On Thursday, December 12, the 11th installment of the Somerville-based Weird Local Film Festival (WLFF) was held at the Warehouse XI event space in Union Square. Along with Warehouse XI, the event was co-sponsored by Cambridge Community Television and Somerville Media Center.
20 different films were screened over the course of the 90-minute program, which has been held every few months (the festival describes itself as "bi/tr-monthly[ish] event") since launching in August 2017.
The films were clearly the main focus of the night, but the many amenities made available to WLFF attendees — specifically the homemade photobooth and a modest bar — demonstrated that community-building is also one of the festival's major goals.
"It takes a village, and everyone contributes in a big way," said WLFF co-organizer Keanu Burke. "The night of WLFF is that major payoff feeling. Feels like a rock show. With movies."
To that end, DJ Stephen Batts provided energetic music before the screening and during intermission. Afterwards, attendees were encouraged to stick around in Warehouse XI for a while before heading to the nearby The Independent pub for a late-night karaoke session.
The night started off with a brief introduction from Burke and Peter Levine, the other major force behind WLFF. (Full disclosure: Levine is also Cambridge Community Television's Media Production Educator and manages its CCTV Community News program.)
"A lot of us were severely in need of a venue to screen our films," Burke said when asked about the festival's origins. "Then suddenly we were friends with Peggy at Warehouse XI. Perfecto."
"Peter said 'We’re calling it WLFF, you in?' and people took up roles made it happen. We didn’t know then that we would wind up becoming a home to hundreds of filmmakers who before didn’t have a place to share their art in person."
Burke and Levine took turns over the course of the night introducing each film (and their filmmakers, when possible). Burke started off by presenting "WLFFY - The Special Edition: Vol 1." Created by longtime WLFF collaborator Justin M. Copp, the absurd and oftentimes meta film featured both animated and live-action versions of WLFFY, the festival's human-dinosaur hybrid mascot.
"It was a fever dream," Burke said of the video, "but it also happened."
A wide variety of films were screened over the course of the program, ranging from music videos for local artists to sketch comedy videos. A few shorter animations and mixed media videos were also sprinkled in for some fast-paced variety.
One particularly noteworthy presenter was Bob White, who screened his outlandish and hilarious computer-generated animation "The Bumbling Gentleman Against The World Crime League." White had spent the start of the evening handing out "free strange little monsters" (tiny plastic alien toys) to audience members as they arrived, and the creatures were later revealed to be the main antagonists of his film.
Afterwards, Levine mentioned that he had just received permission to make a documentary about White, who has been creating off-kilter animations for decades and currently teaches as a professor in Simmons University's Communications department.
One of the night's comedy sketches, "Condos" featured the Somerville-native duo of cousins Taylor and Alexis Copeland. The Copelands received help from WLFF's organizers in order to shoot and produce their film, which managed to conjure up fond memories of creating silly home videos while also addressing a serious issue facing the local community.
"I think that it can be easy to get caught up in feelings of hopelessness when we turn on the news or hear what's happening in our communities," Taylor said in a post-WLFF interview. "I grew up in Somerville, and it's no secret that the city has changed, housing prices are high, and people are being displaced. [After watching 'Condos,'] I hope that people feel less alone in their hopelessness and maybe even have a laugh!"
A longtime WLFF attendee, this was Taylor's first time presenting at the festival. She attributes her previous experience working for The Center for Teen Empowerment in Somerville as the origin point of her interest in community-facing media.
"I love the community feel and openness that WLFF creates. The films that have shown at WLFF have been so very different and WEIRD in the best way," she said. "It was an honor to [screen] in front of so many talented artists and my community. I learned that I am not alone in my feelings toward Condos popping up everywhere."
Closing out the first half of the night was "Zebra," a music video directed by Somerville-based VFX artist Alex Ezorsky. The music video, which took over a year to make, stars the Cantabridgian musician Alec Hutson and features Boston rapper Cliff Notez.
"I was super pleased with the audience's reaction to 'Zebra,' Ezorsky said. "I'm accustomed to judging my films based on the noises people make while watching them, but unlike most of my films this one isn't funny so people were generally quiet. At the end though they screamed with applause and I learned sometimes people enjoy your work silently."
This was Ezorsky's fourth time presenting at WLFF. A match made in heaven, Ezorsky explained that he specializes in making "Weird Films" and lives only a few blocks away from Warehouse XI.
"It felt like a gosh darn miracle when this festival came to my neighborhood and rescued me from the darkness and invited me and my work into their amazing cozy rectangular loving light!"