By Lorraine Wilde
The advent of the digital age, streaming video and movies-by-mail has meant the demise of many local video stores. But one beloved Bellingham store, Film is Truth 24 Times a Second, remains a vital part of the community because it has adapted to changing times with creativity and grace.
In early October, Film is Truth moved its rare and eclectic film collection of more than 17,000 VHS, DVD and Blu-ray titles from its Holly Street location of more than 10 years to join the family of vendors at the Bellingham Public Market. “We worked with the owner, Stephen Trinkaus, to secure the new location,” explains Film Is Truth Manager and Board Member, Dee Dee Chapman. “We feel like we’re part of a larger organism now. There’s great parking here and Stephen generously donated about $12,000 in rent reduction because he was so happy to have us here.”
“The store now occupies space that was once a former storage area,” notes Trinkaus. “They absorbed our former movie rental business and are a great fit with our customers.”
Film is Truth successfully created its Board of Directors and transitioned to non-profit status this past January, but federal recognition will take more time and investment. “We are awaiting approval of our amended articles from the state,” explains Chapman. “We are poised and ready to send off our forms to the IRS that will give us 501(c)3 status with the federal government.” This limbo status means that education and volunteer programs can move forward, but donations are not yet tax deductible. “We’re doing small-scale fundraising events that build community now and we’ll expand that when our federal status is approved.”
Non-profit status will bring more than tax deductible donations. It will also allow Film is Truth to apply for grants that will fund new programs. “We’ll be transforming the public market conference room into a screening room that will host a number of new movie clubs we’ll create,” says Chapman. “They could be based on various genres, countries, or documentaries — whatever our members want.” Educational outreach is also on the list of future programs. “We’d like to reach out to middle and high school classrooms to students who didn’t grow up with video rental stores and who don’t have the sense of how much has changed in such a short time. That program will include both screenings and lecture series.”
Film is Truth is providing a lot more than an entertaining evening. “Streaming video companies get rid of more and more of their lesser viewed titles every day, and that scares me,” exclaims Chapman. “Something that was at the tip of your fingers one day can be gone the next. That model is about what gets viewed most and not about preserving a collection of films.”
Most people not familiar with Film is Truth are shocked to hear of its extensive VHS collection. “We carry only out-of-print titles or those that were never transferred to DVD, with a few exceptions,” says Chapman. “We have an early edition “Star Wars” without all the later CGI editing. Hans shoots first. We’ll never let go of something like that,” she adds. Film is Truth also carries difficult-to-find titles like “Shivers,” an early film directed by David Cronenberg, and “Faster Pussycat Kill Kill,” a rare, early sexploitation film that heavily influenced filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino. “There is something about the quality of VHS that’s different and more visceral than other formats,” explains Chapman. “Losing VHS would be a great loss to Whatcom County, so we’re really passionate about preserving them.”
Other unusual and interesting titles you’ll find only at Film is Truth include “Rubin and Ed,” one of Crispin Glover’s first films. “Glover plays a very strange introvert who is traipsing through the desert trying to bury his cat. Glover appeared on David Letterman in character in 1987,” explains employee Maggie Corrigan. “It upset Letterman so much that he was never invited back,” adds Chapman. Another film, “The Cook, The Theif, His Wife, and Her Lover,” appears on the shelf because of its historical significance. “It’s the very first NC-17 movie and it is very clearly not pornography, but it is very erotic,” notes employee Benjamin Owens. “It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes but they didn’t want to release it as an X-rating so they came up with the new rating and changed the history of film.”
Through October 30, Film is Truth is hosting a Kickstarter campaign to raise $12,000 to help offset the legal and administrative costs associated with non-profit transition and moving. The funds will also provide a buffer as both die-hard and new customers discover the new location. A donation of just $18 comes with the perk of having your name on the film of your choice in the store while $58 gets you a posting of your own top 10 list, a privilege usually reserved for staff.
Film is Truth is looking forward to celebrating its 18th Anniversary on October 17. From 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Film is Truth will offer one free movie rental per person, free cookies and a raffle as well as games and prizes.
Your rental receipt will also get you 10 percent off your Terra Organics and Natural Foods purchase. “We all really believe that the only reason we’re still here is because the people of Bellingham support us,” beams Chapman, “and we want them to continue to be a part of our history.”
Film is Truth 24 Times a Second
1530 Cornwall Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225
Open daily: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.