New independent film festival will soon unspool on Vashon

The festival will screen 10 feature films and 10 short films that have distinguished themselves on the festival circuit.

The Vashon Film Institute (VFI), a new non-profit organization dedicated to fostering independent filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest, has announced it will host the inaugural Vashon Island Film Festival (VIFF) from August 12 to 14, at Vashon Theatre.

The festival will screen 10 feature films and 10 short films that have distinguished themselves recently on the festival circuit, and present a variety of other film-centric events for festival patrons to experience, including an opening night gala and Saturday Night Soiree, as well as a few seminars and lectures delivered by notable guests working in the film industry.

One hundred percent of all profits generated by VIFF will go to the Vashon Theatre, the island’s iconic and only cinema house which was constructed in 1947 and is family-operated.

“Our goal is to create a unique festival experience for the island and its neighboring communities, showcasing preeminent independent film content, while also helping preserve a local site of significant cultural and historical import,” said prolific film producer and VFI President Mark Mathias Sayre.

Sayre, who grew up on Vashon and has now returned to live here, is passionate about the importance of indepedent movie theaters in general, and Vashon Theatre, in particular.

“Independent theaters were hit particularly hard during the pandemic, and most now require the assistance of their community to keep their doors open,” he said. “The Vashon Theatre is a historic, seminal institution that is largely responsible for my decision to pursue a career in film, so I feel a strong calling to support it and I am confident that VIFF can be a part of that solution.”

The inaugural festival will feature films curated by Sayre and the VFI team, with a purposefully manageable program.

“Due to the expedited nature of organizing our first outing, we decided to program the festival ourselves,” says Sayre. “But it offers the advantage of quality control. We’ve been able to identify —and seek out — a handful of varied and exceptional films that have resonated with audiences on the festival circuit.

Sayre said he expects the festival to grow in the years to come.

“However, moving forward, our plan is to institute a submission process with more formal qualifying parameters, where we’ll focus on films that have yet to secure distribution and weren’t backed by major studios during the production process,” he said.

This curatorial bent will distinguish VIFF from many other contemporary festivals, he said.

“We don’t want this experience to be one-and-done, so we’re placing the bar as high as we can,” he said. “We want VIFF to be the kind of festival where independent filmmakers seek to hold their world premieres.”

The motto of the film festival, he said, describes its aim and purpose — “Putting the independent back in film festival.”

Although VFI intends to apply for grants and other funding opportunities available to non-profit organizations to cover operational expenditures, it also hopes to draw heavily on the support of local communities through charitable donations, sponsorships, and volunteerism.

“It takes a village, and I’m over the moon that the village is Vashon,” adds Sayre. “Our little island in the Puget Sound holds a special place in my heart, and a big part of that is its residents’ ardent support for the arts. We’re very hopeful that the community will embrace the festival, and we’re actively seeking contributors and collaborators in a multitude of manners. Anyone interested in participating can find more information on the VIFF website or stop me in the aisle of Thriftway for a quick chat.”

VFI plans to announce VIFF’s formal line-up within the next several weeks, whereupon registration will open for festival badges. Three different tiers of badges will be available for purchase — a three-film, a six-film, and a 10-film package for the most dutiful cinephiles.

Filmgoers can additionally purchase single day-of screening tickets if they remain available for the screening.

Other events to be held at VIFF include its opening night gala, where badge holders can mingle with filmmakers, a Saturday Night Soiree, featuring live music, street food, a beer garden, and a few seminars/lectures presented by industry professionals.

“As we meet our goals at VIFF, we hope to expand the ancillary events offered during future festivals,” said Sayre. “In addition to celebrating independent cinema, we hope VIFF can also educate and empower. The best-case scenario is that our program helps motivate the creation of more art.”

Founded by veteran independent film producer Mark Mathias Sayre, the Vashon Film Institute (VFI) is dedicated to fostering independent filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest, including the launch of two programs: the Vashon Island Film Festival and Vashon Scholars, a multi-week summer film intensive education program it plans to host for youth on the island starting in 2023. The nonprofit’s board of Directors presently includes Maura Little, Isaac Mann, and Peter Serko.

Follow the festival through its social media channels or visit, to find out more.