Playhouse lends hand to film camp relocated by wildfires

Hernando Leon from Bogota, Colombia edits his short film for Wild Mind Film Camp on Oak Harbor Mexican restaurant Jumbo Burrito. Leon
Hernando Leon from Bogota, Colombia edits his short film for Wild Mind Film Camp on Oak Harbor Mexican restaurant Jumbo Burrito. Leon's film will be one of 12 documentaries shown at the Whidbey Playhouse Saturday night, starting at 8 p.m. The film camp was relocated to Whidbey Island Sunday after being evacuated from Twisp because of the wildfires in north central Washington.
— image credit: Stefanie Malone

Janis Powell, business manager at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor, got an unusual phone call Thursday morning.

A film camp, evacuated from its home base by wildfires in north-central Washington and relocated to Coupeville, needed a place to show its students’ work.

“They contacted me and said, ‘Here’s our plight. We have no place to put this on,’” Powell said.

Quick coordination led to the playhouse lending a helping hand — the “3rd Annual Wild Mind Film Camp Film Festival” takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Featured will be 12 short documentaries, ranging from the wildfires in and around Twisp, the camp’s home base, as well as subjects captured on Whidbey Island.

The event is free and open to the public.

The playhouse is located at 730 S.E. Midway Blvd. Wild Mind Film Camp is run by camp founder and filmmaker Peter J. Vogt, director Doug Pray and other notable industry professionals who specialize in documentaries.

Vogt lives in Twisp, where adult students paid $3,000 to attend the 11-day camp, which started July 16.

Two days later, as fires moved through the Methow Valley into Twisp, the film camp was forced to evacuate.

An overnight stay in nearby Mazama led to a stop in Seattle and ultimately an arrival at the Willow Pond Lodge and Lake House in Coupeville on Sunday.

“It’s been chaotic,” said Stefanie Malone, the film camp’s program manager.

Malone said the group had been operating under the threat of evacuation, but things changed dramatically July 18.

“I walked out of the grocery store and there was all this dark smoke on the mountain behind you and you could see flames,” Malone said.

Upon landing in Coupeville, some students focused immediately on Whidbey topics while others will present their five-minute documentaries on the wildfires and other topics and answer questions afterward.

Jim Riney, a technical consultant who’s worked with several playhouse productions, is assisting the film camp in providing a suitable screen.

A rehearsal originally scheduled Saturday night for the playhouse’s season-opening show, “The Odd Couple (Female Version),” was canceled to accommodate the film camp.

“It’s one thing to be able to lend a hand to somebody doing filmmaking,” Powell said, “but somebody under these circumstances of having to evacuate because of a fire ... that’s devastating over there. Your heart goes out.”


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