Arts & Culture

Meet some local aliens at Sea Cinema Festival

John F. Williams wants to introduce you to some of your odder neighbors.

No, not the guy across the street with the black knee-high socks or the woman down the block who vacuums her sidewalk.

These neighbors live underwater, and Williams, creator of the public-access TV series “Sea-Inside: Pacific Northwest,” will be showing and telling about them Saturday as part of People for Puget Sound’s first Sea Cinema Festival.

“It’s like looking at a culture on a different planet,” said Williams of Suquamish. “The life forms are surrounded by a medium that’s 800 times denser than air, with relatively small gravitational effects. The buoyancy makes them almost weightless, so they take on really different shapes.”

Williams’ goal – and the goal of the festival itself – is to get people thinking about what’s going on under the surface of Puget Sound.

“Even though people don’t see it and don’t think of it as such, it is a part of our neighborhood,” he said. “We need to be mindful of it the same way we’d be mindful of any other part of our neighborhood. Everything we do has an effect.

“In fact, Puget Sound is downhill from everywhere, so what we do has a lot of impact on what goes on down there.”

The two-day festival also includes Playback Theater by the Heartsparkle Players, a mix of educational and entertaining films, and a raffle of such items as a kayak and a stay in a local bed and breakfast.

“If people aren’t having fun, it’s pretty tough to get them engaged and caring and wanting to do more,” said festival organizer Gabrielle Byrne of People for Puget Sound. “We’re humans. We get the blues, and I think it’s hard for people to act when they’re feeling depressed so I tried to make it a mixed bag where we’re both educating people and lifting their spirits.”

One of the spirit-lifting films is “Musica Surfica,” about classical musicians who also surf. At the other extreme is “A Sea Change,” which looks at how rising acidity levels caused by development could lead to the extinction of a million ocean-dwelling species.

The festival, along with other film festivals around the globe, was inspired by World Oceans Day, which is Monday. Byrne said it’s expected to be an annual event and next year will feature a filmmaking contest.

For Williams, the festival is just one more chance to get his message out. Although “Sea-Inside” airs on 45 public-access stations, including Thurston Community Television, he’s been taking the show on the road as well.

He’s already inspired many, including a third-grade class at west Olympia’s Hansen Elementary that created a quilt after watching his film “Return of the Plankton.” Teacher Mary Jane Rants will speak with Williams at the festival.

“The ocean is actually a huge part of our planet and our weather and our food and our ecosystem in general,” he said. “There’s not a lot of emphasis on it in our culture and our media, and it really deserves a lot more attention than what it’s getting.”

Sea Cinema Festival

What: The festival, presented by People for Puget Sound, celebrates World Oceans Day with two nights of award-winning films about the oceans, a performance by the Heartsparkle Players, and a screening and discussion led by John Williams, creator of the public-access TV series “Sea-Inside: Pacific Northwest.”

When: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia

Tickets: $15 per night, $12 for members of the Olympia Film Society and People for Puget Sound. Available at and at the box office the night of the show.


Featured films


6:10 p.m. “A Sea Change,” about increased ocean acidity, which threatens a million species with extinction

8 p.m. Playback Theater with the Heartsparkle Players acting out stories about Puget Sound

9:30 p.m. “Saving Puget Sound: A Call to Action”

9:50 p.m. “Protecting New Orleans, Saving Venice,” about new solutions to the problems of climate change and rising seas

10:05 p.m. “City of the Shark,” about species living in San Francisco Bay

10:20 p.m. “Musica Surfica,” featuring classical musicians who surf

11:15 p.m. “Attack of the Sea Slugs”

11:20 p.m. “Crown of Thorns Starfish: Monster from the Shallows,” about a coral-reef-eating starfish species that has infested much of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef


6:10 p.m. “Pacific Horizons,” a kayaking film named Best Adventure Film in the Waterwalker Film Festival

7:10 p.m. “Superfish,” about the thrill of the hunt and the dangers of overfishing

8:15 p.m. “Underwater Neighborhoods,” a video and presentation by John F. Williams, creator of “Sea-Inside: Pacific Northwest”

9:45 p.m. “Saving Puget Sound: A Call to Action”

10:15 p.m. “Flip Flotsam,” which traces the fate of the discarded flip-flop

10:45 p.m. “Planet Earth: Shallow Seas,” which stars humpback whales, pygmy seahorses, “electric” clams and king penguins

11:30 p.m. “A Lethal Beauty,” about jellyfish, which have caused more human deaths than all the world’s sharks and poisonous snakes combined