In an increasingly corporate world seemingly bent on keeping you from leaving your house– let alone congregate with like-minded weirdos– it’s never been more important to cherish local opportunities to get out and see the art happening in your own backyard. For Boston-area filmmakers, there are few more beloved institutions in this regard than the Weird Local Film Festival. With its twelfth installment premiering tonight at Warehouse XI, the Weird Local Film Festival does exactly what it says on the tin: provide local filmmakers a chance to show their stuff, no matter how offbeat, unconventional, or, well, weird. In advance of this newest fest, we spoke to WLFF honcho Peter Levine about the joys and challenges of fostering homegrown cinema.
BOSTON HASSLE: For the unfamiliar, what might someone expect from the Weird Local Film Festival?
PETER LEVINE: The Weird Local Film Festival is a quarterly screening/party for local filmmakers and film enthusiasts. Every 3 months, short film submissions are collected and then a panel of judges determine the program. It is free to submit (send a film of any genre 10 mins or less to [email protected]) and attend (with a $5 suggested donation for attendance), and it takes place at Somerville’s Warehouse XI. And it’s great. I think. Yeah.
BH: The last time we spoke was just before the festival’s third installment in 2018. How has the festival evolved since then?
PL: Things have been going well! The festival has evolved in a lot of ways: more attendees, more submissions, better equipment– and we, the organizers, are still having a lot of fun with it.
We’ve been trying to come up with ways to keep it a fresh/singular experience for both attendees and filmmakers. Though each event at its core is the same– we present 90 minutes of unconventional short films made by the Greater Boston community– we try to mix it up. We have had local artists’ tables and local musicians perform, we usually have a DJ and a photo-booth, we’ve had food trucks, video art installations, puppet fortune-telling, blind contour drawing, an ongoing mural ,and more.
In addition to our main events, we have begun holding several other events with like-minded organizations, including First or Worst, a collaboration with Animatic Boston where filmmakers present and talk about their awkward (and often hilarious) early work; Best of WLFF, a collaboration with Boston Underground Film Festival‘s Dispatches from the Underground series at the Somerville Theatre; and a variety show that was a partnership between Triple Yeah Productions and our unofficial media production company Weird Local Productions. Also, just a few weeks ago we had our first entirely music show, so yeah, we’re starting to branch out.
We’re hoping to continue building on the brand (*shudder* — is there a better word for that?). Anyways, we’re excited to keep expanding to create more opportunities for DIY local artists to come together, share their work, and build community.
BH: What’s your favorite part of running the festival?
PL: Beyond the thrill of the event itself, it is exciting to see the filmmakers meet each other and collaborate. Sometimes we will screen films that are the result of those collaborations – and that is really cool.
It’s also really satisfying when a filmmaker whose work is powerful but isn’t considered “right” for “traditional festivals” (whatever that means) has a kickass screening. We’ve gotten a lot of messages about that and it feels great.
Also, I love the group of organizers who make this possible – we have a great time throwing this thing together.
BH: What advice would you give to a filmmaker considering submitting to the WLFF?
PL: I think the secret to WLFF success is keep it engaging and keep it tight. We only have 90 minutes of screen time per event and we want to fit in as many great short films as possible. Our maximum submission length is 10 minutes and we get a lot of submissions that are close to that – but sadly, those are harder to program. The quality of longer films has to be really high for the judges to be able to justify putting them on. So yeah, if you can make a really fascinating 3 minute film, that will often go much further with our judges than a pretty good 8 minute film.
BH: Any plans for the future of the fest?
PL: My main goal is that we just don’t stop. Boston is a notoriously tough place to keep cool, independent things alive, so if we can continue to build on what we do for several years to come, that in itself will be a huge success. As a volunteer-run operation, we are powered by enthusiasm and community support. If we can keep growing that enthusiasm and not let the scary shit hold us back, then I think we’ll be able to keep this thing going.
Weird Local Film Festival 12 screens Thursday, 3/5, 7:00 @ Warehouse XI