PORT TOWNSEND — Half a dozen years ago, Danielle McClelland of Bloomington, Ind., put an alert on her LinkedIn profile for Port Townsend jobs that would fit her skill set and interests. She knows the town well, having visited many times since her parents retired here in 1996.
She got a surprise last spring when a tantalizing job came up on that profile: Port Townsend Film Festival executive director.
Janette Force, chief of the festival for the past 12 years, had announced she’d retire Dec. 31.
“I said, ‘I just can’t believe it,’ ” McClelland, 53, recalled in an interview from Bloomington.
She believes it now, though, and she’s moving to Port Townsend to start her new job in December. McClelland will come to the festival with 20 years of community organizing via the arts: She was executive director of Buskirk-Chumley Theater Management, the nonprofit that runs the city of Bloomington’s 600-seat historic theater.
She also founded and served for a decade as the producing director of the PRIDE Film Festival, Bloomington’s annual LGBTQ film festival.
In late 2019, McClelland decided to retire from managing the theater, which she said was a job that occupied her 24/7, 365 days a year.
“I needed some time to clear my head and think about what I wanted to do next,” she said.
The Port Townsend Film Festival post came along at the right moment, McClelland said, not only since she’d had that time, but also because the festival experience is changing into something new.
“This is an incredibly rich moment for film,” McClelland said. “Both the content and the technology are undergoing dramatic changes, and now, in the last two years, the audience experience has changed dramatically as well. We don’t really know what the future will bring.
“I find that incredibly exciting.”
Nancy McLachlan, president of the Port Townsend Film Festival board, hailed Force for growing the event; she added the spring Women & Film festival and PTFF Pics series and brought the fall festival online two years in a row.
Force, for her part, has called her years as festival boss “the thrill of a lifetime.”
McLachlan said she’s confident McClelland “will build on that success, bringing new energy, generating new ideas, and building on our mission to connect audiences and filmmakers through creative story-telling.”
To find out more about the festival and its year-round activities, see PTfilmfest.com.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]