B’ham Music Film Fest: Inspiration from here and there

by Brent Cole

This year the Bellingham Music Film Festival will make its debut at Make.Shift and The Pickford Film Center over the first weekend of April. The brainchild of Kacey Morrow and Jessica Harbert, the festival will feature videos, shorts and films that have been inspired by music – a broad concept with films coming from local filmmakers and others around the world.

The festival idea began with Kacey Morrow, a graphic design professor at Western who is on sabbatical this year, and also a Make.Shift board member. Eight months ago, she approached Jessica Miller (formerly Harbert), an adjuct professor at Western as well as the director of operations at Make.Shift. “As an experimental short filmmaker, I have entered into what might be hundreds of film festivals over the years myself, and personally thought it would be good to try and be on the other side of things,” Kacey stated. “Wearing a different hat can sometimes result in a greater appreciation and different perspective on things.”

According to Kacey, the idea of a music film festival was a natural fit for Bellingham. “The theme of the festival also reflects the larger community of Bellingham. Ever since I arrived in Bellingham in 2008, I noticed how music and art are the lifeblood of the town. Everyone I meet seems to make music or create art of some kind. I therefore thought this could be a great way to combine music and art through filmmaking and bring the community together.”

As the concept began to take shape, Kacey and Jessica reached out to local film organization to see if they’d like to be involved. “We’ve had a lot of really good response. A lot of it comes from local sponsors,” stated Jessica, noting the two most involved have been The Pickford and Film is Truth. “Two organizations that have a lot to offer,” she added.

Among those who offered to help was Lindsey Gerhard, Marketing Manager at the Pickford. “(She) has also been involved in planning and programming, as the partnership with the Pickford is a big part of the festival. She has nominated people to participate in screening as jurors for the films submitted as well as playing a key role in coordinating festival events and programming.”

Karl Freske, one of the two heads of Film is Truth was another key organizer, according to Kacey.

Organizers reached out to local organizations (from Western to Make.Shift and independent film makers) regarding submissions, but they opened it up anyone in the world using the Film Freeway, a website that not only allows submission to come from anywhere, but also has the framework in place to organize a film festival – Kacey was familiar with the website and knew it’d work well for the festival. “We could make it hard or we could make it easy,” Jessica said about choosing to use Film Freeway. Local duo Scarlet Locomotive will play their tunes as part of the Bellingham Music Film Festival’s Opening Ceremony on Friday, April 1 at Make.Shift. COURTESY PHOTO

With the framework in place, the festival began taking submissions, which ran through Feb. 1. There were submissions from Bellingham filmmakers and others from as far away as Poland. With the submissions window closed, 10 local judges were selected to review the materials and choose the films that made the cut. “Each film was carefully reviewed and considered by more than one member of our screening committee. Each film was reviewed using a consistent rating system looking at qualities like originality, direction, writing, cinematography, performance, pacing and structure. They were also evaluated based on their reliance, quality, and use of sound/music, since this is a music-focused film festival,” Kacey said.

As the judges continue to work through the films, Jessica is looking forward to the festival. “I’m super excited,” she exclaimed, “I had no idea going into it how it would shake out.” She cites having good community partners and really active people involved as keys to the making the process so smooth this first go around.

While Jessica is excited about this year’s festival festival, it’s not meant to be a one-and-done event, and are keeping an eye on the future. “The sooner we do the first year, then we can do the second year and the third year. Then we can see it become established in our community,” she said, adding, “The hope is that it will be something that grows into what it has the potential to be. Connecting two mediums – film and music and putting us (Bellingham) on the map while continuing to grow.”


Friday, April 1

Film festival opening ceremony @ Make.Shift / 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Live music: Scarlet Locomotive // Momo Grace; Music Video showcase; Evening benefiting Film is Truth

Saturday, April 2

Film shorts showcase @ Make.Shift / 12 p.m.; Short Films, Music Videos and Feature showcase @ Pickford Film Center / 2 p.m.; Short Films showcase @ Make.Shift / 4 p.m.; Live music: To be announced; Short Films, Music Videos and Feature showcase @ Pickford Film Center / 8:30 p.m.; Live music: Thomas Agora

Sunday, April 3

Awards Ceremony, Best of showcase @ Pickford Film Center / 2 p.m.; Live music: To be announced

Published in the March 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine