By Brittany Rudyck
EDMONTON – When speaking with co-creators of DEDfest Derek Clayton and Kevin Martin, it was hard not to wear a skull splitting grin throughout the entire conversation. The two are indisputably in love with film: the art, the people and the industry. Nearly every question BeatRoute posed was met with nostalgic, inside stories, rife with celebrity and intrigue. While the two were hesitant to confirm this year’s genre festival would be the last, they did allude to a few factors in the potential future of the festival.
Started in 2008(ish), DEDfest originally began as Deadmonton, which is a whole ‘nother story as far as Clayton and Martin are concerned. Since that point in time, the duo has grown into an eight person not for profit venture, not including volunteers.
“We initially started this to get drunk with our friends and watch movies on the big screen,” says Clayton, laughing. “But then we realized we had a chance to build a community and be a little incubator for this industry.”
Beginning mainly with horror films, DEDfest has expanded into a genre fest, screening sci-fi, action, grindhouse and more. The accessibility to host directors, actors and general up-and-comers in the industry has rounded out the experience, connecting film geeks more closely with places like Los Angeles or Austin.
With the festival now at a breaking point, Clayton and Martin still seem hopeful, or at least at peace with whatever outcome they receive. There was no point during the interview in which they sounded confident that this would in fact be the last year.
“Right now the issue we’re facing with funding is tricky,” explains Clayton. “Our costs are going up and our funding isn’t. We’re almost solely reliant on ticket sales. We see this as an investment, we sacrifice work, relationships, etc. and we’re hoping the city chooses to send us some extra funding to keep going. The phoenix may rise out of the ashes again.”
Despite challenges with funding, the festival is still moving forward with quality programming, screening films from Uganda, Canada, Germany, the United States and Indonesia. Included this year are documentaries (Geek Girls, a documentary about women who are changing and embracing geek culture as we know it), body horror (notably found in Replace, a story of a woman with decaying skin who realizes the flayed skin of others regenerates hers), dark comedies (Tragedy Girls, a slasher film about getting wrapped up in social media followers that drives a pair of friends to their edge) and sci-fi/action (Beyond Skyline, a film shot in Indonesia, expect alien kaiju fights and more). All of this and more is featured just in the first wave.
Films are chosen based on what is being offered to the fest to premiere as well as the potential for conversation around a film. Take for example last year’s screening of The Greasy Strangler.
“When we screened The Greasy Strangler, we warned people they would either love it or hate it,” laughs Martin. “And it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s boring if everyone agrees. The lobby in the Garneau [Theatre] is special like that; people are drinking beers and discussing the movies. That’s the community we wanted to create.”
In addition to a genre leaping first wave of films, DEDfest is also introducing a jury for the first time in their history. Clayton makes it very clear that it’s important for the festival to expand boundaries within the film industry, especially when it comes to helping make women feel welcome and valued. Hence why the jury will be comprised of all women, who are not yet entirely confirmed.
“It’s become more and more important to do this,” Clayton explains. “There have all ready been naysayers asking why there aren’t men on the jury and I’ve been using the stock answer, ‘it’s 2017.’ But in the past week I’ve come to understand why we’re doing this and that’s the obvious toxic bro culture in the genre. There’s an acceptance of sexual harassment and even assault. It’s become this thing where we know we need to chip away at this toxicity. Let’s fuck with the boys club.”
Within all of the strain and potential stress of planning a festival, Clayton and Martin appear to prioritize their friendship and fandom over all, taking the time to represent Edmonton on an international level at various festivals when they can. Community and friendship are obviously very important to the two.
“When it comes to DEDfest, I always compare us to Public Enemy. Derek is Chuck D; he’s the brains behind it. The programmer. I’m Flavor Flav. I’m the hype machine. Make sure you include that,” laughs Martin.
DEDfest X: The Final Chapter runs October 17 until October 22 at the Metro Cinema (Edmonton). Passes can be purchased online or at the Lobby DVD Shop on Whyte Avenue.Dedfest X, Metro Cinema