by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
SEATTLE LESBIAN & GAY FILM FESTIVAL
October 10 - 20
The 18th annual Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (SLGFF) kicks off next Thursday with a gala screening of director Jeffrey Schwarz's masterful, supremely entertaining documentary I Am Divine at Seattle's landmark Cinerama. Running a full 11 days and featuring 159 features, shorts, and live entertainments being showcased at venues throughout greater Seattle, this might just be the most ambitious SLGFF yet, organizer Three Dollar Bill Cinema pulling out all the stops in hopes of making it a rousing success.
'Having been a part of Three Dollar Bill Cinema since the first year, it's been wonderful to see this organization evolve and flourish,' says Jason Plourde, the longtime programmer who stepped into the shoes of executive director just this year. 'This past year has been a great experience. Sure, there's the pressure of continuing the organization's success, but I've really enjoyed listening to our audience and staff to see how Three Dollar Bill Cinema can improve and grow in new ways.'
For incoming artistic director and lead programmer Keith Bacon, slipping into his new role wasn't nearly as daunting as you might imagine. '[This is] my seventh year working with Three Dollar Bill Cinema and SLGFF,' he states. 'My previous role was lead programmer along with marketing/communications duties. I'm excited and proud to be taking on the role of artistic director.'
Not that excitement lessened the daunting task of assembling this year's festival lineup. 'It's very challenging, but after working on the festival circuit for seven years I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what our audience wants to see and what they need to see,' says Bacon. 'We're far from being the only game in town, and as such you'll find that the SLGFF lineup is quite unique in comparison to other LGBT film festivals around the country. We have more shorts programs, more local films, and now more live events than you'd typically find elsewhere.'
'SO MANY GREAT THINGS'
Even though his role has changed and he's not quite as intimately involved with the actual programming of the event as in previous years, an excited Plourde can't help but share his new artistic director's enthusiasm. 'It's incredible!' he exclaims. 'But, then, it'd be bad to wish that it wouldn't be, right? Seriously, Keith and the programming team have pulled together an amazing collection of award winners, special premieres, and programs with live performance elements ... there's so many great things to see!'
Those live events are the real change in regards to this year's SLGFF, the festival really going outside the typical film festival norm to shake things up and add some extra electricity to the event. 'It's definitely a big part of my vision for the festival to incorporate more live performances which are tied to film in one way or another,' proclaims Bacon. 'They bring an exciting, 'can't miss' element to the festival and also incorporate a ton of local talent. Plus, they're fun! And you're not going to see these things on Netflix. Return to Grey Gardens with Jinkx Monsoon, Peaches Christ, and a supporting cast of local talent is going to be outrageously fun. It's certainly the biggest production we've ever done in the festival.'
For Plourde, events such as this feed into his long-term vision for Three Dollar Bill Cinema, his excitement in regards to the future positively palpable. 'Visual media is an increasingly prevalent and influential part of our society,' he explains. 'I think the role of Three Dollar Bill Cinema is to ensure that our stories are part of that landscape, are accurately told, and thoughtfully curated. We've just signed an agreement to move into the 12th Avenue Arts building when it's complete next year, and I believe that will improve our ability to work with other arts organizations and increase our visibility in the community.'
Not that either man feels the state of LGBT film is anywhere close to decline or in need of rejuvenation. Far from it, and all one has to do is look at this year's lineup for confirmation on that front. 'We're seeing big, beautiful productions like Reaching for the Moon, cutting-edge filmmaking in Valencia, Animals, and Bruno & Earlene Go to Vegas,' says Bacon, 'unflinchingly provocative films such as Stranger by the Lake and Frauensee, and more 'post-Gay' stories that feature LGBT characters but don't dwell in the realm of 'coming out' or coming to terms with one's sexuality, such as The Happy Sad and Everybody's Got Somebody ... But Me. And in documentaries, we're seeing vital LGBT stories of the past and present being shared with the world including Born This Way, The Rugby Player, Continental, Breaking Through, Bridegroom, and Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley, which I think is both exciting and important.'
It's this sort of narrative diversity that Plourde sees as key to both the SLGFF as well as to LGBT cinema in general. 'It's important to have a festival that celebrates who we are as individuals and as a community,' he states candidly. 'The festival connects people through the art of film and provides visibility. And there's also the fact that even though there are now a variety of outlets to see Queer film, distributors still see them as 'too niche' and the festival is the only chance to experience many of these films on the big screen ... if at all.'
When he stands back for a moment, Bacon can't help but be moderately awestruck by what it is he and the rest of the SLGFF team have been able to accomplish for this year's festival. At the same time, he's also learned key lessons he'll take with him as he moves forward as artistic director. 'There are more people involved in producing this festival than ever before, and building a bigger team has brought in new ideas, talents, and successes, which has been a valuable learning experience for all,' he explains. 'Our theme this year is 'Bold Is Beautiful' and I hope people will connect with that idea through the thoughtful, inspiring and entertaining films and programs we've put together.'
As for Plourde, he can't wait to get back to work, not just planning next year's festival but working on Three Dollar Bill Cinema's ongoing year-round programs as well. What keeps him coming back for more? Why this passion to stay involved? 'The amazing people that I get to work with,' he states with candor, 'all of whom put countless hours into helping Three Dollar Bill Cinema fulfill our mission. [Additionally], I love meeting people who look forward to our programs every year, as well as those who discover us for the first time.'
'With this year's festival, we've tried to make it as accessible as possible with $5 screenings, a six-pack special on tickets, and a Film Lover Pass that's also a great deal! I can't stress enough that people need to buy tickets early because there will be sell-outs. Also, becoming a member not only helps our organization and the festival tremendously, but members are also rewarded with more discounts and great perks.'
The 18th Annual Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival runs Thursday, October 10, thru Sunday, October 20. For the complete schedule guide and to buy tickets, as well as additional information on becoming a Three Dollar Bill Cinema member, go to www.threedollarbillcinema.org.
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