If you think watching 100 short films in three days is a lot, you should see Warren Etheredge’s watch list.
In the year since Walla Walla Movie Crush made its premiere, the event’s co-founder and artistic director — determined to make the film festival a regular summer feature in Walla Walla — will have reviewed more than 1,100 new shorts on his way to curating the new lineup.
“It really is a festival built on the very best of the best in the nation,” Etheredge said. “It’s all new material.”
Last year, Etheredge and the team behind the festival had just a few months to prepare.
Those who didn’t attend the inaugural festival — and even those who did — got a review on Saturday at Gesa Power House Theatre. The Vintage Crush event was a recap of 13 of the 88 shorts that showed in 2017.
This year, the Crush returns July 6-8, promising a blend “from vintage filmmakers as well as fresh upstarts.”
The event doubles as part of a weekend fundraiser for the Red Badge Project, a Seattle-based group that’s been coming to Walla Walla to help veterans work through the trauma of war through storytelling.
That project has made its way to Walla Walla every year since 2014 in partnership with the Walla Walla Public Library. It is also how Etheredge got his introduction to the community. Thus, the scene was setting for a future with short film.
Here, Etheredge was smitten with the landscape — a blend of high-quality restaurants, with an arts community, culture, wine and engagement, mixed just blocks away in any direction with the effects of poverty and hardship. And in the midst of it all is one of the most beautiful theaters he’s seen in the state.
Here, he said, is a place to explore what the screen can bring to discourse.
“Film is supposed to be provocative. Film is supposed to get you thinking,” Etheredge said. “It’s not propaganda; it’s opportunity.”
Advanced ticket sales are already on pace to “obliterate” last year, he said. Where last year’s event drew about 13 of the featured filmmakers and VIPs, this year’s event will bring closer to 25 or 30.
Movie-lovers will find new talent.
“Chances are you may not know the names of filmmakers now, but in three years you might,” Etheredge said.
Programming for the event is thematic and packaged in hourlong blocks throughout the event. Each block includes a mix in style of programming, from documentaries to animation. All content is unrated.
Themes in the inaugural year included “Loners, Rebels & The Dotty,” “Rights You Are,” “Jock & Jill” and “The Mating Game,” to name a few. Topics explored relationships, sports, perceived rights as American citizens, and discoveries about people we think we know.
From it all is the foundation of a deeper conversation about the world around us, who we are and what we value.
The storytelling, above all else, is the appeal for Etheredge, who for seven years curated the 1 Reel Film Festival at Bumbershoot, an annual international music and arts festival in Seattle, and was a programmer for The Seattle International Film Festival.
For the community: A chance not only to build on a festival that drew about 75 to 80 viewers for each block of films last year, but also to open up to a broader discourse.
“(Walla Walla) has the cultural core, but it’s also a mixed bag in the best ways,” Etheredge said. “I have an interest in getting differently minded people together.”