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Gig Harbor Film Festival returns after 2-year hiatus due to COVID

Attendees will be able to enjoy a weekend of independent films made by both local and regional filmmakers.

GIG HARBOR, Wash. — The Gig Harbor Film Festival is back this year after it had to shut down due to COVID. 

Former president and board member Tina Shoemaker is excited about the festival’s return.

Shoemaker said she first started volunteering at the festival 10 years ago to showcase diverse perspectives to the community through film.

“They’re enlightening, they show a diverse point of view, things that people never thought about before,” Shoemaker said. “Some of the films are short, and it is just amazing, the content in a five minute movie and the conversation that can occur with that.”

The festival debuted in 2007 and quickly became a Gig Harbor staple, until COVID forced the festival to shut down.

Veteran filmmaker Jason Kartalian has shown his work in different parts of the region and said the pandemic hit many film festivals hard.

“There were a couple of festivals that I screened at, here in the Northwest, that I don’t know if they’re ever going to come back,” Kartalian said. “Festivals survive with momentum, with community and with resources and COVID has dried up a lot of those things.”

Instead of trying to have a virtual festival, organizers decided to go on hiatus for the next two years because the film festivals are about more than the movies.

“One of the real important values of this film festival is the networking opportunity for the filmmakers and the fans,” Shoemaker explained. “To have that shoulder-to-shoulder experience and talk about movies. We knew we couldn’t do that online.”

Kartalian says it’s that sense of fellowship that keeps him coming back and supporting the event.

“I’ve been here five times, it’s like family,” he said. “It’s great to reconnect, meet some new people and also meet all these cool creative filmmakers that come to this gathering as well.”

The films will be screened at Galaxy Theatre on Point Fosdick Drive through Sunday.

Since the 2021 festival was cancelled, the films planned for 2021 will be shown this weekend. But films for the 2023 Festival can be submitted later this month.

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