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  • What to expect this year. By Colin Anderson.

Film Festival Under New Ownership

Film Festival Under New Ownership

As the Gig Harbor Film Festival gears up for an exciting ninth year, the organization is being overseen by new leadership as Jenny Wellman takes the helm as executive director. The 2016 festival is scheduled for October 20 through 23 and will feature another stellar lineup of independent films.

Wellman has worked as a corporate tax analyst and in accounting roles for LCI International, Westin Hotels Corporation and VONS Corporation. She moved to Gig Harbor from Ohio six years ago and established an accounting practice. In addition, she has a long history of volunteer leadership and board roles within nonprofit organizations, including facilitating campaigns through Kinder Key to raise funds for the heart catheter lab at Columbus Children’s Hospital, which is one of the premier pediatric cardiac care centers in the nation, and has done fundraising for visual and performing arts with The 500 Inc. in Dallas. She has also volunteered many hours with Peninsula School District with the Meister Singers boosters and parent - teacher associations.

Board President Pat Nagle shared the news saying, “Marty Thacker co-founded the Gig Harbor Film Festival. Her vision and skills built this event, bringing local, national and even international independent filmmakers to Gig Harbor. In just eight years it has become one of the most notable film festivals in the country. With that success under her belt and with the community’s gratitude, Marty retired last November.” Nagle added, “Jenny Wellman has been on the team for the past two years working with Marty to push the festival to the next level, expanding beyond a single weekend of events into an array of year-round fun. She has been instrumental in forging broader community partnerships. We are pleased that Jenny has accepted the executive director role and look forward to all that her leadership will bring.”

When asked about the start of her tenure, Wellman responded, “It has been going great. The most exciting thing so far has been the response in the community to some of our new events.”

Wellman hit the ground running. In May, she partnered with Peninsula School District’s community outreach director Kathy Weymiller to bring the film “Screenagers” to Uptown’s Galaxy Theater. Galaxy offered two auditoriums at no cost for parents or students, showing this multi-award-winning film about growing up in the digital age and the impacts on youth. Also, over 350 people attended the first fly in/drive in movie at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in August, and former Oakland A’s first baseman Scott Hatteberg was in attendance for a showing of “Moneyball” at the Galaxy. These are just a few examples of the expansion Wellman has planned in bringing more awareness to theatre and film in the greater Gig Harbor area.

The mission of the Gig Harbor Film Festival (GHFF) is “to educate, entertain, inspire and enrich the cultural vitality of our community through the art of cinema.” Wellman and the board are expanding GHFF’s offerings, including events throughout the year, and further connecting the festival within the community. Also expanding this year is the number of films that are being shown during the festival. Twenty-eight films were shown last year and 46 are scheduled to hit the screen later this month. Two of those major films will also be making their Washington premiere at the Gig Harbor Film Festival. Wellman hopes to hold the annual film festival Opening Night Gala and the Sunday Awards Ceremony in partnership with downtown organizations, spreading some of the Uptown festival atmosphere to the waterfront. The 72-Hour Film Competition will continue each spring. And during the summer of 2017, GHFF plans to launch filmmakers’ camps geared toward middle school aged students.

“Working in accounting and operations with GHFF over the past two years, I’ve been inspired by Marty, the board and all of the incredible volunteers. We knew there was more to be done, and it is my goal to achieve all that we’ve outlined in our plan,” said Wellman. “I really had an epiphany in April. This was the first year for the 72-Hour Film Competition as a stand-alone event and participation was outstanding. Seeing the teams with their families and friends who came to support them was truly an impactful moment. It clearly meant so much to them to make these film projects and share their work on the big screen. I knew then that I was fully committed to the future of GHFF and all that it brings to our community.”

One of the huge driving forces that keeps the Gig Harbor Film Festival running and expanding each year is the amount of community members that volunteer their time. As the festival continues to grow, so does the need for added volunteers. Some of the volunteer jobs that help make this favorite yearly event possible are drivers to help the filmmakers around town and box office staff to take tickets and assist guests. There are also opportunities throughout the year for volunteers to booth events and hand out sponsorship and other festival information. Volunteers are compensated with passes to the festival with the number increasing the more hours they put in.

Another of Wellman’s goals in her first year at the helm is to increase relationships with the business community. “This year we are focusing on working with not only the Uptown merchants, but we are incorporating more downtown businesses in the Festival. We held our annual summer fundraiser at The Club @ The Boatyard, which was a great success, and we are holding our Opening Night Gala at the Harbor History Museum. We will have filmmakers staying in many of the local hotels and private homes in town during the Festival, and they will be patronizing local businesses while they are here. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our beautiful community and make this a premier destination event,” said Wellman.

You may purchase tickets online through Eventbrite or in person. The Box Office will be open in the Gig Harbor Film Festival office in Uptown Gig Harbor just doors down from the Galaxy Theater next to Massage Envy.

Ticket sales at the office will start Monday, October 10th. Office Hours are 10am to 4pm Monday through Friday. During the Festival, the Box Office will be open all day. The festival begins on October 20 and wraps up October 23. With nearly 50 films, there will be a variety of topics covered. As a reminder to parents, most films are not rated so it is best to do a little research into the film to determine if it is appropriate for your child to see.

The beauty of independent film is that it is art in its purest form. Hollywood movies are built for entertainment and profit, whereas small filmmakers bring their passion to the screen in hopes of engaging their audience in an emotional way. There’s also the likelihood of speaking directly to the filmmaker at the festival. Whether you see one film or a dozen, take some time to take in at least one of these amazing films. Who knows, the next big star might be debuting here.

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