The average film festival features fab faces like Jack, Tom and Gwyneth, flogging their art as a phalanx of fans feed the frenzy. But the ninth annual Celluloid Bainbridge Festival, taking place this weekend at the Lynnwood Theater on Bainbridge Island, is nothing like average. Instead of a star-studded personality parade, this event pays tribute to local creativity in a low-key setting.
“Celluloid Bainbridge is successful because it highlights what makes Bainbridge Island unique as a community,” said Program Director Kathleen Thorne. “And because it shows how the arts and humanities can bring a community together. For the filmmakers, it’s encouraging to know that no matter how many distributors, agents, and other festivals turn down their no-budget, guerrilla-crew-filmed, heart-felt masterpieces, the hometown fans want to see them.”
This year’s festival kicks off Saturday morning with a pair of filmmaker forums designed to benefit all levels of moviemakers. Following this, three feature films are screened from 12:30-6 p.m., while the shorter films appear Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. All the movies have some connection with Bainbridge Island, from the subject matter to the fact that someone working on that particular film lived on the island at one point in their life.
The festival acquires some celebrity cachet at 3:10 p.m. on Sunday, when Seattle cartoonist Jim Woodring narrates a live multimedia presentation called “Lazy Robinson” which he describes “a series of unnatural objects floating in black spaces that cross-dissolves into each other.” Again, this is a far cry from average. Especially since renowned jazz guitarist Bill Frisell (a former Bainbridge resident) will provide the sonic accompaniment to Woodring’s images and words.
“Celluloid Bainbridge is different because it celebrates the locals,” said Lynnwood Theater manager T.J. Faddis. “Most communities have film festivals that celebrate outside themselves, where the local talent is dismissed. The idea of focusing on local talent is unique.”
Full disclosure: I have two films on this year’s program (see schedule). With a camera and a Mac, I scripted, shot, directed, edited and pressed both movies all by myself. Content notwithstanding, it is remarkable how digital technology allowed anyone to accomplish all these tasks without outside help. Especially since they bestow separate Academy Awards for each category.
On the other hand, professional filmmakers must accommodate censors, producers, and distributors, along with an industry full of people who are quick to say a film failed because it didn’t rake in enough money or earn stellar reviews. Celluloid Bainbridge provides a cinematic soapbox where normal people can show off their films in the same way that a coffee shop displays sketches by local artists.
While the festival features great work from some rank amateurs, Celluloid Bainbridge is also good place for the pros to show their stuff.
“A lot of the movies I make are on television so I don’t know how they affect people,” said John L. Williams, whose “Hood Canal: Challenging Profusion” with intricate underwater scenes that match anything you will see on the cable nature channels. “It’s nice to see them in a theater and observe how people react.”
Celluloid Bainbridge offers the unique dual opportunity. Backyard filmmakers get to see their personal creations on the big screen. To do so in the presence of an audience, and presumably get a smattering of applause, is something we will remember all of our lives. At the same time, the audiences get their own great big rush. These are movies they will never see anywhere else. And this compelling combination of professional and dilettante cinematic artistes will never appear in the same place again.
“I am always astonished by the wealth of entries that show up at Celluloid Bainbridge,” Thorne said. “Every year, I think ‘that should about do it for Bainbridge-connected films.’ And every year, I’m happily proven wrong.”