2017 gave us plenty of good with a healthy dose of bad. Perhaps the best new thing 2017 brought us was the Vidlings & Tapeheads Film Festival in Hamtramck. Anyone looking for a place that supports the arts and culture, with a heavy dose of blue collar work ethic, and buzzing with positive energy, need look no further than Hamtramck, Michigan. Vidlings & Tapeheads Film Festival fits perfectly within those ethos of Hamtramck. VTFF makes its return for year two later this month, and it has filmmakers, cinephiles, audiophiles and art enthusiasts eager for what’s sure to be an enjoyable weekend of festivities. We’ll chat with Vidlings & Tapeheads founder and director, Jerry White Jr. and give you the lowdown on this year’s lineup. Remember, as always, support #MiFilmFestivals! This interview originally appeared in the MEDC’s July 2018 Newsletter.
Q&A w/ Vidlings & Tapeheads Film Festival founder and director, Jerry White Jr.
Q: Thanks for giving up your time to chat with us. Can you let us know a bit about your professional background, and include your role/responsibilities with the Vidlings and Tapeheads Film Festival?
Happy to! My work in film/video started when I was a teenager doing public access television here in Michigan. Through twists and turns I’ve kept with it and doubled-down, so to speak, by getting my MFA in Film and Television Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2013. I’ve worked on various film projects since then, including the 2016 Michigan documentary “20 Years of Madness.” I was a producer and one of the subjects of that film (long story) and it did really well on the festival circuit—premiering at Slamdance and playing great fests in Michigan like Traverse City Film Fest, Hell’s Half Mile, Freep Fest, and Waterfront. I began programming for film festivals after that and it wasn’t long before I was inspired to create the Vidlings & Tapeheads Film Festival. I’m the director of the fest as well as one of its lead programmers. My responsibilities include everything from designing the website and programs to running our social media to picking up the coffee cambro the morning of the fest.
Q: Vidlings and Tapeheads Film Festival is now in its second year. What did you all learn after year one and how has that helped planning year two?
I was very fortunate to receive a lot of great advice from other fest directors and coordinators, especially Don and Alan of Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival in Bay City, so our first year did really well right out of the gate. That said, I learned a lot about how to better structure calls to entries and extend our reach—we opened up for submissions much earlier this year and were engaged with more film programs throughout Michigan (something we plan to improve even more for year three).
After our fest last summer I attended a Michigan Film and Digital Media Office presentation and was convinced that would be a great partnership. Having the MFDMO come on board as a sponsor this year was a huge boost for us and I’m sure being somewhat established and having great press and amazing photos from our inaugural fest made our pitch stronger.
I’d been in LA for several years so there were a lot of great organizations in Detroit I hadn’t been aware of before last year. I read a piece in the Metro Times about The Seraphine Collective while prepping last summer and really connected with their mission. I reached out to them this year and they agreed to curate our live music program. I’m sure I’ll learn just as much this year and can’t wait to apply that to VTFF2019.
Q: How best would you describe what the Vidlings and Tapeheads Film Festival is all about?
I’ll try to do this in a way that isn’t a copy/paste from our mission statement. Ultimately I’m interested in promoting work that both challenges and entertains. That’s true of our films as well as our music lineup and art exhibition. We put this visual/aural mixtape weekend together that I hope will get people talking and engaging with each other—ideally fostering friendships and collaborations. We show off Michigan talent while also showing our Michigan filmmakers, artists, and musicians some of the great work happening elsewhere. And for our audience that’s just there to take it all in—our goal is to make them feel part of an experience and see/hear things they likely wouldn’t otherwise.
It’s crucial that this is done together, in real life. There’s something meaningful and magical about gathering, in person, in a space that’s been created to move you! It’s part of our humanity: the community and the campfire—in this case a really colorful, bizarre, and fun campfire.
Q: Hamtramck is quite a place. A city within a city if you will. How did Vidlings and Tapeheads find a home in Hamtramck? Please tell us about your 2018 venues.
Planet Ant was already on my radar—partly because I had my first screening of shorts with live music and art back when it was a coffee house in 1994! Of course it later became a theater and an amazing center of culture and arts in Hamtramck before expanding with the new venues where we hold our fest. Ant Hall and Ghost Light are an ideal home for us. From the start, my vision of this fest was one with films, live music, and art on walls. Not all venues can accommodate that, but Ant Hall and Ghost Light are made for it. The timing was perfect too—they opened last year, so we got to start all this together.
Q: What is one thing that you want attendees of the 2018 Vidlings and Tapeheads Film Festival to walk away with?
I want them to see or hear something that will stick with them for many years to come—and I absolutely believe we can deliver that. Whether it’s a moment from Man in Camo (our opening night feature documentary), one of our forty-five short films, a song from one of the nine musical acts, or artwork from one of our seven artists. We’ve put a lot of time and heart into this and I think it shows—our attendees are in for a fun/cool/weird/powerful experience!
Links of Interest
What’s cool about this year’s lineup is the variety. There is the opening night feature film, over 40 short films in categories like Michigan, Fiction, Documentary and Animation. Each night there is a party featuring some very talented musicians. Finally, throughout the festival the works of seven artists will be on display. The 2018 VTFF is going to be fantastic. Get your tickets today!
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