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Tacoma Film Festival opens with documentary on local rock group

Two black and white photos of the four-piece band The Ventures are shown one on top of another.
Courtesy of Isaac Olsen
Top: The Ventures' classic lineup included Howie Johnson, Don Wilson, Nokie Edwards, and Bob Bogle. Bottom: Actors Nathan Blanchard, Paul Richter, Frank Roberts, and Nick Gates reenact the band's early exploits in the new documentary film, Walk, Don't Run: The Ventures Story.

The 17th annual Tacoma Film Festival kicked off Thursday with Walk, Don’t Run. It’s a new documentary about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame instrumental band, The Ventures, who are originally from Tacoma.

The film documents the instrumental band’s journey as they blew up in the ‘60s and then what happened after.

Director Isaac Olsen was born and raised in Tacoma. He sees the city’s blue-collar work ethic as key to The Ventures' ability to adapt. Eventually, that meant going to Japan where they found an eager fan base as their popularity in the U.S. waned.

The words 'Tacoma Film Festival' surround an eye in the center. The backdrop is a rainbow of colors with the dates of the event at the bottom.
Ryan Feddersen
Tacoma Film Festival
This year marks the 17th annual Tacoma Film Festival

"The Ventures are kind of that all-American fairy tale almost. In that, there were two guys that met on a used car lot in 1959 who were just learning to play guitar. And one year later, they had a number-one hit in the U.S.," Olsen said.

Back in 2008, Don Wilson, a co-founder of the band, along with some others decided to collect as many interviews as they could with people associated with the band to tell their story. Interviewees include big names like Billy Bob Thornton and Brad Paisley.

The official premiere won’t happen until next year, but the filmmakers wanted to give the community a first look at the Tacoma-rooted story.

That’s something Ernest Jasmin, the event’s marketing manager, said is so special about the festival. Compared to larger festivals like the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), the Tacoma Film Festival is intimate.

"You know, SIFF is really big, you’re going to see some good stuff there but they maybe aren't as accessible," Jasmin said. "Our festival is a place where you can mingle with people who may be up-and-coming filmmakers."

Moviemaker Magazine called the Tacoma Film Fest one of the “best regional [festivals] out there” in 2020 in part because of how it showcases filmmakers from the Pacific Northwest.

The festival continues through October 13 and will feature almost 200 independent films. The lineup is international, including films from Bolivia, Switzerland, and Cambodia.

Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.