When I was approached in 2012 to contribute to the International Pancake Film Festival, I was understandably a little bewildered; I had never heard of such a festival, and most of the people I told about it assumed I was either making it up, or victim of some sort of elaborately obtuse practical joke. Still, it is my personal policy not to question the inexplicable when it falls in my lap, so I rallied some friends over the course of a weekend and shot a short, Poe-inspired piece about a man driven to murder his wife, who naturally is also a pancake.
As it turned out, I was the one late to the party; the IPFF has been going strong for years, and the screening was packed with filmgoers eager to sink their teeth into a dazzlingly eclectic array of weird and wonderful flapjack-based filmmaking, as well as the actual free pancakes served up by Festival volunteers. This Thursday, the IPFF will bring their five-year retrospective, LOOK BACK IN BATTER, to the BU Art Gallery (in the interest of disclosure, I should mention that my entry, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF PANCAKES, will be included in the program). I recently spoke to the IPFF’s masterminds, Regional Program Director Damon Bishop and Associate Director-In-Chief Cara Kuball, to shed some light on the origins of the sweet, syrupy festival.
BOSTON HASSLE: How did the IPFF come to be?
INTERNATIONAL PANCAKE FILM FESTIVAL: The very first IPFF was held in 2007 at our apartment in Chicago. A year or so earlier, we had moved into that apartment together and decided to celebrate with a pancake-breakfast housewarming party. The idea was to party in the daytime and not trash the place we’d just cleaned and made our new home, plus a pancake breakfast sounded so civilized. It was a perfectly pleasant party, so we decided to do it again and invite friends to make pancake-based movies for screening over a serving of Swedish pancakes. We bought a projector, blacked out the windows, and the IPFF was born.
BH: Why pancakes?
IPFF: Mostly because they are funny. Pancakes also turn out to be a pretty great blank canvas onto which you can throw any type of film you want. One of our favorite parts of putting on the fest is when the submissions start rolling into IPFF HQ and we get to see the weird and wacky places people go with a simple (albeit off-the-wall) prompt. In all the years we have been making this festival, we have never received two films that are even remotely alike.
BH: What sorts of venues have you held screenings at, and where?
IPFF: Not too long after our initial apartment show, our friend Kimberly asked if we had any ideas for possible shows at her gallery in San Antonio, TX. We suggested hosting another pancake screening, and she loved the idea, so we we put out another call for submissions and took our hotcakes on the road. We hopped on a train down to Texas, projected some movies in the gallery’s backyard and cooked up pancakes Texas-style, outdoors over an open flame and under the big starry sky. We enjoyed that first trip so much that we’ve shared flapjacks and weird shorts with folks all over the U.S, from L.A. to Portland, OR, to Cambridge and now Boston, too! We’ve put on our fest at all sorts of places: galleries, backyards, apartments, community film centers, and a handful of honest-to-goodness movie theaters.
BH: What is the typical IPFF audience like?
IPFF: Our audiences vary widely. When people talk to us after the shows, frequently one person will approach us to praise the very same movie that another was just complaining about. That being said, our audience is usually a wacky bunch. And they all appreciate pancakes, in one form or another.
BH: What’s the strangest submission you’ve received?
IPFF: They are all pretty strange. Most of the early films we screened were made by our friends, so we were somewhat familiar with their work and sensibilities. We were delighted by all these entries, but there weren’t too many surprises. As the reach of our call for entries has expanded, we’ve been getting more work from people we don’t know and their submissions have held the most impactful surprises. For our Halloween show a few years ago, we received a Super-8-lensed pancake movie from a guy in California that he and some friends had made back in 1986. When we took our show to the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles, the filmmaker came to our screening and we were thrilled to meet him and ask a ton of questions about his movie, PANCAKE MEN. Another candidate for the weirdest entry in IPFF history (thus far) is from this guy called David Gleicher, whom we still know nothing about. Every decision made in the making of that video is strange. It is an awesomely odd piece of work, and we love it more and more each time we see it. Both of these pictures will be featured in our LOOK BACK IN BATTER show.
BH: What can we expect from the next Festival?
IPFF: On May 1, we’ll present our 5-year retrospective program, LOOK BACK IN BATTER, at the Boston University Art Gallery (at the Stone Gallery). Our next festival of new work is scheduled for Autumn 2014. To keep things fresh, we’ve started mixing in additional themes to our signature, overriding pancake motif. We had a Halloween show last time around, and before that our program was winter-holiday themed. For 2014, we’re asking for films that somehow incorporate animation and/or puppetry into the pancake mix. So think marionettes, stop-motion, sock puppets, Dynamation, CGI, shadow puppets- whatever brings the inanimate to life. All submissions, as always, should include pancakes.
BH: Finally, describe your ideal pancake.
DAMON: One thing I know for sure: you throw either some blueberries or corn in with your batter, you are guaranteed a good time.
CARA: Vegan and Swedish, just like me!
THE INTERNATIONAL PANCAKE FILM FESTIVAL: LOOK BACK IN BATTER
Thursday, May 1, 6:00 PM
Boston University Art Gallery / Stone Gallery (855 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215)
Suggested donation: $5