By Alaysha Germaine
Outside Heiner 208, a younger looking man sits alone at a table. Quietly, he sorts through papers and looks at his laptop, but every so often he glances up at the door to room 208 and smiles.
Michael Falter is a film instructor here at Whatcom and the smile directed at the door signals his reaction to lines in the film he’s showing, and the reaction of the students. Both, if paid attention to, can be heard from just inside the entrance of Heiner Center on certain days.
Falter began teaching at Whatcom four years ago as an English instructor. In his second year as faculty he switched to film.
Falter admits that his original interest was in writing and literature. In a piece he put together for The Bellingham Herald he wrote, “The seductive power of film had to duke it out with the equally narcotic effects of music and literature in my formative years. During my high school and college days, I collected and absorbed books as if I had a hellhound on my trail and the only thing keeping him at bay was my list of Modern Library books I must read before I die.”
Falter began his teaching career in 1995, but he pinpoints his feats of teaching and learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the College of Santa Fe. The college itself was the only film college in the southwest at the time, and Falter’s decision to be there helped him realize his love of film, and teaching, and how cinema rather tied all of his loves together.
“It’s hard to describe my love of film,” said Falter. “For me it’s magical. My childlike self responds to that. I can’t even specialize because I love it so much.”
During Falter’s time in New Mexico, he received an e-mail from a friend letting him know that The Pickford Cinema, a movie theatre in Bellingham, was looking for a new manager. Falter jumped at the chance. He moved back to Bellingham for a year, but with a family that was unable to completely uproot, he returned to New Mexico and resorted to flying to Bellingham every month for a week to fulfill his managerial duties.
Throughout Falter’s pursuits in film, his traveling left him unable to teach, and when the trips back and forth became too much to handle, Falter and his family moved back to Bellingham for good. Upon coming “home” Falter got back into the groove of teaching with Whatcom’s English and now film departments.
Further into Falter’s piece for The Bellingham Herald he writes about his job at Whatcom: “I found myself falling in love with the study of cinema all over again. Like my familiar hellhound of yore, its companion film hounds are kept at bay with my sight and sound lists.”
As the Pickford manager, Falter has embarked recently on an upgrading of the theatre, which he described originally as “just a funky little place.” A $3.2 million dollar project will lead to the opening of the new Pickford Film Center on Bay Street located downtown.
“The health of a community to me depends on three things,” said Falter, “Independent film is one of them.”
Falter suggests that he would like the “new” Pickford to be a source for student film makers, possibly in conjunction with the surrounding colleges… including Whatcom.
On top of both of these careers, Falter is also the co-host of a television show on KVOS. He and a film professor from Western, Kaveh Askari, run the show “A Pickford Classic Movie.” Every Sunday night at eight o’clock, the two men choose a classic movie that they admire and explain to everyone watching the film why they love it.
“My favorite movie is Citizen Kane,” said Falter. “It’s the greatest film ever. It was produced by Orson Wells who is my hero. He worked outside the system and he made no compromise. He is a God among film makers.”
On top of all three of these activities, Falter remains content in his busy lifestyle. “I love intellectual pursuits,” he said.
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