Bleedingham-A bloody good local film festival

Inspired by local film festival Trailer Wars, local filmmakers Gary Washington, Avielle Heath and Langley West have created Bleedingham, a horror film festival not for the faint of heart. Slated for Oct. 27 at the Pickford Film Center, the film festival will screen local horror shorts made my local filmmakers, judged by local horror film experts.

Bleedingham began as most good projects do, with desire and need… and a little bit of booze. “Well like many great ideas, Langley West, Conn Buckley and myself were in a bar, when we thought, ‘How cool would it be to have a horror film festival?’…and I thought … ‘Bleedingham,’” said Washington.

Their friend Avielle Heath was already working on a film festival website as part of her independent study project at WWU. They brought her into the fold with Buckley dropping out, formed a committee and developed a plan. The team quickly secured a date for the festival – around Halloween being the obvious choice – and it was only a few months away.

With limited time, the crew needed to get the word out about the festival and submissions. The goal, according to Washington, is for 10 or more entries. “We knew that since this is our first year that we are going to have to sweat for our content. It’s shaping up pretty good so far but we could definitely use more entries,” he said, adding, “We REALLY want people to know that the entries are for people of all experience levels. Whether you are a filmmaker for a living or make films for hobby, we want your entries. It’s about the celebration of horror and we hope our festival reflects that.” Each short runs between 2 to 15 minutes.

Organizers also needed to secure judges not closely attached to the filmmakers. Bleedingham’s judges include author/reviewer/columnist Thom Carnell, feature filmmaker/actress/makeup artist Jessica Valentine, local businessman and “geekdom” authority Roman Statdler and director/producer/film company owner Brian Young – all chosen, in part, because the weren’t peers of the entrants and could have a nonbiased opinion of the films. “We also wanted people who either had an interest/background in horror OR the filmmaking process in general, unrelated to horror. That way, both the horror elements and the filmmaking elements would be judged on their own merit. Fortunately, I already knew some folks that would fit the bill. I’m very excited about the panel we’ve been able to assemble,” said West.

While the organizers obviously can’t have entries in the festival, it hasn’t stopped them from creating two shorts that will also be part of the night. “We all love making films of any style, but horror in particular. We have made a few promotional shorts to help advertise the festival,” said Heath. West added, “Any chance to commit mayhem on screen should never be passed up!”

The trio hopes to draw from the vast local filmmakers in town for the festival. The “Bellingham film scene is awesome, everyone seems to have a project in the works. There are some really experienced filmmakers lurking in the community as well as the slew of fresh young minds that breeze through WWU. It is this combination of elements that make our community so unique,” said Washington.

West added, “This town is ripe with talent and drive…there’s no reason for it not to become a bright spot on the filmmaking map. I’ve seen more cool stuff being produced here than when I was living in a big city, where everything was driven by the bottom line and creativity was viewed as a risk.”

So far the response to Bleedingham has been great. “We’ve got a lot of people excited about the idea. We have linked with the Washington State Studio Network (WSSN) to give the filmmakers an opportunity to show their films across that state. There are projects in the works and we’ve already gotten a few submissions in,” said Heath.

The Bleedingham crew believes a local horror film fest was a natural move. “Remember when you were a kid and Halloween was a really big deal? This is our way of keeping it a big deal. Additionally, it gives local filmmakers a chance to have their efforts rewarded in a tangible way,” said Wes.

“As fans of Horror movies, we felt that there should be a creative outlet for people who enjoy this genre,” Washington added. “We understand that horrific images bombarding you constantly may have an adverse effect on your mind so we figured once a year around Halloween was appropriate.”

Of course, for the organizers, it’s not just making the films but watching them – all three are avid horror film watchers. “Since my earliest memories, I have always loved “fantastic cinema.”  Horror, Science-Fiction, Fantasy…it is THESE films in particular that have a stranglehold on my imagination.  Horror in general is the most interesting to me, as it can be so many different things…that, ultimately, result in one emotion:  FEAR. And, as Lovecraft taught us, fear the oldest and strongest of our emotions. The horror film gives us a chance to return, albeit temporarily, to our primal selves,” said West.

As the festival gets closer, the excitement level is building for Washington, West and Heath. “We really enjoy the opportunity they provide for filmmakers to see their work on a big screen and wanted to offer that to horror fans,” said Washington.

“It’s not about how big your film festival is…it’s how you use it,” West added.

Bleedingham Film Festival will be held at the Pickford Film Center on Oct. 27 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 for Pickford Film Center members and students, and $7 for all other horror fans. The submission deadline is Monday, Oct. 22, with an entry fee of $10. Films should be no longer than 15 minutes, and there is no limitation on how horrifying and gory films can be.

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