auditorium, 1500 Van Ness St.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, before a screening of “Bugs on the Menu,” David George Gordon will fry up crickets and ants outside the beer garden for people to taste.

“It’s free and it won’t be in the beer garden, so everyone can try, but beer will be available for those of us that need a little encouragement,” Force said. “We won’t be deep-frying a tarantula — we wanted to but couldn’t get the paperwork to certify that.”

Aside from more events, the film festival also is expanding out of Port Townsend this year and bringing screenings to the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock with the “Roadshow.”

“We’re hoping that will be a success and we’ll be invited back,” Force said. “We want to be able to serve the whole county as much as we can.”

The library will host three free showings Friday and Saturday and a free showing of “Different Flowers” on Sunday.

A full schedule and film synopses are available at www.jclibrary.info.

The Port Townsend Film Festival this year is partnering with the Jefferson County Farm Tour, which is also happening this Saturday and Sunday.

Finnriver is sponsoring this year’s free movie, “Chicken Run,” at the Taylor Street outdoor theater. In return, the film festival will play the farm tour’s promotional video before some screenings.

“It’s nice to work with another nonprofit,” Force said. “We really hope everyone can enjoy everything that’s happening this weekend.”

A full screening schedule can be found at ptfilmfest.com. Tickets also can be bought on the website.

Passes range from the $40 single-film pass to the $1,500 Patron Pass. The festival also offers $15 rush tickets that are sold on a first-come,-first-served basis 10 minutes before each film starts. Rush tickets are cash only.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.