25 New Faces at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema

The most anticipated annual media list in the independent film industry, Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” has announced the ascension of many of film’s most elite directors, writers, actors, cinematographers and producers.

Downtown Tacoma’s Grand Cinema is the only theater or festival in the country to assemble the honorees each year to screen their films and discuss their art. The intimate access to some of the world’s most distinguished young artists offered by the week-long festival is unparalleled by any other arts event in the South Sound region.

New Faces alumni include icons like three-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby”) and two-time Golden Globe winner Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”). As like all now-famous alumni, Filmmaker Magazine celebrated Swank and Dunham as New Faces years before they were household names.

For instance, independent film darling Ellen Page was honored as New Face in 2005 for her performance in the acclaimed, but largely unknown, film “Hard Candy.” Two years later she would achieve stardom and an Academy Award nomination for her leading role in JUNO.

Similarly, actress Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), actor Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson”) and director Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) were all honored as New Faces years prior to establishing themselves as independent film superstars.

However, it is not as though the New Faces selections are newbies to the world film. On the contrary, leading up to their selection most have recently been the toasts of the world’s most prominent film festivals and have won prestigious awards for their work on short films and low-budget features.

At the time of their selection, New Faces are often in the process of navigating their rapid advancement through the rungs of the independent film industry – graduating from the ninety-ninth percentile of visionary student filmmakers to the rarified ranks of filmmakers whom major independent film studios endow with the resources and investments generally required to create a high quality feature film.

In 2009 Grand Cinema Executive Director Philip Cowan presented the idea to Filmmaker Magazine Editor Scott Macaulay of a mini-festival that would bring the new faces together to share their films at one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier independent film venues in The Grand Cinema.

Since then, every year honorees have made the pilgrimage to The Grand and they have come to anticipate the trip as a highlight of their selection. Each one of their films are shown at least once and honorees lead film discussions following their films.

The New Faces always seem to appreciate their week long visit to The Grand, perhaps most of all for the opportunity to screen the films being presented by their follow honorees. At major festivals, they say, before and after their films screen they are often subjected to a rigorous schedule of meetings with funders, distributors, media, etc – and they rarely have the opportunity to take in the work and meet their fellow filmmakers in a venue as tranquil and idyllic as The Grand.

The presence of the entire group makes 25 New Faces post-film discussions some of the most fascinating and illuminating of the year. By the end of every film the 20 or so filmmakers in the audience are invariably bursting with curiosity and take turns with others in the audience peppering the presenting filmmaker with questions.

Filmmaker Magazine is the United States’ leading film periodical and the films presented at 25 New Faces have won awards at festivals including Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and SXSW. For music fans, the New Faces equivalent would be institutions like Rolling Stone and KEXP agreeing on the next great indie bands and presenting them together at a cozy boutique music festival.

You likely haven’t yet heard of the filmmakers who comprise the 2014 class of 25 New Faces, but should you decide to come out and meet them this month in Tacoma you’ll be surprised how often you encounter them again. You’ll notice their films begin to screen regularly at The Grand and SIFF next year. You’ll see their films being lauded as ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘visionary’ in the pages of Time, Rolling Stone and Complex Magazines. And in a few years when one of them is accepting their Academy Award you’ll boast to your friends how you met them in Tacoma and discussed their film over Grand Cinema popcorn.

25 New Faces of Independent Film at The Grand Cinema is Aug. 15-21. Click here for tickets and more information.

is a contributor to South Sound magazine.
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