For better or worse, tech is having a huge impact on Seattle. And while many locals are disgruntled by how quickly and dramatically tech is changing the city, one local independent filmmaker saw the change as a giant opportunity.
“Seattle is becoming this huge tech culture town — it’s not just that tech is made here, but there’s this culture of technology,” said Timothy Vernor, a local indie filmmaker and director of the Seattle Transmedia Independent Film Festival (STIFF), previously called the Seattle True Independent Film Festival.
“Everybody’s playing with cameras, and film challenges, and hackathons,” and emerging film technology like virtual reality, he said.
So, he thought, why not dedicate a film festival to that culture?
Thus TechDocFest was born, a spin-off festival that focuses solely on documentaries about technology. The festival took place for the first time this weekend, but Vernor said he and the other organizers anticipate it will become an annual event.
It’s a one-of-a-kind festival — the only one in the world dedicated to technology documentaries — and Vernor said he hopes it will encourage tech-minded Seattleites to become more involved with the regions’ indie film scene.
And the festival didn’t just include films: it also featured guest directors and producers, workshops on documentary making, and a VR lounge and retro game station to get attendees interacting with the tech they were learning about.
The festival’s lineup included high-profile guests like actor and director Alex Winter — who played Bill in the Bill and Ted film series — and showings of prolific documentaries that study the impact of technology on society and culture. This year’s festival included films like 8bit Generation, Beware of Images, and Winter’s film Deep Web, which follows the arrest and trial of the man behind Silk Road, an internet black market.
But the festival also highlighted more niche films, like Viva Amiga, a documentary on the rise and fall of the Amiga computer, which at one point in time outperformed early Mac and IBM PCs.
Even at 11 on Saturday morning, the film attracted a decent crowd of sleep-tinged Seattleites to the festival’s show room. The crowd included die-hard Amiga fans, Seattleites with an interest in tech, and local indie film supporters that were curious to learn more about tech culture and history.
The film’s director, Zach Weddington, even flew out from Philadelphia for the event.
Vernor isn’t a techie himself, and said that the festival is intended for anyone with an interest in thinking and talking about the impact tech has on our culture and society.
“I think it is kind of fun to bring our fresh perspective to it, because we have a background in film and film programming, but we really are learning a lot about technology,” he said.
Vernor said that STIFF, an independent film festival that showcases emerging filmmakers in the region, has also taken a tech turn: last year, the festival focused on transmedia, or telling stories across different digital formats.
That can include video games, comic books, traditional film, youtube videos, or VR videos, to name a few examples.