After a year of virtual screenings and canceled film festivals, the magic of seeing a film on the silver screen is back.
And the proverbial flicker of a movie screen is like manna from heaven for film aficionados like Amy Camp.
Camp started what used to be known as the Port Orchard Film Festival back when she worked at Dragonfly Cinema. Her boss, Nick Taylor, would let the employees do theme showings like “nerd nights” and “horror nights.” Eventually Camp thought, why not do a full-blown community film festival?
After convincing her boss, they secured permits and managed to get more than 100 entries the first year. The festival has only grown from there.
Now called West Sound Film Festival, the once-small independent show’s fifth year of operation will take place Aug. 6-8. After the Dragonfly Cinema in Port Orchard closed, the festival was moved to two locations: the Historic Roxy Theater and SEEfilm Cinemas in Bremerton. Working alongside Camp behind the scenes is Taylor, her brother Jeremy Camp, Sam Enlow and Barry Blankenship from Fingers Duke, and Will Clemmer, who she calls her “right-hand man.”
“Watching filmmakers support each other and work on each other’s films and everything has been just the most amazing part of running this festival,” Camp said.
The film community is tight-knit, and Camp said she’s watched filmmakers sprint from one screening to the next to catch each others’ films — something you might see festival newcomer Justin Zimmerman do. Zimmerman is a filmmaker with two pieces being shown at the festival.
To Zimmerman, the experience of seeing your production with others is a vital aspect of filmmaking. He loves meeting other filmmakers and those passionate about film.
Zimmerman got his master’s in filmmaking 20 years ago and has since been splitting his time between teaching, writing for comic books — and making films. While he is mostly known for his socially oriented documentary work, at the West Sound Film Festival audiences can expect to see something a little different.Zimmerman describes his film “Made You Look” as a short, kid-based horror piece. He co-wrote the piece with a neighbor he mentors who also stars in the film. It’s one he’s really excited to have audiences watch — his film features “creatures” created by Chris Walas of “Gremlins,” one of Zimmerman’s movie heroes.
“[Walas] basically created the indelible creatures from my childhood,” Zimmerman said.
“Made You Look” takes audiences along on a circular journey, Zimmerman said. So what could this mean? You’ll have to find out at the festival.
Zimmerman’s other film, “Jack the Radio: Creatures,” is an animated music video that uses comic art. The video melds together his work with film and comic book writing. The video was animated by Washington animator Matt Esteron.
A big screen that Zimmerman hopes stays around for a long time.
Zimmerman said he sees a need now more than ever for film fanciers to support film festivals, which he said are under threat from television streaming services, as well as the effects of the pandemic. As in-person events resume, Zimmerman said he doesn’t think there are words to describe this transitional time, adding that he’ll try to go to every film festival he can.
“This is my life’s work and I want to support my fellow filmmakers and purveyors of film in every way I can,” Zimmerman said.
On Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Roxy, “Jack the Radio: Creatures” is showing at 12:45 p.m. “Made You Look” is showing at 8:45 p.m.
“The experience of going and sitting in a theater is so different than watching something at home, because not only are you experiencing [an] incredible story with much better quality, [you’re] completely immersed in it,” Camp said.
And not only are you immersed in the film, but you’re also watching it with other people, Camp said.
“The energy that comes from that, the experience that comes from that, is just something you can’t get anywhere else,” Camp said.
Chris White knows how irreplaceable that experience is after releasing his full-length feature, “Electric Jesus,” during the pandemic to online audiences. Making the movie was an undertaking, and White is excited for people to see it.He had always wanted to make a rock-and-roll movie, but “Electric Jesus” isn’t just another story about a band trying to make it big. The film follows Christian evangelical teenage musicians trying to break into rock and roll — while at the same time trying to convert the world to Christianity.
For budding writers, there’s the axiom “write what you know.” For White, this meant writing about the subculture of Christian evangelism — he attended youth group in high school with his friends — that permeated his life while growing up.
