Dan Savage on stage at Hump! in Seattle
Although it has been in operation since 2005, the Hump! Film Festival has never come through Montreal until this year. Curated by sex journalist/pundit/columnist/podcaster Dan Savage, Hump! showcases user-submitted porn shorts in an eclectic touring program that features comedic shorts with little to no nudity alongside lo-fi, kinky S&M sessions and artfully shot music videos that also happen to feature penetration.
Although Savage won’t be in Montreal to host the screenings at Cinéma du Parc this week, we spoke to him in order to get a better idea of what to expect when Hump! comes to town.
Alex Rose: How has the tour been going so far?
Dan Savage: It’s going great! People seem to love it, so hopefully we’ll get some submissions from more cities in future. (…) We hope to get some submissions from Montreal next year, that’d be great. Unlike other film festivals, there’s no charge to enter a movie. There’s $15,000 in cash prizes given to the filmmakers by the audience in Seattle through special balloting, and every film that goes out on tour, the filmmakers get a percentage of each ticket sold. There are incentives to encourage the filmmakers. We’ve had amateur, aspiring filmmakers get into the festival and use the money to finance their next film that isn’t porn!
AR: I got a screener for the festival, so I saw it in the same way that most people consume porn now: alone in front of their computer. It’s a fairly recent development for people to watch porn at home — I was wondering how that experience is, to watch the films in a theatre full of people?
DS: I would encourage you to go to a screening because it really changes some of the films, and certainly the experience. You could watch the films at home alone, but if you were sitting in front of your computer masturbating, you wouldn’t click on some of them, which is part of the fun of Hump! You know, having them rolled out for you.
One of the things we were worried about when we first went ahead with the festival in Seattle was whether people would actually come out to a theatre and sit next to a stranger in the dark and watch pornography the way their grandparents used to — the way their grandparents saw Linda Lovelace, Debbie Does Dallas, Behind the Green Door and all these movies that played in theatres. And the answer was yeah! People would do that, and people loved to do that! For most young adults and most not-so-young adults, it’s a completely private experience. Making it into a public experience — well, you know, people don’t sit there and watch the movies and masturbate. They have some laughs. People take in the films and respond, which you’ll see if you go to the live screening. People cheering and clapping, films getting big laughs — it’s as much a comedy festival as it is a porn festival.
AR: When you put together the sequence in which the films will play and curate the actual films that will play, is there anything you keep in mind?
DS: Good, funny, interesting, first of all. The only thing that we tend to avoid are films that have the conventions of commercial porn. We don’t get those so much anymore. When we first launched 11 years ago, a lot of the films looked and sounded like commercial films. Amateurs made movies based on the dirty movies that they’d seen online or whatever. Those kinds of films fell away quickly because they weren’t what audiences responded to.
AR: I did notice when I was watching the films that the care put into most of them is something that I’m not used to. You don’t often see, say, penetration that’s well-lit — that’s, you know, made to look nice. How many submissions do you get, generally speaking?
DS: There’s roughly 20 to 25 films in the program every year and we get well over 100, maybe 200 films, which can be a little crushing — it’s a long few days!
AR: Another thing that’s interesting is that all facets of sexuality, so to speak, are represented. For example, I don’t watch gay porn myself, but here it’s part of the program and it’s interesting to “have to” watch something that you wouldn’t go out of your way to see otherwise.
DS: The mission of Hump!, for me, is to entertain and titillate, first and foremost. We notice more and more every year, though, that the goal is also to open people’s eyes. You’ve got an audience full of all kinds of people: gay guys watching lesbian porn, straight guys watching gay porn, cis people watching porn made by and starring trans people, we’ve got vanilla people watching kink porn.
And there’s this wonderful thing that happens at every screening. We watch the audience at every screening; for the first third, people are really knocked back in their seat by the things they wouldn’t click on — not my plumbing, not the body types I’m attracted to, and so on. Then about a third of way, no one’s back in their seat anymore. Everybody’s cheering and clapping for every film, even the ones that aren’t their thing. There’s just this point where the audience flips from only being able to perceive the differences to seeing everything that’s the same. Under that thin layer of gender or orientation or desire, there’s a thick layer of crap that’s the same for everybody: humour, desire… that’s the same. ■
Hump Film Festival is happening at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on April 15 (7 and 9:15 p.m.) and April 16 (6:30 and 8:45 p.m.). For tickets and more info, click here.