Published on October 7th, 2015 | by Katy Evans


How to Tacoma Film Fest

Perhaps you are like me and love movies and love The Grand Cinema but have never gone to the Tacoma Film Festival.

This, I think should be considered an embarrassment for multiple reasons:

First, the Tacoma Film Festival is ten years old this year and over this past decade I have been living in Tacoma, loving movies, yet never once went to the Festival.

And second I, uh, work for The Grand Cinema. To be a little fair to myself, I’ve only been working at The Grand for a little over two months. This year I will fix the last ten years of wrongs and I will go to a whole bunch of festival films and events. And not just because I have to!

Doing it! Going to the Film Festival!

TFF Schedule at a Glance

Click the image to see ALL THE MOVIES

So also like me, you may ask: how does one actually go to a film festival correctly? Well, now that I am nearly an expert, I can give you all the answers in five easy steps. Ready?

1. Look at the program and get excited about films. We have all sorts of insider recommendations below so if you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry, we’ll help.

2. Pick out the films and events you want to attend. Don’t worry if this takes you a little while to figure out. A film festival, much like any major festival or convention, takes some preparation.

Here are some pointers when trying to navigate all the tempting options: be open-minded, be curious, and go with your gut. The magic about the Tacoma Film Festival (as with nearly everything that happens at The Grand) is that you can’t make a wrong choice. EVERYTHING IS GOOD. True, you may not like everything, but it is all actually, objectively good. I state, subjectively.

Also, keep an eye out for screening and events with cast or crew in attendance; all the 25 New Faces films are great opportunities to meet filmmakers and learn about their process and work.

3. Schedule out your choices thanks to the beautiful program and website so you know where you’re going and when throughout the festival.

4. Buy your tickets ahead of time! (As you may have noticed, these ticket prices are just the same as regular Grand ticket prices.) For most screenings you should be fine buying at the door but you are always better off if you secure your seat early. For example, this year, it looks like Village of Middlevale, The Glamour and the Squalor, Finders Keepers, and Tumbledown will all sell out so grab those tickets soon.

Here’s what’s super handy: pick up a punch card. For $75, you can see TEN movies. You can use up your punch card yourself or you can share it with a friend. Even better, become a member and get $2.50 off movies – including festival films – all the time.

5. Grab a date and go see all your movies and go to all your events! Come say hi to all the amazing filmmakers and talk film over a cocktail and a grilling steak at The Zodiac Supper Club; shake John Ratzenberger’s hand; ask a 25 New Face why they love making films.

But what ARE these festival films?

The Tacoma Film Festival is a real independent film event. By this I mean that although some of these films may feature familiar actors, they are made by real artists who care about the power a movie can have as a work of humanism.

The Tacoma Film Festival is curated to celebrate filmmakers connecting with audiences as they explore big ideas, illuminate deep emotions, evoke laughter or tears. (And I can say this because I’m not the curator: festival director Laura Marshall is, so I am completely unbiased in my assessment of her programming. I mean, she doesn’t even directly report to me.)

Still from the documentary T-Rex

Still from the documentary T-Rex

Yes, these films are art but they are also fun movies of every kind. There is truly a movie for every taste in the festival: Rom-coms, horse movies, sports docs, existential scifi animation, psychological horror, Toy Story, Jinkx Monsoon, badass feminists, Peggy Guggenheim, Paraguayan musical geniuses, dancing, kissing, tasers, Gene Kelly, bowling, Dick Van Dyke, dolphins, civil rights, SECRETS, future famous people, and a surprising amount of boxing.

The 18 (and then some) can’t miss films

I asked my fellow Grand staff members what films they were most excited about so you can have some expert opinions to start with. Here’s what we can’t wait to see:

  1. Finders Keepers – Film Director Laura Marshall, Executive Director Philip Cowan, and Director of Marketing Darcy Nelson are all excited to see this stranger-than-fiction documentary about a recovering addict attempting to recover his own amputed and mummified leg from a man who found it in a bbq grill he bought at an auction. Seriously. This is a true story. At The Grand: 10/10/15 2:15 pm, 10/11/15 7:30 pm.
  1. (3, and 4) The Friday, Saturday, and Monday Secret Screenings – Philip, House Manager Dan Long, and Assistant Executive Director Wade Neal all recommend secret screenings. These films have never screened in the US and their distributors are saving them for big city debuts. This is our chance to see something great before anyone else!  “Two of the secret screenings played the same big festival in Europe and had cool reviews online, ” Philip says. At The Grand: 10/9/15, 6:20 pm, 10/10/15 3:20 pm, 10/12/15 2:05 pm.
  1. Local Flavor Shorts Part One and Part Two – Volunteer Manager Marlee Johnson, Darcy, and Wade say we need to see what our local filmmakers are up to: “see what the PacNW is churning out in terms of film art,” says Darcy. At The Grand: 10/13/15 5 pm, 10/14/15 8 pm.
  1. Landfill Harmonic – Wade, Darcy, Marlee are all looking forward to this heartwarming doc about children in Paraguay who create an orchestra out of landfill trash. At The Grand: 10/11/15 3:15 pm, 10/13/15 7:45 pm.
    Still from the comedy Village of Middlevale

