OlyFilm Celebrates a Decade of Indie Filmmaking

by Nikki McCoy

The Olympia Film Collective, or OlyFilm, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that contributes to the community through encouraging and supporting independent filmmaking, has good reason to celebrate—with a decade of experience, they’ve solidified their place in the greater South Sound arts community as a creative hub for all things film. 

On December 12, a special 10-year anniversary retrospective event will be held at the Capitol Theater, to include performances from the Bridge Music Project, prizes, and a showing of 19 short films produced by the award-winning non-profit, followed by a discussion moderated by Grand Cinema Executive Director Philip Cowan.

“We’ve always been active in creation—we don’t just talk about films, we make them,” says Jeff Barehand, one of OlyFilm’s founders and current Board President. “That’s what sets us apart from other film groups. We have been writing, producing and screening films for a decade, and that is a great reason to come out and celebrate our diverse range of works.” 

Origin Story
What started with a simple short, “The Sweet Sorrow,” OlyFilm has since produced one feature film, one feature documentary and more than 30 short films and documentaries by local volunteers and community partners.

David Conolly & Katie Gibbons in “Blind Duet,” written & directed by Deanna McDaniels, Katie Gibbons, Patrick Fifelski, Michael Delorme and Jeff Barehand

It was the weekend of December 12, 2012, when Barehand and fellow filmmakers Russell Brooks, Riley Gibson, and Dylan Glockler decided to shoot “The Sweet Sorrow.” Filmed over two days, with two actors and three locations in downtown Olympia, the film set the stage for what would become the organization it is today. But it wasn’t without a push from “Sweet Sorrow” actor Mac Proctor, whom Barehand lodged over the course of filming. Proctor had graciously offered to build a website for the filmmakers. 

“I always credit Mac for getting us on the way to becoming an organization,” explains Barehand. “Before that, we were just four filmmakers who came together via a Craigslist ad. Mac built our first website and unknowingly poured the foundation for our success.”

The foundation of the team’s skillset, coupled with resources from Sky Bear Media, Barehand and Gibson’s for-profit production company, allowed OlyFilm to blossom. But, says Barehand, it’s really about the volunteers who’ve sustained OlyFilm, and the local businesses that offered their locations, props, and even food support, that have made it the thriving organization it is today. 

“Olympia is a wonderful place to create art. The community is so supportive and will often go out of their way to help you achieve your vision. Our success is due in large part to the business community that allows us to film within their establishments,” credits Barehand.

Volunteers, Youth and Community Support
Comprised of five volunteer members, the OlyFilm board helps steer the direction of the organization. Current members include Barehand, Brooks, Robert Kam, Janice Liu, and newest member Isabel Nixon Klein. The group ranges in age, background and experience, but all have the same passion for filmmaking. Together they want to increase their operating budget, hire an executive director, create feature films on a regular basis and elevate their reputation in the PNW.

“Being open to anyone in the community allows us to have new people and new energy,” says Barehand. “Go alone and you may go fast, go together, you will go far. We are aiming for longevity.”

An important part of the group’s philosophy is to support youth and BIPOC communities in their creative endeavors. One such avenue is OlyFilm’s Inter-Tribal Youth Film Project (ITYFP). 

Talia Kallappa on set mulling over her next shot.

One of the project’s most successful stories is a recent film written and directed by Talia Kallappa, a member of the Makah Tribe and recent graduate of Black Hills High School. They created her film about Sasquatch, “Nightcap,” in just two days. It went from script to screen in four months. Kallappa approached Barehand and OlyFilm with her idea, and together they made it happen. 

“She took a healthy risk,” says Barehand. “She was able to learn, shadow and get set in the right direction.”

Talia Kallappa at the LA Skins festival for her screening.

At the time of this writing, Kallappa is in Los Angeles representing her film at the LA Skins Film Festival, the third festival screening the film has enjoyed. The fourth screening will be at OlyFilm’s retrospective event on December 12.

“We want to continue to provide opportunities, but it only exists because of the volunteers and funders – only because of people contributing,” says Barehand. “With volunteers and funders, we can do so much more.”

What’s Next?
In the early days, Barehand describes making his own DIY equipment to get things done. These days, he says, technology has changed so much that the ability to make films is easier, more accessible and less expensive. 

“When you watch the films, it’s not just the equipment upgrades that make them professional, it’s the knowledge, training and skills of the workforce that OlyFilm provides,” says Barehand. “And that’s what we want—people trained at a professional level.”  

Isabelle Nixon Klein in “Blocked,” written & directed by Patrick Fifelski

Barehand is also on the board for Washington Filmworks, which administers the state’s film incentive program. The film incentive program increased from $3.5 to $15 million via legislation this year and offers additional incentives for productions telling stories about underserved peoples and for productions that are filming in rural areas of Washington state. Additional funding is being developed for Washington filmmakers.

“That’s part of the reason it’s important we’re around. There’s so much opportunity for Washington filmmakers to grow,” Barehand says. 

Now, explains Barehand, the Filmworks board is working to develop and implement that legislation to help Washington state filmmakers benefit, and elevate the entire creative economy for the state. 

James W. Clark in “Anything Helps,” written & directed by Jeff Barehand

“There’s no excuse not to make a film,” Barehand says. “The tech and funding are coming together for anyone willing to express their creativity in film. We really are in a good place to thrive, with the new incentive program, the passing of Inspire Olympia, and the possibilities of the new creative campus at the armory. OlyFilm is really making a difference for filmmakers in the South Sound and adding to the diversity of our vibrant arts community.”

OlyFilm Presents: Discussion to follow screening with Philip Cowan, Executive Director of the Grand Cinema. Ticket sales help support OlyFilm and its mission. 

10th Anniversary Retrospective Celebration

6 p.m. doors / 7 p.m. show, Monday, Dec. 12

Capitol Theatre, 206 East Fifth Ave., Olympia

$10 General Admission and Olympia Film Society members, $15 at the door day of show,
tickets available online and at the box office. Ticket sales support Olympia Film Collective. 

and https://www.olyfilm.com/

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