Festival Overview: Opening the Lens on the 9th Annual Hells Half Mile Film & Music Festival

Posted In: News, Local,   From Issue 796   By: Robert E Martin

11th September, 2014     0

For nine years now Bay City’s annual Hells Half Mile Film & Music Festival 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 9th Annual HHM Film Festival will run from September 25-28th and screen 18 phenomenal feature length films and over 20 fantastic short films, most of which can be seen in 3 different short film programs.  According to festival founder and director Alan LaFave, “We’re following a fairly similar format as recent years in terms of festival events. Beyond the regular film screenings & musical performances, we’re continuing to offer fun social events. Our Opening Night reception is open to the public and will be held at the historic Pere Marquette Depot, which is just a stone’s throw from The State Theatre, where the opening night film is being shown.”

“The Friday & Saturday receptions are reserved for all access pass holders, guests & sponsors, while the Sunday reception is for volunteers and guests only. So the best way to get the most out of HHM is to buy an all access pass or become a sponsor a volunteer,” notes LaFave.

“We have four great panel discussions planned this year, which offer an opportunity to hear about subjects within the film world discussed by people who are living it,” he continues. “Two of them are free this year and open to everyone, the first being on Friday, Sept. 26th at 4 PM at the YWCA (corner of Center & Washington) that is titled Mainstream & Independent Films – separate worlds or interdependent”. At this event our panelists will discuss how the two worlds may intersect or differ, which should be a fascinating discussion.”

“The second free panel is on Saturday, Sept. 27th at 2 PM at the Delta College Planetarium Explorer’s Hall and is titled Music in Film. We wanted to have an event that truly tied the two ends of the festival together, so this panel is really targeted to musicians and filmmakers and is focused on different levels of licensing music for film and how to connect filmmakers and bands. Panelists scheduled to participate are Erik Masone (Deepfreeze Music NYC), members of the band The High Strung – a Detroit band who’s song ‘The Luck You Got’ is the theme to the Showtime series Shameless – as well as guest filmmakers ad others. Geoff Marslett, director of the 2013 HHM Film ‘Loves Her Gun’ will be moderating both the Friday & Saturday panels.”

“In keeping with the last few years, HHM is again presenting a documentary that ties into a community discussion. The environmental documentary “Yakona”, presented by The Conservation Fund, will screen at 2pm Sunday, Sept. 28th at the State Theatre. In this film we follow the clear waters of the San Marcos River and its headwaters at Spring Lake in Texas. It’s an impressionistic journey from the river’s point of view and its relationship with the natural world and its interactions with humankind.”

“Honestly, this is some of the most beautiful underwater footage you’ll ever see. Following the screening of the film Mlive is hosting a panel discussion to relate the film to our own local waterways and the nature of our relationship to them. Mlive hosted this same type of discussion in prior years on the subjects of healthcare (“Remote Area Medical”) and economic development (“After the Factory”) and the discussions are lively and engaging. The only cost to get into this panel is to purchase a ticket into the movie.”

As Alan and his crew of HHM volunteers have fine-tuned the festival over the years, they are continuously concentrating on expanding its reach to the public. “We haven’t had the resources to promote like the huge well-known events in the Great Lakes Bay region, but slowly and organically we’ve grown. We’ve stepped up our efforts this year to really get the word out about Hell’s Half Mile and have billboards this year, yard signs, and more radio advertising than ever. If the people of this region and beyond fill up the theaters and other venues this year, we’re confident that we can add many more events to the festival for our tenth annual in 2015. That’s more films, more guests, and more music. But people have to flood the venues this year. Like I said earlier, our growth has been steady and nice, but fun events like Hell’s Half Mile count on the community to show up.”

In terms of the caliber of work that this 2014 HHM festival will be featuring when compared to previous festivals, LaFave says that “overall these films are going to please crowds. We have more comedies, unbelievable dramas, and some truly moving documentaries. If you’ve never gone to HHM before, or maybe attended once, I think this is the year you really need to attend, especially if you’re into truly stellar storytelling.”

“This year the HHM tag line is ‘Michigan’s Declaration of Independents’ and we feel we are truly declaring ourselves as a player in the exhibition of independent film and indie music. Come and see for yourself. I’m absolutely confident we’re presenting some great cinema and original music.”

“We have a team of programmers that review all the films and it was tougher than ever to get to the final list this year,” responds Alan when asked about the quality of this year’s presentations. “We turned away some great films because we simply didn’t have enough room for them. Hopefully sooner than later we can increase our footprint and offer dozens more films during the festival. But I think most people will find something featured that appeals to them. Plus half the films will have guests present for Q&A sessions after each screening, including directors, actors, producers and screenwriters, which truly adds to the overall experience.”

One thing for certain is that the reputation of the HHM Film & Music Festival is definitely expanding beyond the Great Lakes Bay region.

“We have some amazing bands from downstate and elsewhere that are seeking us out to play HHM,” enthuses Alan. “That was exactly part of the mission of this festival – to get on the radar of talent musicians so they would play here in our community. The more bands that play here, the more the word gets out about our enthusiastic audience. But we’re not just sitting around waiting for people to talk about us. We started hosting events in other cities.”

“In June this year, we hit the road and hosted an event in Ferndale at The Loving Touch. It was a bittersweet weekend because the Friday of the Ferndale show we lost one of our best friends, festival cofounder and music committee director Tommy Jenkins. His passing was devastating to all of us, but his love for the festival, Bay City and especially music, is pretty damn inspiring to this day. We’re planning additional road trips in 2015 back to the Detroit area, Grand Rapids and Traverse City. I think it will increase the festival’s brand exposure to the level Tommy paved the way for all these years.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of the group of people that work on this festival,” concludes LaFave. “We’re all volunteers simply trying to bring something entertaining and a bit out of the ordinary to our community. The more people that join us the bigger and better it gets.”

“We also wish to offer our profound appreciation to The Kathleen Ann Pillars Memorial Fund for being our Presenting Sponsor, along with Hospice Advantage who graciously agreed to be our 2014 Jury Award Sponsor.”

Festival Pass & Ticket Information

For ticket information, passes, and detailed film schedules & locations of all Hell’s Half Mile Festival events please visit their website at www.hhmfest.com.

All Access Passes are currently available through September 20th for only $45.00 that includes access to all films, Friday Music Night at the Rusty Saw Ballroom, Saturday Music Night at the Masonic Temple and all Friday & Saturday receptions.  After September 21st the all access pass is $55.00.

Film passes for all films at all locations are available for $24.00 until Sept. 20th and $30.00 from September 21st onward.

Music Festival tickets for Music Night at the Masonic Temple on Saturday, Sept. 27th are $12 through Sept. 20th and $15.00 from Sept. 21 onward. Doors open at 7 PM for this event.

Individual tickets are also available for each film screening.

All films will be shown at three venues: The State Theatre, 913 Washington Ave.; The Masonic Temple, 700 N. Madison; and Delta College Planetarium, 100 Center Ave., Bay City.  Check the HHM website for exact times and locations of all showings.

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