Eat local, shop local … watch local?
Jeremy Jed Hammel is the man behind Filmshift, an independent festival going on this month. Featuring 24 films by 20 different directors (10 of whom are women!), the uniting factor is a focus on fair trade, local businesses, and environmental causes. And if that’s not enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, 10 percent of proceeds from the festival go to Christopher’s Haven, a charity providing housing to families who need to stay in Boston for their child’s cancer treatment. DigBoston sat down with Hammel to talk about his far-reaching altruism, and his mission to bring independent films (and business) to Somerville.
So why start a film festival?
Jeremy Jed Hammel: I was looking into what I was into … I worked on The Tonight Show and on independent films, so I was already kind of into the scene anyway.
So I thought, “Well, what do I care about?” I care that fair trade gets supported, that small businesses get supported, and that messages that, I think, are important get represented.
So we decided to make a film festival. By now, I’ve been to close to a hundred of these and most of them aren’t that organized. Not to say that the people who run them don’t do the best job they can. It’s that it’s really hard to pull off working full-time and putting on the festival on their own.
Where does the name Filmshift come from?
JJH: Filmshift get its name from the idea that if we just shift 10 percent of our daily spending to small businesses, then it has a bigger effect than if you were buying at a chain or box store. … To make sure you have an effect on the place that you live, you should support local businesses. As time goes on, we’re losing more and more of our sense of community. And that’s not because we don’t rely on each other, but it’s because we’re choosing not to [rely on each other].
Helping a small business doesn’t just help them; it helps you. It gives you more variety, more competition, the idea that there’s more than one idea out there.
Is that why you’re at Somerville this year?
JJH: Exactly. We had different locations before, but for the niche and audience we wanted to reach out to, Somerville just seemed like what we needed. The staff is so supportive there, and Ian, Somerville’s manager, is so helpful working with my budget. He’s a small business owner himself!
If it’s so hard to pull off a film festival, how are you managing it?
JJH: Well, we’ve had some really great sponsors through the years. And this year, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign, and the fans helped to fund Filmshift. So it’s with the support of my friends and family—I’ll never be able to thank them enough—and new friends that have heard about Filmshift and helped support me. I had one friend from California give me a substantial donation on the condition that I put in the program that Tom Brady is not a good quarterback. I thought that was funny of him. Because of the Kickstarter campaign, we’ve been able to lower our ticket prices down to $15-$20.
The challenge is also getting people to find out about it.