Festival Overview: Opening the Lens on the 10th Annual Hells Half Mile Film & Music Festival

Posted In:   From Issue 815   By: Robert E Martin

03rd September, 2015     0

It is hard to believe that this year marks the 10th Anniversary for Bay City’s annual Hells Half Mile Film & Music Festival, which thanks to the dedicated vision of its organizers, has successfully delivered a divergent array of cutting edge independent films & music throughout Bay City for a four-day artistic excursion that stands out from the predictable fodder of mainstream Hollywood by showcasing the work of innovative directors making movies carrying substance, weight, merit, and meaning.

This year the 10th Annual HHM Film Festival will run from September 24-27th and screen 18 phenomenal feature length films and over 20 fantastic short films.  According to Festival Director and co-founder, Alan LaFave, over 17,000 attendees have frequented the HHM Fest over the past 9 years, watching independent films, listening to amazing indie bands, and attending social events, workshops, and panels.

“I think Hell’s Half Mile is one of several catalysts that has begun to turn the tide in our region from wanting only the familiar to seekers of new and exciting forms of entertainment,” notes LaFave.  “The festival is another layer of interest that has made our community a more interesting place to live. One of my personal goals when starting the festival was to prove that you can break from the norm and do something a bit more progressive in a city as small as Bay City. We had to go slowly to find our audience, but we found them and more and more of them are finding us. My hope has always been that the festival inspires other people to create something new for our community, something they’re passionate about.”

When asked how it feels having achieved 10 years of growing success with the HHM Festival; and whether it has equaled or exceeded expectations from when the festival was first conceived, Alan reflects pride through accomplishment.

“It’s pretty satisfying to see how many people come each year to the festival, both first-timers and returning festival-goers. It really makes me proud of what our team has accomplished when people tell me it’s their favorite weekend of the entire year. When we conceived of the idea I’m not sure we knew what to expect. We were just happy we pulled it together and that people came out to it. Over the years we’ve been able to fine-tune the festival and our expectations. As proud as I am of what we’ve accomplished, I think Hell’s Half Mile still has much more potential than has been realized.”

What variety of highlights can people expect from this year’s festival?

“We have the usual line-up of films, music, receptions, and panels, only this year we’re adding a couple new facets to the festival,” explains Alan. “The first is the Hell’s Half Mile "Half Mile”, which is a half mile run in Downtown Bay City right on Water Street, which was the location of the infamous “hell’s half mile”, our namesake. I know, it sounds ludicrous to have a half-mile race, but this will be fun. It starts at 11am on Sunday morning, September 27th and ends at the intersection of Water Street and Center Avenue. Prizes will be awarded. There’s a $10 entry fee, which gets you your race bibs, your 0.5-mile sticker, a film voucher and a drink ticket. The drink ticket can be immediately redeemed at Tavern 101, American Kitchen or Old City Hall for your choice of a selection of beers, mimosa or Bloody Mary. Sounds like a great way to start a Sunday. Plus, you’re already downtown so you can catch a movie!”

“The second new event is our Crowdfunding Rally. This is a partnership with the crowd-funding website, Seed&Spark. Filmmakers submit their new projects to us and we choose several to be viewed on a curated page on Seed&Spark. Our audience votes for, or follows, their favorites and the top few move on to a live pitch event during our Saturday reception at Studio 23. The filmmakers make a live pitch and then the audience chooses their favorite to win over $500 and prizes. The goal is to capitalize on the audience excitement at the film festival in order to turn festivalgoers into contributors. Regardless of who wins the grand prize, the audience can still contribute to their personal favorite or all of the projects. It’s a pretty exciting event and even more exciting that we’re breaking new ground hosting the event.”

“There’s also free music performances at local businesses, a window dressing competition and a free panel discussion on Midwest Filmmaking at the Delta Planetarium. The panel should be interesting as we have filmmakers from the Midwest including Sean O’Grady from Saginaw (producer of “In A World”), Joel Potrykus from Grand Rapids (director of “Buzzard”) and Steven Piet from Chicago (director of "Uncle John”). We’ll talk about the benefits and challenges of making films in the Midwest and we’ll even talk about the recent change in Michigan film incentives and how that will affect filmmaking in our State.”

When asked what the biggest challenges and greatest rewards are with becoming so passionately involved with the HHM Festival, Alan points to many arenas common to numerous ambitious endeavors.

“The challenges can be pretty great. Not enough money to do what we want. Not enough time to get it all done. Not enough people to pitch in. The basics. The festival will only be as big as the resources we have available to us. As I said before, I believe Hell’s Half Mile has not yet met its potential and that’s because of the limitations that we work within.”

“With that said, we have accomplished much with the talents of the people we have on board. The greatest reward for me is working with the people that are involved with the festival and seeing all the filmmakers and festival-goers enjoying themselves.”

“I think it’s important that people who haven’t come out to Hell’s Half Mile actually give it a try. You may not love every movie you see here, but love it or hate it, you’ll have a great time talking to someone about what you saw.”

 

Festival Pass & Ticket Information

For ticket information, passes, and detailed film schedules & locations of all events please visit www.hellshalfmile.com.

All Access Passes -  $45 until Sept. 20th, includes access to all films, Friday music at the Empire Ballroom, Saturday music at Masonic Temple, Opening Night reception, Friday Filmmaker Welcome Party, and the Saturday Festival Happy Hour. All Access Pass cost increases to $60 on Sept. 21st.

Film Passes - $25 until Sept. 20th, includes access to all films at all locations. Film Pass cost increases to $30 on Sept. 21st.

Friday Music - $5 until Sept. 20th (21 and over only). Cost increases to $8 on Sept. 21st. Located at The Empire Ballroom, corner of Washington and First St. 9:00pm start time.

Saturday Music - $12 until Sept. 20th (all ages). Cost increases to $15 on Sept. 21st. 9:00pm start time. Located at the Masonic Temple, corner of Madison and Sixth St. 9:00pm start time.

Film venues include the State Theatre (913 Washington Ave.), Delta College Planetarium (100 Center Ave.) and the Historic Masonic Temple (700 N. Madison). Visit www.hellshalfmile.com for complete info and updates.

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