After 20 years of LGBTQ film on Capitol Hill, Three Dollar Bill Cinema director seeks new role

Plourde takes in the scene on 15th Ave E (Image: Michelle MacKinnon for CHS)

Executive director Jason Plourde is bidding farewell to Capitol Hill’s Three Dollar Bill Cinema 20 years after his first day as a volunteer usher.

“It’s a little emotional,” he admits. Looking back, Plourde remembers moving to Seattle during a period he describes as “the coming of age of queer filmmaking.”

Three Dollar Bill is a 12th Ave Arts-headquartered nonprofit dedicated to films “by, for, and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and their families.” The organization is the producer of the annual Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival, the Translations transgender film fest, and the summertime movie series in Cal Anderson Park. All of these grew and thrived under Plourde’s direction and, hopefully a few times along the way, with him getting a chance to enjoy the show.

The goal of Three Dollar Bill Cinema, board of directors president Joey Burgess says, is “to increase queer visibility, facilitated by arts and film. “Jason has been a wonderful curator of that mission and goal,” he said.

Plourde joined Three Dollar Bill Cinema just in time for their first film festival in 1996. Early-on, Plourde recalls a major challenge for the LGBTQ community. “Only select stories were being told,” he said “and those narratives were written predominantly from the perspective of white gay males.”

Plourde noticed movie studios were only producing and distributing LGBTQ stories they thought had mass appeal and, although the means of production were becoming more affordable for aspiring filmmakers, the means of distribution were still not widely accessible. Despite a self-professed love of film, Plourde say his focus has always been on social justice and community work. He found a way to dedicate himself to community service via film on Capitol Hill. “There was a thriving art-house scene, and queer work was being shown, but it was such a small percentage of movies out there,” he said.

As queer filmmaking and the evolution of the medium continue, Plourde still regards queer visibility as the main goal of the film festival. “There will never be anything that will replace the experience of seeing a film with a group of people,” said Plourde.

From VHS to Virtual Realty, Plourde has dedicated most of his life to curating and supporting film projects. “At first, people came to the festivals because they needed to,” he said.

In his past few years with Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Plourde has seen the amount of content and the quality increase dramatically, and, he says “with the advent of streaming, diversity is building.”

Aspiring filmmakers are living in a good time, the veteran curator says. “If you at all want to make a film, then go for it,” Plourde said. “People have made films on their phones, so you have the means, but the story is the most important part of filmmaking, so your story should be the core of your movie.”

Three Dollar Bill has also begun its search for a new executive director. “This is a hands-on position involving significant fundraising, program development and implementation, staff development, event administration, contributing to board development, and office management responsibilities.” Good luck!

As for the next scene of Plourde’s story, he says he will continue his work in service of the LGBTQ community, but first, “It’s a good time to take a break.”

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2 thoughts on “After 20 years of LGBTQ film on Capitol Hill, Three Dollar Bill Cinema director seeks new role

  1. Thank you, Jason, for all your work on behalf of the LGBTQ community. You have elevated queer film in Seattle and this country. THANK YOU!!!!

  2. Jason- you’ve been such a strong leader in the LGBTQ and arts community. Thank you for all you’ve done on the hill and working on LGBTQ Film globally.