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Underground film festival encourages meaningful creation in Pensacola

Ty Cummings
DIY Film Fest

In conjunction with the 309 Punk Project, DIY Pensacola will be hosting the first-ever DIY Film Fest, a screening of low-budget movies and video projects created by regional artists. Inspired by past showings of DIY films at Sluggo’s in downtown Pensacola, the festival is an opportunity for people to make movies with their friends or share films they’ve been keeping to themselves.

Local artist and lead organizer of the event Ty Cummings said that he’s had the idea of bringing a local film festival to Pensacola for a long time. After learning that a film festival would fit well with other events planned at the 309 House, he began organizing the DIY Film Fest.

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“Having a face-to-face artistic community [like this] is important because it contextualizes your art in terms of people you can freely interact with and people who share experiences with you,” Cummings said. “Without that, your only reference point for artmaking is a giant culture industry caught up in its own logic.”

Film festivals like these are largely formed by a desire to create a stronger local underground film scene and a curiosity as to what that might look like. Before this festival, Pensacola did not have an exploratory, collaborative, or de-commodified space to foster an underground film scene.

“It’s like how the local music scene can turn stale when there aren’t any venues for new or underground artists to book,” Cummings said. “Even if a lot of people are sharing art online or in big venues, without the right communal context, there is no world-building, and there is no scene.”

While underground festivals like the DIY Film Fest encourage thoughtful creation, Cummings says that mainstream film festivals have become showrooms for corporate distributors to shop for projects. When that’s the case, there’s little reason to accept or submit a film that doesn’t have commercial appeal or a strong promotional campaign. He added that in a DIY film scene, it cannot be like this.

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“It has to be open to people who have no money or equipment and prioritize meaning, joy, and exploration over production,” Cummings said. “As long as we don’t enforce commercial standards, I think everyday people are the best explorers among us.”

Most of the DIY Film Fest submissions have been art, experimental, or comedy films. Some have been made by a single filmmaker, while others have been made by ten or more people. The films submitted have been shot on cell phones, film and digital cinema cameras, and everything in between.

One of the featured films, called “Holes for Eyes,” is an avant-garde short film that touches on the topics of social isolation, anxiety, and the cultural strangeness of late-stage capitalism. The film was created by industry professional Jay Hufford, who grew up in Pensacola but has lived in New York City since the 1990s.

“In addition to commercial work, my personal projects tend to explore the various ways genre conventions and social reality interact and inform one another,” Hufford said. “‘Holes for Eyes’ is a film about the differing reactions people have to culturally produced anxieties. I wanted to make a zombie movie without any zombies in it.”

Ty Cummings
DIY Film Fest

While most filmmakers are aware of the standardized techniques for filmmaking, there is much uncharted territory when it comes to video and film. The DIY Film Fest encourages filmmakers to explore this uncharted territory and roam beyond their imagination.

“When you explicitly ask people to make anything they want and share it with their community, with no other pretense, I think it gets the right gears turning,” Cummings said.

Although the festival hasn’t happened yet, the idea of having one’s film screened at a local DIY event has resonated with a lot of people. It gives filmmakers a chance to fit their aspirations into commercial ventures as well as build their portfolios.

“The call for submissions has got a lot of folks making moves,” Cummings said. “People are digging up old projects, collaborating with new people, and trying filmmaking for the first time, and all it took was an open invitation. That’s a really good sign for what the film scene could be like in Pensacola soon.”

Screening for the DIY Film Fest will begin at 5:30 p.m. on March 24. It will take place at the 309 House, located at 309 N. 6th Ave in downtown Pensacola. The event is free to the public but donations to the 309 Punk Project will be greatly appreciated.

Hunter joined WUWF in 2021 as a student reporter.