'Listening is a gift of life': Dyan Cannon shares secrets of acting at Port Townsend Film Festival (***Gallery***)
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Dyan Cannon mixes with the crowd at the Port Townsend Film Festival's opening on Saturday. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Port Townsend Film Festival special guest Dyan Cannon and Executive Director Janette Force greet the crowd at the beginning of this year's festival.
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Actress Dyan Cannon meets with students at Port Townsend High School — one of her first official acts as special guest of the Port Townsend Film Festival.
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Director Tim Shadyac, in blue jacket, exhibits his new film, "I Am," this weekend.
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Dyan Cannon speaks with festival-goers Diane Johnsen and Beth Gore after appearing on a live radio show on Saturday.
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Megan Walsh, on skates, gives Ann Burns a shot of whipped cream for her root beer float in the hospitality area.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND -- What distinguishes the Port Townsend Film Festival from similar events is the value it places on the filmmakers themselves, say those who make the movies.

"I've taken this movie to a lot of different festivals," said Cameron Sawyer, director of the short film, "She's A Fox."

"This is a warmer, friendly environment than many other festivals, where they treat filmmakers like they aren't really necessary."

The 11th Port Townsend Film Festival's special guest, Dyan Cannon, 73, is a filmmaker as well as an actress.

In addition to an Academy Award nomination for her role in "Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice," Cannon was nominated, with Vince Cannon, for an Oscar for the best live-action short film in 1976 for "Number One," which she produced, directed, wrote and edited.

The Golden Globe recipient said that the most important trait of a good actor is listening.

"Listening is a gift of life, and it's not all about acting," she told students at Port Townsend High School on Friday.

"If you can put yourself in a relaxed state and listen to someone, you can react honestly.

"You have to unveil yourself if you are going to be an actress or an actor," she said.

"You can't be afraid to show what's really going on."

The festival continues today with films at five venues.

"It's gone very well so far," said Janette Force, festival executive director, who added that she did not have an accurate attendance count yet on Saturday.

"And having the weather gods cooperate certainly didn't hurt."

On Friday afternoon, downtown was overcast and windy, but the sun came out just as Cannon cut the ceremonial filmstrip and announced that the festival had begun.

On Saturday afternoon, temperatures in the mid-70s created a bright atmosphere on Taylor Street, the festival's epicenter.

"This is the best one that I've attended," said Julie McCulloch, who has been to all but one of the events.

Cannon, who arrived Thursday night, got up early Friday for the traditional special guest visit with students at the high school.

About 60 students crowded into the library, as Cannon talked about her 50 years in show business while encouraging questions from the kids.

Cannon engaged the kids immediately as soon as she walked into the school, asking her favorite question: "What is your dream?"

She told the students that she knew her destiny at an early age.

"I knew instinctively what I was born to do," she said of her initial attraction to acting.

"I had a dream in my heart and my head, and I followed that."

Cannon said she is aware that she has a "good side" and always looks better when photographed from the right, although she doesn't let that govern her behavior.

Cannon said she has developed many close friendships with co-stars in her films. In other cases, she worked with people that she didn't particularly like.

She won't name those people, saying only that they weren't good listeners.

"If there is an actor that I have to kiss and be madly in love with and he has bad breath or body odor I will find something I like about him that I can love, like an eyebrow or a fingernail."

On Saturday morning, Cannon and several other filmmakers participated in a live broadcast of National Public Radio's "West Coast Live" from the Upstage Theatre and Restaurant.

Here, the talk scratched the surface of celebrity, exploring the filmmakers' thoughts and motivations.

Tom Shadyac, who directed three Jim Carrey movies, talked about his transformation after a near-fatal accident prompted him to re-evaluate his career.

His new movie, "I Am," is meant to "begin a dialogue about more important things."

The film does not use famous actors, but rather asks prominent people for opinions about their place in the world.

"I found that all the terms for the most positive things are negative," Shadyac said.

"Like 'nonprofit,' which describes one of the best things you can do, begins with 'non.'

"I'd like for us to grow to a point where we can develop new words to describe the positive things that happen to us."

Shadyac rid himself of fame's trappings, like a large house and a private plane, following an impulse to live simply.

He once chose fame, something that other filmmakers present said they would not ever do.

"I will want to stay independent and small," said Stephenie Argy, who was presenting a fanciful film called "Gandhi at the Bat."

"There is something rewarding to be able to tell a story that is in your heart."

The festival ends today with a full day of showings beginning at 9 a.m. and extending into the evening.

While nearly 900 pass-holders are have first choice for screening seats, the general public can line up in front of the theater 15 minutes before show time and purchase a ticket for $10.

Movie venues are the Uptown Theatre, 1120 Lawrence St.; the Rose Theatre and the Rosebud Cinema, both at 235 Taylor St.; the Pope Marine Building, 100 Madison St.; and the Peter Simpson Free Cinema at the American Legion Hall at 209 Monroe St.

A free outdoor movie, "Big Night," will be shown at 7:30 p.m. tonight on Taylor Street across from the Rose Theatre.

The festival's hospitality center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 111 Quincy St.

For more information, see www.ptfilmfest.com.


Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 26. 2010 12:28AM
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