The folks at Three Dollar Bill Cinema are fresh off of marking the 20th anniversary of the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, their annual celebration of queer film. For their 21st festival, they have a radical change in store: a new name.
Starting this year, you can look forward to seeing some of the best in both mainstream and independent queer cinema at TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival. It was an important change, according to Three Dollar Bill Cinema Executive Director Jason Plourde, because the outgoing name just didn’t fully encompass what the festival was all about anymore.
“We’ve been running for 20 years,” says Plourde, “and we’ve been know as the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which felt very specific in terms of what was being presented at the event.”
While a name like that may not seem all that progressive now, it was a pretty big deal twenty years ago.
“That was important,” Plourde agrees, “particularly when we first started as an organization and started the event. It was really important, and really radical in some ways, to have those words, lesbian and gay, to be so prominently placed there. It was important for our visibility, and also just recognition of the work that we were showing.”
What was once radical and progressive, though, has become limiting. Three Dollar Bill recognized that, two decades, later, the name didn’t accurately reflect what the festival was all about.
“We’re in a different place,” admits Plourde. “The films that we show, and the audiences that we attract, fall all across the spectrum of queer identity. Certainly, lesbian and gay stories and films and audience members are a majority of what the festival’s all about, but there’s also many more people who are represented in the films that we show and the people who come and appreciate what we do.”
During the process of coming up with the name TWIST, it was important that the new name properly captured the essence of the festival, films, and participants.
“We wanted to come up with something that captured the spirit of the event,” Plourde explains, “and also possibly made it more appealing. We wanted it to have a connection to queer identity. We wanted to have a connection to film. So we spent a lot of time discussing what that title might be.
While Three Dollar Bill operates and manages the film festival, it’s become a large part of the fabric of Seattle’s queer arts community. Between the veritable army of volunteers that work the festival every year, and the thousands of film goers who attend it, the community, in a lot of ways, feels some ownership for it as well.
Because of this, the folks at Three Dollar Bill were careful to include the input of their constituents and supporters when deciding on the festival’s new moniker, including a survey given out at the last festival that generated hundreds of responses.
“A lot of people had ideas about what some good festival names would be,” Plourde tells me, chuckling.
They received a lot of insight, as well, on why they should or shouldn’t change the name, and what that process should look like.
“We had focus groups,” he adds, “with folks that were pretty closely connected, either to the festival or within our arts community.”
As a staff, discussions about changing the name of the festival started a couple of years ago. Clearly, they wanted to make sure that got this right. It hasn’t been an easy process, though, renaming something that’s been around for so long.
“It’s tough to change something that you’ve done for twenty years,” Plourde admits, “that you’ve used over and over again. So as a staff we’ve had long conversations about it, and we’ve used all that input to make this choice.”
By starting off the year with this name change, Three Dollar Bill is allowing plenty of time for sponsors, entrants, and audience members to become used to the new name before the festival rolls around this fall. It also allows Three Dollar Bill plenty of time to assure people that, aside from the new name, everything else about the festival is business as usual.
“We’re the same organization, we’re the same event that we’ve always been,” confirms Plourde.
For more information about Three Dollar Bill Cinema and their other, fabulous, year round programming, including Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival, and Reel Queer Youth, their video production and media literacy training for LGBTQ youth and their allies, visit threedollarbillcinema.org.