SHARE

Since 2006 The Druid Underground Film Festival has been a traveling powerhouse of the most bizarre and provocative films on earth!

 Now it’s arriving at the Anthology Film Archives, with two screenings on Monday, April 21st at 8pm and Tuesday, April 22nd at 8pm.

 

The poster for the 7th Annual Druid Underground Film Festival
This is your brain on cinema.

 

DB

Let’s start with the usual information. What is the history of this festival and how’d you get it started?

Billy Burgess

The DUFF is the accumulated result of my lifelong journey meeting filmmakers in late night trains, liquor stores, breaking bottles in alleyways and through the US mail. As an organization I’ve been doing it for 8 years. We started in LA when I lived on a single mattress on the ground in a noise/punk venue where I was assigned to book 1-3 events a week. Being a filmmaker who knew a lot of unrepresented artists, it was easy to find the work as I was surrounded by it. At that time it was a monthly event.

Now we are an organization which receives hundreds of submissions a year and I just got back from a California tour screening in LA, SF and Humboldt County. We’ll be in NYC at Anthology Film Archives April 21st and 22nd.

 

DB

So booking was your coffee money while you started fitting underground cinema into that space?

 

Billy Burgess

Yeah. Right out the gate I challenged the state of the venue itself. When I booked Metal shows I would project Mike Kelley and his bizarre, evil looking videos almost to trick people into expanding their minds.

 

DB

Why’d you bring it to New York?

 

Billy Burgess

Taking DUFF to NY is a logical direction of the fest as a lot of work is international. NYC is the most international city in the US, making us accessible to weirdos from all over the world.

This will be the NY premiere.

 

DB

Oh, I did not know that. What’s your outreach out here been like thus far?

 

Billy Burgess

We did a DVD release party in Brooklyn but Anthology will be the full main program.

I got a team of dedicated video freaks to distribute 1000 flyers around the city. People who contacted me because they saw that what we were doing was different than any other fest. Also a comic book store (Forbidden Planet) has been spreading the word about the show. They’re great.

I get approached by people on the subway who recognize me from the campaign now, which is great because they either make films or know someone who makes films. We are just growing a great little community day by day.

 

DB

That sounds like a pretty old school style of social outreach. You shared your Tumblr page with me and I know you have a Facebook page, have you been gaining any traction on digital networks?

 

Billy Burgess

Yeah the social media version of us is out there. I think it’s good that more people are turned on to getting regular updates on the fest. We have some pretty NSFW pix on our Tumblr that I’m proud of.

This year we released a Best of the Fest DVD, 13 shorts and more accumulated form the first 5 years that showcases work from Rodney Ascher (Room 237) and Damon Packard (Reflections of Evil) as well as a badass embroidered patch we got sewn up in Woodstock available at our shop online.

It’s important that above all else the physical material of the movie trade be showcased because real culture is on the street, not in cyberspace.

 

DB

That gets us to the meat of the question. In this day and age of YouTube channels, the proliferation of independent film festivals, easier access of foreign works through digital distribution channels, and audiences fragmented amongst various media, what is “Underground Film” and how does one go about curating it?

 

Billy Burgess

Something great happened when technology got cheaper. With video uploading on the Internet came unprecedented access. Anyone can make and distribute a movie, but the downside is that the precious gems are a lot harder to find and get lost out there. But they’re out there.

Most film festivals are content in collecting submission fees from their call for submissions, booking one screening and calling it good. I’ve heard of festivals contacting filmmakers who’ve shown at Sundance to book their films sight unseen.

This to me isn’t progressive culture. Progress is challenging the system to present works which are subversive and present new images to the scene. This includes so-called experimental films which tend to be exercises in technique and not truly experimental in that sense.

The dagger point of experimental film, in my view, should be the in creating new images and that is what you’ll find at Druid. No matter how polished or accomplished, if I’ve seen it been done before it won’t go in the program. Our culture doesn’t need another film festival of film festivals, it needs a shock to the system.

 

Still from Brennan Hill's "Hero/Psycho"
You non-film types may not know this, but VHS tapes taste like iron and sandwich bags. (Still from Brennan Hill’s “Hero/Psycho”)

DB

It’s meaningful, then, to show this at the Anthology Archives, which holds much of the history of American experimental film.

 

Billy Burgess

Yes. Anthology is one of the last of the US theatres representing the original masters of experimental cinema.

Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, these people were my heroes and i was lucky enough to see their work on VHS as a kid. I took my 1st girlfriend’s virginity to Invocation of My Demon Brother playing on loop on a TV in the living room of my Mom’s house.

These masters came from a place within themselves. This is the point. So much of our society is a recycling of external images and this is why our movies suck now. It’s bullshit. We need new filmmakers with the guts to go inside themselves to the innermost secret place and come out filming!

 

DB

Is there an opportunity then for the DUFF to nurture the growth of local underground filmmakers?

 

Billy Burgess

Absolutely. We are working on a platform for winning filmmakers to communicate online so that they can work together internationally.

I also encourage anyone who has been inspired by any film or been turned on to new ideas to contact the filmmaker in some way. Even if it’s just a YouTube comment like “Cool movie,” it can be a tipping point for a filmmaker who may be on the verge of calling it quits.

Filmmaking isn’t in a vacuum. We make the work so that the world responds and if the world does not, sometimes we lose a mad genius of cinema. The responsibility lies on you.

That being said we’ve had a lot of great people meet at our screenings and now are working on each others films.

 

DB

So you’re no longer monthly, but yearly, and you’re a traveling film festival. Do you have any plans to take it other places than LA and NY, or do you have any shared programming with other festivals?

 

Billy Burgess

We are now doing a yearly event, yes. In fact we received so many entries this year that our long form shorts and features are screening on May 28th at Spectacle Theatre.

We are open to traveling and are cooking up new projects for NYC. We do a free raffle at every screening and will be giving away like over $300 worth of prizes or something crazy this year. Lots of crappy VHS and tickets to weird events. The Found Footage Festival has also generously donated some goodies to the pot.

 

Still from Danilo Parra's Torture Room
DUFF’s test audience kitty is nonplussed. (Still from Danilo Parra’s ‘Torture Room’)

DB

Why should people choose to get their asses in those seats on Monday and Tuesday nights versus all the other events happening across this vast metropolis?

 

Billy Burgess

If you come to DUFF you will see an exhibition of totally new ideas and images! You will see actual live footage of the devil with an erection arrested on the side of the 5 freeway! You will see bizarre and hilarious animations from all over the world! You will see (in action) a bicycle make love to a live human being! You WILL leave the theatre laughing, conversing with fellow theatergoers and filled with inspiration for days to come!