Alumnus Jonah Barrett discusses exciting new job, and how Evergreen prepared him for it
Evergreen alumnus Jonah Barrett has always been passionate about filmmaking. After graduating from Evergreen in 2016, he took a paid video internship with the Association of Washington Cities. Now, just two years after graduating, Barrett is the Marketing Director of the Olympia Film Society (OFS), a nonprofit that works to bring high quality film, music, and art to the community.
During his time at Evergreen, Barrett was heavily involved in the world of art; he produced plays, made films, and even wrote his own novel. On top of all that, he played a vital role in the creation of a literary and arts magazine known as Vanishing Point—a publication which he would later serve as the lead editor of. Now, his job with OFS allows him to pursue his deep passion and appreciation for art, and particularly for film.
Barrett credits a number of Evergreen programs with helping him grow as a filmmaker and eventually land his job with OFS, including Julia Zay's Still/Moving and Tug Buse's Afraid to Laugh. The former, he says, taught him the importance of images, while the latter taught him to affect the audience's response to narratives through storytelling and filmmaking techniques.
What are your daily responsibilities as the Marketing Director of the Olympia Film Society?
As a marketing director, I have to do a million-and-one things. We all do at OFS, since we’re a small staff of eight. My primary responsibility is ad sales and forming partnerships with local businesses and media outlets. A day at the theater includes developing graphic design materials like posters and ads for digital and print media, generating social media and website content, managing the marketing street team, and creating press releases for our programming. I have probably forgotten something on that list.
What do you like most about the job?
I love how varied my job is, and how our executive director Audrey Henley trusts my knowledge of film and art, which gives me a lot of creative freedom in my role. I’ve curated art shows as part of this job, created trailers to screen before films, and brought in new sponsors to the OFS family. The position is fast-paced, and I’m usually running around in a high-energy environment. I love the people I work with—we’re a bunch of kind, creative and fun-loving weirdos. As a whole, I love working at OFS because the work we’re doing is so important. The arts are a vital puzzle piece to any population, and as an arthouse theater, personal growth and education are a big part of what we do here. We show films that inform about topics that we deal with here in Olympia like gentrification, pollution, and cultural heritage. It’s vital that we keep opening up dialogues and try to learn together. So, creating materials that encourage people to come out for that? Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
What drew you to Evergreen, and what was the experience like?
After high school I was pretty sick of the usual study, test, grade formula that I’d been crammed into my whole life, so Evergreen seemed like a neat alternative. I also grew up here in Thurston County, so it was literally right next door. Looking back I’m so glad I went with the Evergreen route. I was taught new ways in which to think and solve problems, and was encouraged to explore topics on my own, which is something I still do to be entirely, nerdily honest about it. Like my job now, Evergreen let me grow and learn however I wanted. I got to make dozens of films, produced plays, and even wrote a novel. I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish so much on my own at a traditional college.
Do you have a favorite program, class, or project from your time at Evergreen?
During my time at Evergreen, some friends and I created a literary and arts magazine called Vanishing Point. We printed four editions total, with me serving as head editor for the last two. I actually started out at Vanishing Point as their campaign manager, which kind of served as my introduction to the world of marketing. Vanishing Point was great because I got to lead a team of skilled writers and artists as we were all working toward the goal of producing an annual printed magazine that showcased some of Evergreen’s best writing and visual art, and sometimes musical, film, and social experiments. We even put on a huge five-hour film festival in 2016, which I curated and hosted throughout the night. Vanishing Point taught me how to delegate tasks, keep a team focused, and honor the arts in a finalized product that celebrated creativity. Weirdly enough, Vanishing Point was how I landed my writing gig at Oly Arts, which is how I ended up landing my OFS gig after writing an article about the film festival. If it weren’t for Vanishing Point and having the freedom to do what I wanted with it, I wouldn’t be here right now.
In what ways did Evergreen help prepare you for your current role with the Olympia Film Society?
I think the biggest thing I learned at Evergreen is how to be honest and upfront. People will forgive you, generally, if you just admit you don’t know something and ask questions. I try not to be a know-it-all about things in professional settings. I hate it when people do that. When I’m asking businesses and organizations for sponsorships, I’m always open and communicative about what exactly they’re paying for, what benefits they’re getting, and how they’re helping the community. So far it’s worked out great. A place like Olympia is based on relationships and kindness. If I treated everyone like a cold businessman, I don’t think OFS would get very far. At the end of the day, this is about growing and helping each other, even though that sounds super cheesy, and Evergreen is where I learned how to do that.