The Pickford Film Center’s annual Doctober event is now the biggest documentary film festival in the Pacific Northwest, marketing manager at the Pickford Lindsey Gerhard said.
The success of the monthlong event is especially welcomed following the worst summer for cinema industry revenue in roughly 50 years, said Pickford projectionist and Western senior Cole Wilder. This particularly affected the Pickford as they don’t typically show mainstream films, he said.
The Doctober film festival will show over 50 different films over the course of 38 days. Films that do particularly well will be brought back for weeklong runs, while most of the films will have one or two screenings, Wilder said.
The Pickford staff is typically tired by the end of the month, but it is rewarding work, Wilder said.
“We just compared some numbers and Doctober has grown significantly since last year. Just in the first two days, we’ve had four-times as many sales as two years ago at the beginning of that Doctober,” Gerhard said.
One of the biggest challenges Wilder has faced in working Doctober is the chaos of its popularity, despite the summer trend. On opening night, the Pickford had nearly three sold-out screenings with over 300 people attending.
Part of this year’s success is because of the increased experience of the staff after several years of participating, Gerhard said. The Pickford now has a new programmer and assistant programmer this year which have spread the responsibilities and workload more evenly.
Doctober will conclude on Nov. 5, with showtimes for the festival’s films showing later in the month to be announced.
Several of the film screenings of the annual event will include special guest appearances and Skype calls with filmmakers.
This Sunday, Oct. 7, a film will be shown in partnership with the Bellingham Irish Festival, marketing manager Lindsey Gerhard said. The film is about an Irish boarding school titled “School Life,” and will feature a live musical performance and offer Irish tea and soda bread in the lobby, followed by an international Skype call with the director, who is currently in Ireland.
A film about the New York Public Library titled “Ex Libris” will include a guest appearance from a Bellingham resident who worked with the library for years. This weekend, the showing of documentary “Skid Row Marathon” will feature the filmmakers, who will be visiting from Los Angeles. The filmmaker for “Purple Dream,” regarding the first high school theater program to perform “The Color Purple,” will be coming from North Carolina to engage with the audience.
This year has an eclectic assortment of films. “Rat Film,” a documentary about Baltimore through the perspective of rats, is one that Wilder is specifically excited to see. The score for the film is partially made by rats, using a triangular enclosure with three rats and an electronic instrument called a theremin, which the rat movement controlled.
“As an independent theater, we don’t show any big movies that make a lot of money, we show movies people usually haven’t heard of and so we generally get less people,” Wilder said. “But that’s kind of what we want; to show movies you wouldn’t see every day.”
In addition to exposing the Bellingham community to lesser known cinema, it is also a learning opportunity for many people, Wilder said. It’s ideal for people who want to take a risk and see a movie they may not know anything about, and come out of the experience having learned about a wide variety of interesting topics, he said.
The Pickford receives support from the community in the form of Western’s film studies courses offering free passes to their students or requiring students to see Pickford films as part of the syllabus. On Wednesdays, university students get free popcorn, he said.
“Because Doctober has films that are all individual, independent filmmakers that are in the festival circuit right now, each film has its own separate licensing deal that our program director works out with each filmmaker,” Gerhard said. “We split the door [profits] 50-50, so the filmmaker gets half of the income, which is considered pretty generous.”
Many of the films shown during Doctober are selected by projectionist Michael Barone, who attends notable film festivals like Tribeca in New York, and scopes out which ones will be brought to the Pickford.
As a nonprofit organization, the Pickford uses its revenue from admissions, grants and sponsors for the costs of running their two locations, the Pickford Theater and The Limelight Cinema. Most of the sponsors aren’t financial sponsors, but instead help promote Doctober.