Stay scary. That's always been my motto. I think most people thought it was in reference to my job as an effects artist for films that showcase monsters or gore, but that's not the case at all, at least until recently. Over the last few months I have been helping to organize a film festival to showcase short horror films. There have been a lot of monsters and a lot of gore. My motto has finally taken on the meaning that most people ascribe to it.
One of the first movies I can remember seeing was 1966's "Curse of the Werewolf." I was hooked. By the time I saw my first movie at the theater at the age of 4 (the Vincent Price shocker "Dr. Phibes Rises Again"), I was a full-blown horror fanatic. As much as I liked the monsters and the thrill of being scared, I understood early on that the real magic of these films lay in their making. I fell in love with the idea that there are real-life mad scientists who actually create these movies. Cinematographers who can control our vision and paint with light. Actors who can make us feel as deeply for their characters as we do about our own family members; master manipulators of our hearts and minds. But it was the special effects artists who most captivated me.
It was the effects artist who brought the monsters to life. Whether it was the person who created the foam rubber suit for Godzilla or the stop-motion master who manipulated tiny puppets one frame at a time to create a sequence of dinosaur-fueled mayhem, the effects artist, I was convinced, had the greatest job in the world.
Many, many years later, I was finally able to channel this love of fantastic cinema into a serious study and began working on effects for film and video. After attending school and working for many years in Las Vegas, I opted to move to Bellingham. I was immediately surprised that a small Washington town would have such a thriving film community. It was during a temporary teaching job at the Fairhaven campus of Western Washington University that I met several like-minded folks. Two recent graduates in particular, Gary Washington and Avielle Heath, shared my passion for the macabre and we were soon brainstorming: The Bleedingham Short Horror Film Festival was born.
Bleedingham provides an arena for low-budget filmmakers to practice their skills, show the results and be rewarded for exceptional effort. It is also a celebration of all things scary. We hope that Bleedingham becomes a regular part of Bellingham's Halloween traditions, much as Thrillingham has. For me, it's all about re-capturing that magic I felt when I was kid sitting up late at night watching "Creature Features."
Filmmaking is hard work, regardless of one's level of experience. However, it should also be fun. There are few things more fun than filming a horror movie. As filmmakers trying to make a living, we get few opportunities to be really creative and do crazy, fun projects. Bleedingham is a chance for us cut loose and just have a blast. And when you're having fun, it shows up in your work.
With all this fun going on, Gary, Avielle and I couldn't pass up on the chance to commit some cinematic mayhem as well, so we've been working on our own short horror film to show off at the event. Our entry is just for fun, but the other entries are in direct competition with each other. So, may the best horror film win!
We are accepting submissions through Oct. 22 and the big screening will be held at The Pickford Film Center, Saturday, Oct. 27, at 9 p.m. More information can be found at: bellinghamfilmfestivals.com.
In reference to my motto: it stems from independent film icon Robert Rodriquez. He once described Hollywood as being afraid of the small, independent filmmaker who could generate original content and be self-reliant. So, in that context, fellow filmmakers, let's all Stay Scary.
Bleedingham, a film fest for short horror films, will present "Bloddies" awards at the public showing of entries.
Films of 15 minutes or less may be submitted, with a $10 entry fee, by Monday, Oct. 22, at bellinghamfilmfestivals.com.
Public screening of the films will be at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St., Bellingham.
Tickets are $7 general admission and $5 for students and Pickford members.
Visual and practical effects artist Langley J. West lives in Bellingham.