Laura Marshall was 24 and had already made the worst film of all time when she was hired on as Tacoma Film Festival Director Dec. 3, 2012.
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Oakley, she inherited her parents' dominant movie genes. Her father, a pastor, had grown up in Bremerton making movies with a Super 8 camera.
“He made a lot of films, mostly shoot 'em ups with his high school friends. They entered one, 'The Few and the Brave,' into a contest in South Kitsap and won,” Marshall said.
Her mother directed church and community theater productions, adding the artistic element to Marshall's technical skills.
When Marshall was in the eighth grade, she asked for professional film editing software for her birthday.
“So then we made 'Jane Blonde,' a parody of the James Bond movies,” she said. “It was 30 minutes long, pretty impressive for a middle schooler. It is probably the worst film known to mankind. We had fun, though. It was a learning experience.”
The family moved to Pierce County, and Marshall kept shooting, broadening her production experience and studying films.
“By sophomore year I was doing the video yearbook and the film work for high school musicals – 'Guys and Dolls,' 'The Sound of Music' and 'Once Upon a Mattress.' We won the Fifth Avenue High School Musical Award. I didn't do a whole lot of narrative stuff. Just documenting mission trips (to build houses in Mexico) and MLK Day events,” Marshall said.
She chose Clover Park Technical College's Media Design and Production courses over a traditional film school.
“It's good to go to film school, but you don't need to if you're talented,” she said. “It's trial and error. It's good to have classical teaching, but you have to get out there.”
While in college, she worked her way up from the concessions to box office, projection and supervisor with American Multi Cinemas.
“We used to play this game at the Narrows,” she said. “Based on what people were wearing, we would guess which movie they were coming to see. I have a sixth sense with movies. I pride myself in knowing what people will like.”
She had worked on the remodel of the Lakewood movie houses, gotten familiar with digital projection systems, and was browsing Craigslist when she saw that The Grand Cinema was hiring for the Tacoma Film Festival.
Marshall impressed with her knowledge of film history, theater management and taste – and her alarming film trivia mastery.
“David O. Selznick was fined $5,000 for using the word 'damn' in 'Gone With the Wind,'” she said. “Now 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' is one of the top 10 movie lines of all time.”
Evaluating more than 400 entries, Marshall has planned a festival that spans genres. There are romances, adventures, dramas, comedies. There is something for every viewer, she said.
Marshall's film favorites:
Movie: “Singin' in the Rain.”
Actors: Gene Kelley and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt
Actresses: Anne Hathaway and Emma Stone
Director: Martin Scorcese