Ron Colby, whose documentary “By Us” was shot in and is about the small communities in and around Port Townsend, grabs a cup of coffee at Better Living Through Coffee before heading to catch another film at the Port Townsend Film Festival on Sunday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Ron Colby, whose documentary “By Us” was shot in and is about the small communities in and around Port Townsend, grabs a cup of coffee at Better Living Through Coffee before heading to catch another film at the Port Townsend Film Festival on Sunday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

“By Us” at Port Townsend Film Festival details struggles of local small businesses

The Ron Colby film focuses on the city and the surrounding communities and features many local businesses.

PORT TOWNSEND — The film “By Us” focuses on the power of small businesses in small communities and the struggles of small-business owners — especially post recession — and ties the Port Townsend area to the national issue.

The film, directed by Ron Colby, focuses on Port Townsend and the surrounding communities and features many local businesses.

“By Us” played at the Port Townsend Film Festival over the weekend and Colby came back to town for the occasion — making this his third Port Townsend Film Festival experience.

“I submitted the film to the festival, which was a no-brainer since it’s about here and I’ve had films here before,” said Colby. “I’ve made some friends here, which is great, and I love the character of the place. It just seems to work.”

Partner’s brainchild

“By Us” was the brainchild of Colby’s partner Patricia Van Ryker.

“She had just been researching on the injustices against small businesses by the government and big business,” said Colby. “The kind of person she is, she wanted to do this project on it.”

With a little convincing Van Ryker was able to enlist Colby’s help and the two started interviewing experts and small business owners. They started in Port Townsend with Quimper Mercantile and H2Out.

They had plans to continue interviewing businesses in other towns across the country, according to Colby. However, they found so many business owners willing to share their stories that they ended up filming almost everything on the Olympic Peninsula.

“The community was really welcoming,” said Colby. “Even people who didn’t know us.”

The two shot for 29 days straight but returned to Los Angeles a day early due to Van Ryker’s failing health. Shortly after that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“It became apparent that she wasn’t going to be able to finish the film,” said Colby. “So, I pulled together with a few editors and music people to finish it.”

Van Ryker died in December of 2015.

Colby came to show the finished film in Port Townsend this weekend and said it has been well received. He has been to two film festivals previously, but said this year has been a different experience.

“Before I just brought a film here and watched it,” said Colby. “Now, after speaking with people in the community and getting to know they’re stories, it’s really made a difference.”

Colby started as an actor and playwright in New York, where he said he was fairly successful. He got into the movie business when he was flown to L.A. to work with legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, famous for films including “Apocalypse Now” and “The Godfather.”

Colby worked on films including Coppola’s “Godfather Part II” and “The Outsiders.” He continued to work in film, mostly as a producer and production manager.

“As I got older, I saw the writing on the wall,” said Colby. “It’s not a job you can do forever so I started making documentaries.”

His film “Pirate for the Sea,” the life story of Capt. Paul Watson showed in the Port Townsend Film Festival after premiering in Telluride and winning a handful of awards including “Best Documentary” in the Seattle, Dublin, Berlin and Santa Barbra film festivals.

Colby is currently working on an environmental documentary, “My Jetty.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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