Artist Spotlight: Philip Kaufman

The historic Capitol Theater in Olympia was already 39 years old when a young Philip Kaufman made his first movie, Goldstein, in 1963. Now, nearly 50 years later, the 1924 movie venue still thrives, home to the Olympia Film Society. And award-winning Kaufman has directed 11 more films, including The Right Stuff, The White Dawn, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Rising Sun, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He also co-wrote the screenplay for The Outlaw Josey Wales and created the story for Raiders of the Lost Ark with George Lucas. His most recent project, Hemingway and Gellhorn—released in 2012 on HBO—was nominated for 15 Emmy Awards.

Time will never diminish Kaufman’s impact on the art of film or the Capitol Theater’s impact on Olympia. The two finally came together during the film society’s 29th Annual Film Festival, Nov. 9-18, 2012, when members presented Kaufman with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the event’s closing gala.

Featured films included The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolfe’s book about the origins of America’s space program and the nature of heroism. “The book was also about a quality called ‘the right stuff,’ which really attracted me,” Kaufman said in an interview. “Part of that quality included grace under pressure, pressure in the face of death and how one handled it all with a certain form of behavior and modesty.”

Although he appreciates being honored for his achievements, Kaufman said the real achievement may be “that I’m still here and I’m still, hopefully, learning. And I’m still excited about making films.”

Kaufman values film festivals and small independent theaters trying to survive. This festival’s proceeds go toward the cost of the Capitol’s digital conversion. He said, “…there’s a certain, special kind of film that doesn’t get distribution very much anymore, or has to fight for distribution. And that’s sort of a tragic thing.” CANDACE BROWN

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