Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, way more than Christmas, and its never been about the candy. To me, Halloween is about becoming someone else for just one night, in your home made costume, running around silly in the darkness, and sharing that love of all things spooky with your friends and neighbors. Whatcom County has a number of Halloween festivities to choose from, but none are quite like the Bleedingham horror short film festival.
A Little History
About eight years ago, Bleedingham co-founders Gary Washington and Langley West’s shared passion for the horror film genre sparked the festival. Gary had studied film at Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College and Langley had worked for years as a practical effects specialist on a number of horror films.
Fall 2018 marks the seventh year for the horror short film festival hosted by Bellingham’s independent theater, Pickford Film Center. Both Gary and Langley would say that Michelle Barklind is the dynamo that makes the festival and it’s comicon-like Night Gallery happen each year. Over the years, the festival has garnered both a loyal local following and an expanding number of out-of-town visitors.
Bleedingham’s mission is simple: to provide independent horror filmmakers the opportunity to compete for a $500 to $1000 prize and gain critical feedback on their films. That feedback also happens to come from a distinguished panel of judges chosen for their experience in horror, filmmaking, and digital storytelling. The top prize of $1000 goes to the film made in Washington State ranked highest by judges. There are also trophies awarded in multiple categories including Cinematography, Editing, Sound Design, Story, Special Effects and Scary Factor.
Bleedingham submissions in the horror and thriller genres are accepted by October 1 each year. Once a Pacific Northwest short film festival, Bleedingham now accepts feature-length films as well as now accepting international submissions.
The Pickford also gave them more screening time so their Official Selection will include 10 to 15 short films and a feature film, usually announced in mid-October.
Bleedingham is a full weekend of events. The Night Gallery opens on the Friday night before Halloween. Films made in Washington State are screened at the Pickford on Saturday night and then followed there by the awards ceremony. The party then moves over to The Shakedown’s The Racket for a late night after party. Additional submissions from around the world are screened during the day on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets sell out quickly so coordinators have encore showings after Halloween to accommodate eager fans.
The Night Gallery is a horror comic convention (comic-con) complete with cosplay, more than 30 vendors and artists, panel discussions, music performances and door prizes donated by the more than 60 local business sponsors. Food trucks and local breweries are on hand to make sure your tummy is full. Perhaps the best part is that the whole evening of fun is free! However, your donations are what get you entered to win door prizes.
Half of artists and vendors are local and connect in some way with the horror, paranormal, and related genres. The other half come from as far as Tacoma and Vancouver, Canada to show and sell their wares, find new customers, and enjoy the company of the like-minded. Demonstrations, panel discussions with celebrity horror actors, artists, filmmakers and more are highlights of the evening. This is an excellent way to celebrate a spooky vibe just before Halloween. Cosplay is encouraged, so come in costume if its your thing.
Although Seattle has a large horror film festival in May each year called Crypticon, Bellingham’s events are more relaxed, vendors are very approachable, and most find it less overwhelming. Bleedingham organizers are excited to bring more fans of the darker side from out-of-town for a long weekend or one week stay to fully enjoy Bellingham’s fall beauty. More and more filmmakers submit their creations each year, raising the bar and encouraging creatives to push themselves and up their game.
Local Filmmaking for Bleedingham
Many of my local filmmaking friends in the Bellingham Film community spend their spring and summer running around Whatcom County in fake blood and monster attire to capture the footage they’ll need to get their own film in the festival.
I’ve had the great pleasure of acting in a couple of these short films and/or working as part of the crew. This year I played ‘the mom’ in a horror PSA (public service announcement) that will screen at the festival. I can’t say more for fear of giving it away, but I captured a few behind-the-scenes photos to share here.
However you celebrate Halloween, be sure to spend your long weekend before Halloween at Bleedingham. You’ll be guaranteed a one-of-a-kind, memorable celebration full of spooky film, art and fun.