Festival Story

The Story Of Our Festival

In 1999, four film buff friends – who met annually at the Telluride Film Festival –decided they could create a festival closer to home, right in the heart of the National Historic District on Port Townsend's waterfront.

Peter SimpsonRocky Friedman, Linda Yakush, Jim Ewing, and Jim Westall hatched their idea for a hometown film festival with one goal in mind: it should have something for everyone. Peter Simpson, writer, poet, and film lover joined them, and in year five, became the first Executive Director. They attracted 200 volunteers to this great notion.

Launching with the motto "A film lover's block party celebrating great films and filmmakers,” the first Port Townsend Film Festival launched on September 22, 2000. We closed off Taylor Street and brought in hay bale seating for an evening of free outdoor movies, opened three indoor movie venues, and screened 24 documentary, feature, and short films over three days and nights.

Moving forward 17 years, we now screen more than 90 films in seven venues! It’s completely walkable, includes a big outdoor dinner for passholders, Q&A and panel discussions with filmmakers, and great parties. We still invite the community to fill Taylor Street on three evenings, for the free outdoor movies, and offer free films day and night in the Peter Simpson Free Cinema.

PTFF attracts film historians, critics, screenwriters, producers, directors and industry specialists. Each year we select a Special Guest, among them Elliott Gould, Tony Curtis, Dyan Cannon, Debra Winger, Karen Allen, Bruce Dern as he prepared for his role in the Academy Award-winning film, “Nebraska.” Our latest Special Guests include Beau Bridges and Chris Cooper.

Festival revenues allow us to hold special events and take filmmakers to the schools throughout the year. We now offer a fellowship program providing local housing (and time) for filmmakers to complete their work.

Our more than 300 volunteers donate time, money, materials (everything from hammers to floral bouquets), housing and frequent flier miles to keep our filmmakers and their films coming, keeping the dream alive.

In this seaport arts community, the people of Port Townsend love their Film Festival. Every year, the word of just how special it is travels just a little further. Each year the waves of creative, diverse moviemakers and moviegoers converge. And so the film lover’s party goes on!