    Still from the comedy Village of Middlevale

  1. The Village of Middlevale – Project Coordinator Faith Stevens, Wade, and Marlee recommend this locally-made comedic mockumentary that follows a group of strangers who decide to give up their modern lives to live in a medieval village. At The Grand: 10/14/15 7:15 pm, 10/15/15 2 pm.
    From the documentary short Chop My Money

    From the documentary short Chop My Money

  1. Sunday Shorts #2 (25 New Faces) – Faith, Darcy, and myself  are ready to get serious with these powerful shorts exploring the Baltimore protests following the death of Freddie Grey, the life of street kids in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a stark portrayal of the inner city struggle. Meet the filmmakers at this screening. At The Grand: 10/11/15 4:50 pm.
  1. Sports Docs Shorts Package – Laura and Darcy are looking forward to this inspiring selection of shorts. “I love the diversity represented here,” says Darcy. At The Grand: 10/10/15 4:15 pm, 10/14/15 2:30 pm.
    Still from the film Tumbledown

    Still from the film Tumbledown

  1. Tumbledown – Laura and Marlee recommend checking out the West Coast premiere of this smart rom-com starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis. At The Blue Mouse Theatre 10/9/15, 7 pm.
  1. The Glamour and the Squalor – Wade and I can’t wait for this Northwest documentary exploring the life and times of influential grunge rock tastemaker DJ Marco Collins. We know you remember him from 107.7 The End. At The Grand: 10/12/15 7:15 pm.
  1. Saturday Shorts (25 New Faces)  “All five directors are here, two of whom I saw at Sundance, and the others also look to be really interesting” – Philip At The Grand: 10/10/15 5:35 pm.
    Still from the film Krisha

    Still from the film Krisha

  1. Krisha – Philip, Wade, and I recommend this not-to-be missed drama that won both the Grand Jury Award AND Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at SXSW earlier this year. 10/12/15 5:45 pm.
  1. Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict – Faith and I love this documentary tracking the life and influence of the indomitable art genius Peggy Guggenheim. At the Tacoma Art Museum 10/10/15 11 am, At The Grand 10/14/15 2:15 pm.
  1. Autism in Love – Marlee recommends this sparkling, compassionate documentary examining autism. At The Grand 10/9/15 4:30 pm, 10/13/15 2:30 pm.
    World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt is included in the Animated Shorts package.

    World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt is included in the Animated Shorts package.

  1. (and 17) Animated Shorts and Family Friendly Shorts – Faith recommends you check out these inventive shorts. At The Grand: Animated Shorts 10/9/15  7:30 pm, 10/11/15 4:45 pm; Family Friendly 10/11/15 10:30 am, 10/1315 5:30 pm.
  1. Lamb – Laura wants you to make sure to join us for our poignant and beautiful closing night drama. At The Grand:10/15/15 7:30 pm.

#FilmswithKaty: come watch these awesome TFF films with me

Yeah, I made my own hashtag to delineate what films I see and when. I find it handy!

They Look Like People – I can’t wait for this horror thriller – it looks freaking great. At The Blue Mouse Theatre 10/9/15 10 pm.

Still from the horror film They Look Like People

Still from the horror film They Look Like People

T-Rex – I am really looking forward to this fierce, inspiring doc about Flint, Michigan’s 17 year old boxing champion Claressa “T-Rex” Shields. At The Grand 10/10/15 3:10 pm, 10/11/15 7:15 pm

Drag Becomes Him – come see the devastating and indomitable talent of the Northwest’s own drag superstar Jinkx Monsoon captured in this documentary. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a surprise Jinkx appearance! At The Grand: 10/10/15 9 pm.

From the Jinkx Monsoon documentary Drag Becomes Him

From the Jinkx Monsoon documentary Drag Becomes Him

GTFO – lady gamers will not be denied. This doc explores the misogyny and future of the gaming industry. At University of Puget Sound Commencent Hall’s Tahoma Room: 10/12/15 7 pm, at The Grand 10/14/15 4:45 pm.

Ok. You are all set now, right? I’ll see you out there, or, more realistically, I will sit companionably near you in the dark enjoying some seriously excellent and entertaining movies over the next eight days. Get out there and fest, Tacoma!


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About the Author

Founder and Co-Managing Editor at Post Defiance, Katy writes and fundraises for Tacoma. Follow her @katynicoud.

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