This month, documentaries are taking over the screens at The Pickford Film Center (PFC). 2022 marks the 15th annual Doctober Film Festival, which is one of the largest documentary film festivals on the West Coast.
Larger film festivals such as Sundance, South by Southwest or Tribeca do provide a space for individual ⎯ or indie ⎯ directors and production companies, but many struggle to make it into the larger festivals. The Sundance festival receives over 12,500 submissions, so the chances of selection are low.
For a large portion of indie filmmakers, tackling the smaller film festival circuit provides the best chance of not only having audiences see their films but actually connect with them.
Jack C. Newell, director of “How (not) to Build a School in Haiti,” said the best fit for his documentary would be audiences at PFC because they are familiar with documentaries and the space that “How (not) to Build a School in Haiti” is in.
Warren Etheredge is a Seattle-based filmmaker and previously worked as a film festival curator for the One Reel Film Festival and as a programmer for The Seattle International Film Festival.
Etheredge said he feels that often the audience's needs are further met when compared to larger film festivals. Films will be curated with greater care, allowing audiences and filmmakers to better connect.
“I think something like Doctober provides a perfect opportunity to showcase stories and really connect with the audiences that most need to see them,” Etheredge said.
Cecilia Britten, Maxwell Schultz, Evan Krautkremer and Sophie Swan all said one of the reasons they like coming to PFC is the community aspect. Britten also enjoys the wide range of films shown here.
“[Pickford] is playing the movies that you wouldn’t ever see at AMC,” she said.
Swan said the films at PFC provide a space for communities that are often neglected and that this creates a deeper connection to said communities.
Bellingham has always loved documentaries, said marketing manager Gray Gordon and program director Melissa Tamminga.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, PFC closed its doors and Doctober moved online. In May 2021, PFC reopened but was still unsure of its future, Gordon said.
Last year, PFC held Doctober in person again. Gordon said it was during this that PFC began to return to normal.
“Doctober reminded us that Bellingham loves the Pickford and will show up even when we’re not always sure they will,” he said.
PFC curated Doctober with the audience in mind. Tamminga, one of the programmers for Doctober, said the goal is to provide audiences with a large assortment of not only films but also filmmakers.
Over half of the documentaries featured in Doctober are by women filmmakers.
In terms of documentary filmmaking, there are “lower barriers of entry, you know, which I think is really it's that's the spirit of independent filmmaking ” Gordon said.
“With documentaries, it's more of this true demographic of what our world looks like, you know, and they get to tell stories about their lives or stories that are important to them that Hollywood is not putting up guardrails against,” Tamminga said.
Many of the documentaries at Doctober will have audience Q&As with members from the documentaries’ production or a special guest appearance after screening.
Student tickets are $9, and PFC provides free popcorn to students to celebrate “Western Wednesdays.”
Find the Doctober program information and tickets here.
Tallie Johnson (she/her) is the opinions and DIO editor for The Front this quarter. She is majoring in journalism with a public relations focus. Tallie enjoys covering arts and entertainment, bringing attention to nonprofits, and sharing her opinion on everything and anything. In her free time she spends time with friends, family, and her many animals.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.