Building a Better Horror Film Festival: A Talk with MHHFF Co-Director Timothy Schultz - Bloody Disgusting
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Building a Better Horror Film Festival: A Talk with MHHFF Co-Director Timothy Schultz

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Timothy Schultz is tired. It’s the second day of the Mile High Horror Film Festival and a couple weeks before, his wife gave birth to their first child. So essentially he’s juggling two babies at once. He hasn’t slept much these days, but he’s still on hand to soldier through the fifth incarnation of the horror film festival he founded.

He established the Mile High Horror Film Festival with the mission of bringing the very best genre films from around the globe to the city of Denver. A filmmaker and genre enthusiast, Tim had attended festivals around the nation before deciding to spread the love to Colorado, specifically for the state’s horror fans.

I sat down with Tim in the Alamo Drafthouse Denver’s bar to talk about this mighty festival that keeps getting bigger and better every year.

Could you tell us about the origins of the festival?

Sure, we started it in 2010. I’m a filmmaker myself and also a fan of independent film, so every year I’d go to Sundance, SXSW, and some of these larger festivals in North America. And I’m a big genre fan. But there was no big genre or horror festival at the time in Colorado. That’s why I decided to start it. I wanted to created something that I myself would want to go to and I knew there would be a big audience for it here.

How has the festival evolved since the first one back in 2010?

It’s grown substantially every year. Word of mouth was a big help and the fan base has just really blown up. Basically it’s doubled in size each year, which is super exciting.

Where was it held originally?

This is our second year here at the Drafthouse and we’ll be with them next year as well. We were previously in Denver, at the Denver Film Society’s different facilities. An Alamo is actually opening in Denver proper soon so we’ll be back there someday. But we love the Alamo, it’s pretty much the perfect theater for festivals. They really cater to events.

Like last year we did this thing, and sorry if you’re a vegetarian, but Doug Bradley (Pinhead) was here and we had a pig suspended on chains. We had Doug slice it up and we served pork sandwiches off the pig. So that’s the type of thing the Drafthouse really caters to.

We’re doing something with a pig again this year, with Gunnar Hansen. Anyway, the Alamo is really fun to work with.

Over the years what has been some of the challenges of putting on Mile High?

Well it takes an immense amount of coordination and organization. It involves a lot of people. Like I said every year we get bigger. This year I think we’re playing a little over 80 films from 17 different countries. Logistically it’s a challenge to program those films but not only that, we watch hundreds of films and the ones we show are only the best of the best.

So there’s that but then there’s also the exhibitors, the sideshows, and lots of others things happening in addition to the films. You know, our goal is that even if you’re not watching a movie, we still want you to be having a good time. I think we do that more than some genre festivals anyway, which kinda makes us stick out.

There’s a lot of challenges but as it goes on we’re getting better at it.

As a filmmaker yourself and as a festival director, how have you seen independent film, and I guess specifically independent genre film evolving over the years?

We definitely see new trends every year with independent horror, as far as what’s submitted to us. We do a combination of taking submissions and looking at what’s playing at other festivals. Because really our mission is to play the best of the best. Uhhmmm…sorry I lost my train of thought. Sorry about that. The question was…

It’s cool. You must be beat from the baby. I had asked about trends you’ve seen over the years.

Right, so when we started this a trend was definitely vampires, you know because of Twilight and all of that stuff. We’ve also seen in the last couple of years, especially this year, as the Walking Dead gained in popularity, tons of zombie films from all over the place. It seems like that trend is starting to peter out. And for years now, it seems always present, are these cinema vérité movies where it’s first person camera. There’s been some excellent ones but it really takes some skill to do those. So I think some people believe they can just pick up a camera and make a movie without really knowing what they’re doing. The camera’s always shaking so much…

Yeah I have to watch a lot of those movies for the site.

I can imagine. There’s a lot of those out there! They’re everywhere! So that’s definitely a trend. I think one of the main reasons is that its cheap to produce.

That’s why I’m excited to talk to the Blair Witch directors while I’m here, get there take on the trend.

Yeah that’s a film that, no matter if you like it or not, it’s very historically important for genre films. That really sparked this whole crazy thing. That’s why we’ve been so lucky that Dan (Myrick) has been with us for years as one of our judges for the festival. He’s such a great guy.

Right on. Could you talk a bit about the film scene in Denver.

It’s definitely picked up recently. It used to be really big in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then financing was cut and there were a lot of restrictions. Now lately, there are more tax exemptions and they’re making it more friendly for filmmakers. It’s really picking up and we as a festival are always excited to inspire local filmmakers. We’ve had people who have never made a film before come to our festival, see the short films, and find it really inspiring and they wind up making something brilliant. That’s definitely one of the best things about it.

Thanks a million to Tim for taking the time to talk with us! See you next year!

Patrick writes stuff about stuff for Bloody and Collider. His fiction has appeared in ThugLit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Magazine, and your mother's will. He'll have a ginger ale, thanks.


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