By Dan Thomas
A truly horrific event occurred in downtown Bellingham last Halloweekend. The Pickford Film Center hosted its spookiest event of the season, Bleedingham.
Designed to give local and international filmmakers a platform on the big screen, Bleedingham caters to a variety of creators, film connoisseurs and people. In this case, horror in every subjective form.
Bleedingham co-organizer Gary Washington has built this event from the ground up for the last six years.
“Bleedingham is an event that is devised for filmmakers to receive accolades from their peers in a competitive setting while receiving critical feedback from judges that are employed in the filmmaking or creative industry, with some aspect of horror in it,” Washington said.
Seventeen short horror films premiered at the Pickford Saturday night, each hand-picked out of a total 41 entries this year. Washington said it boils down to basic math. How many films they can fit into the allotted time and the leftovers get cut out. These short films compete for a chance at a $1,000 best-film cash prize and awards in six subcategories.
“Beneath all the glory and the glamor and all that, it’s just, ‘Can you tell me a story in 14 minutes or less?’” Washington said.
While coordinating an event of this size is a feat on its own, getting accepted and on the big screen is a whole other challenge. This year’s festival had more submissions than ever before, said Bleedingham co-organizer and visual designer Langley West.
“It means the judges have a much harder job. They have to watch a lot more films and we have to pare it down,” West said. “More people don’t get in. But that also means that it’s a bigger deal if you do get in.”
Following a decision process by judges of Bleedingham on Saturday, the film that won best picture overall was “EMIKO.” This short horror film by the local production group Next Floor Entertainment swept away eight awards in multiple categories among many other short horror films. An encore showing the Washington-selected films is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Pickford.
Making the cut among other contestants is precisely what filmmakers like Steven Chappell, writer and co-director for “Night of the Living Trees,” aim to accomplish in their creative process. Chappell said the feeling of being featured in Bleedingham is unnerving to him and reminiscent of stage improv or sketch comedy.
For the “Botanist” short-film cameramen and Western Film Club members Brady Mcatee and Kenny Mendez, Bleedingham offers an opportunity to connect with esteemed professionals in their field.
“We’ve gotten so many connections through [Bleedingham],” Mcatee said.
Opening the festival to more than just Bellingham residents and students in recent years has unearthed some discontent.
“It seems like the local talent, student-wise, is almost drowned out by the international groups and other entries,” Mendez said.
The international submissions of Bleedingham, open for two days, extend beyond Washington state. The festival also included an additional category titled “local encounters” for entries that land below the bar but are worth showing, Washington said.
All these short horror films must meet a list of requirements to be considered for the final showing. At the end of Bleedingham, judges present awards in the categories of cinematography, editing, sound design, story, special effects, scary factor and best film, according to the submission guidelines.
“If you want to tell a story, Bleedingham is the place to do it,” West said.
While some could view this wide reach of content creators as a negative to the experience of the festival, Washington said others would say it’s the kind of diversity that contributes to Bleedingham’s unique character. The festival attracts filmmakers ranging from those who have never picked up a camera before to those who have worked in the industry as professionals for a number of years, West said.
Beyond the creatives’ submissions and judges results, Bleedingham also attracts massive community support throughout Bellingham. Over 50 Bellingham and Washington state businesses provided advertisement, brochures and gift cards as incentives for ticket holders. Washington said community support is one of the biggest parts of the Bleedingham experience and it encourages cross-promotion as well as a reason to celebrate local business, filmmaking and creativity.
Community support is one of the biggest parts of the Bleedingham experience and it encourages cross-promotion as well as a reason to celebrate local business, filmmaking and creativity, Washington said.