By Mandi Donohue

“Quiet on the set!” This weekend was all about movies in the Methow Valley. The Telluride Film Festival took place at the Mazama Trailhead and it was the soft opening of the long-awaited Barnyard Cinema in Winthrop.  These events have me feeling a bit giddy and very nostalgic.

Somewhere in my bank of hazy memories exists a very sharp and vivid recollection— probably my very first.  “Fade in” on a little girl with blond curls curiously watching her father fumble with cables and wires, hooking up a VCR to the TV for the first time. I couldn’t have been more than 4, and this was our family’s first experience with “renting a movie.” It was “The Empire Strikes Back.” I loved it.

“Cut to” the same girl, age 5, standing in a line that wrapped around the length of the mall for “Return of the Jedi.” I wasn’t really sure what was happening but I remember my older sisters, with their popcorn already half finished, squealing with delight as the line began moving. And as a dancer, don’t even get me started on such wonderful gems like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or  “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo!” Thanks to those experiences, I fell in love with movies and have never looked back.

Photo by Mandi Donohue
The Barnyard Cinema in Winthrop opens this week.

The story continues to my junior high and high school years, when I’d visit the local Video King for movie posters. I’d collect my favorites, and the posters I couldn’t get, they eventually ordered for the “weird kid.” I began daydreaming about moving to Hollywood and becoming an actor. I didn’t tell anyone, of course.  Instead, I got a communications degree, worked at the local phone company for a year and saved up enough to break the news to my mom.

When I was 22, I moved to Los Angeles — wide-eyed, painfully naive and, looking back, entirely unsure of myself.  However, in a Groundlings class for beginner improv, someone laughed at me and in my heart I knew I had found “my people.” We would write sketches together, and film movie shorts. We would go to the park with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (which was all we could afford) to rehearse lines.

It was a group full of other dreamers who knew not to take life — or themselves — too seriously, and found laughter and solace in every situation, even the painful ones. And believe me, there are plenty of painful ones living as a dreamer in a big city. But even in the loss and the drudgery of survival, we found joy in trips to the Hollywood Bowl, listening to John Williams conducting all of his compositional greats (“Jaws,” “Superman,” “Indiana Jones,” “Harry Potter,” etc.) underneath the stars. We had Academy Award parties where everyone would show up in a costume from that year. If you’ve got the love for movie magic, it’s just something that never goes away.

Movies taught this imaginative kid to dream, and movies continue to remind this adult to be a kid. I couldn’t wish more success for The Barnyard Cinema and hope the Telluride Festival was a smashing success. I’m bummed that I missed Telluride (sometimes adult-ing has to come first — wah!), but Barnyard, I’ll be seeing you soon.  It would be “Inconceivable” not to. And scene.