“Usually religious characters in movies are either stupid or sinister or superheroes,” White said. “And that’s just not what I remember my friends being like. We were just kind of weird and wonky and strange. And devout. We were very devout and serious about our faith, but we were also teenagers.”
These different elements in his life — less sex and drugs and more Jesus — made for an interesting plot in a rock-and-roll film, White said. “Characters have to be chasing something that matters.”
Obviously, a big part of any rock-and-roll film is going to be the music, and White wanted these cheesy, Christian metal hair ballads to be good. He worked with alt-rock musician Daniel Smith to create a soundtrack that he’s proud of, which is available on all streaming platforms.
The film is the biggest budget film White has ever worked on. With a budget north of a million dollars, White said he wanted to bring in recognizable names. Brian Baumgartner of TV’s “The Office” manages the devout band of teenage musicians and Judd Nelson of “The Breakfast Club” takes to the pulpit as a firebrand preacher.
Being chosen to be a part of the West Sound Film Festival meant a lot to White, as was hearing from a group of strangers who loved his movie.
“For them to invite us to be there on screen is a great thing for our movie and very affirming,” White said. “That’s the dream come true.”Releasing the film last year was a drag, White said, as was sitting at home watching the festivals from his basement. But there were benefits to the virtual events. Baumgartner was able to participate in more screenings, as was White.
White said the mood of the film is a good one to have to circulate in the world today. It’s a feel-good movie about sincere teenagers who get their hearts broken, taking us all back to those fragile days of our youth.
The film is co-produced by White’s wife and business partner, Emily Reach White. The two started their film careers later than do most filmmakers. In his late 30s, he and Emily decided to quit their day jobs and begin making films.
“In a creative entrepreneurial way, [we] just had a hunch that maybe we could be filmmakers,” White said.
With a DSLR camera, they made their first short, which turned into an improvised feature. Which turned into a more fleshed-out, written piece, and they’ve continued to grow from there. Now, “Electric Jesus” is an award-winning full-length feature.
White and his wife have been partners in the filmmaking process since day one. “Together I think we’re pretty dad-gum good at this,” White said.
“Electric Jesus” is playing at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7 at the Roxy.
Not only will audience members get to see films at the festival that they likely won’t see anywhere else, but many of the filmmakers will be at screenings to discuss their films. Filmmaker Jamie Jean will even have the subject of his film “The Nono,” alongside him at the festival.Jean’s first trip to the West Sound Film Festival made him feel at home and prompted him to make a return trip. Port Orchard, he said, reminded Jean and him of his hometown.
“It was like [being with] another friend group,” he said. He ended up making friends at the festival and keeps in contact with them.
Jean jokes that he and his business partner, Elliot Davis, were “recovering musicians” when they got into film. Jean and his wife moved to Nashville after college, and through his music connections, began shooting shows. As a part-time teacher, he soon was getting more work filming than teaching — so his wife gave him the go-ahead. He got his business license in 2010 and started Blackfip Creative.Their business does a slew of filming for nonprofits, corporations and the music industry. They also pursue passion projects like the documentary short “The Nono” that will be shown at this year’s festival.
While working on another documentary about professional musicians who run ultramarathons, they met Jason Thienel, the subject of “The Nono.” Thienel was a pacer for one of the runners in the documentary — a necessary position since ultramarathon runners can start to hallucinate after around 60 or 70 miles, Jean said.
Jean got to know Thienel — who owns an outdoors store in Nashville — better and learned about his athletic endeavors. Thienel is an endorsed a thlete who has done several 200-mile efforts. Last year, Thienel wanted to complete a 200-mile race in the Southeast. But with none in the offing, he decided to do the “No Business 100” twice. The race, which is a loop, appealed to Thienel and he thought, why not just do it twice for 200 miles?
Jean and Davis got to document the experience, which ended up being an experience for the film crew, as well, as they lost sleep and paced around the wilderness.
Now that festivals are back, Jean said he is super excited to attend West Sound.
“That festival is kind of near and dear to us,” Jean said.
“The Nono” will be shown at 12 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8 at the Roxy.