Two queer space cadets cruising the galaxy crash land on a strange planet in the film “Anathema,” which is scheduled to be screened during the HUMP! Film Fest scheduled at the Gold Town Theater Oct. 21-22. (Photo courtesy of HUMP! Film Fest)

Two queer space cadets cruising the galaxy crash land on a strange planet in the film “Anathema,” which is scheduled to be screened during the HUMP! Film Fest scheduled at the Gold Town Theater Oct. 21-22. (Photo courtesy of HUMP! Film Fest)

Organized amateur porn festival makes its theatrical debut in Juneau

HUMP! Film Fest at Gold Town Theater Oct. 21-22.

Before you get all judgy about an amateur porn festival coming to Juneau, you should know it is not like the porn you accidentally clicked on the internet.

“It’s the opposite of male-aggressive, mainstream porn, with the fake storylines, fake kinks, and sometimes fake bodies. That clickbait – it’s not real to us,” said Tracey Cataldo, executive director of the Seattle-based HUMP! Film Fest coming to Juneau Oct. 21-22. “What Hump is, is real people, real relationships, real bodies — and real fantasies and kinks.”

The 22 homegrown films — none more than five minutes in duration — are selected from about 1,000 submitted to the festival for consideration. A jury of eight people watch all of the movies over the course of a week and then “fight over” which ones get selected, joked Cataldo. Anything goes with three important caveats: “No animals, no poop, no minors.”

The film festival is being hosted by Gold Town Theater on Shattuck Way, which bills itself as “Alaska’s only art-house theater.”

“We are dedicated to programming shows that appeal to and represent as diverse an audience as possible for Juneau,” said Collette Costa, manager and co-owner of Gold Town. “My job is to curate, not to judge.”

The film festival is the accidental brainchild of media personality Dan Savage, who gained fame in the early 2000s as a syndicated sex and relationship columnist and podcaster based in Seattle.

“The story goes that Dan was on his podcast and he said something like, ‘Send us your sex films,’” said Cataldo. “It was kind of a joke, but then it happened, and they said, ‘I guess we’re going to need a theater.’ ”

That was 2005 and about 500-600 people came to the one-day festival in Seattle. It grew over the next couple of years, selling about 3,000 tickets annually before they expanded the event to Portland. Ticket sales doubled in the next few years and they started a festival in San Francisco.

In 2014 they expanded to 14 cities, starting with Chicago. “We knew at that point, we have to bring this everywhere.” Ticket sales rose to between 12,000-14,000, but just as importantly the material being submitted grew much more diverse.

“Before we started touring when we were only getting films from Portland and Seattle. I used to joke it was the same type of person — a lot of skinny white hipsters,” said Cataldo. “When you bring films in from outside the Pacific Northwest, from Denver, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, there is so much more diversity.”

By 2019 they were holding festivals in 55 to 60 cities, with the first three being Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. The opening festivals generated ticket sales of roughly 30,000, which was matched collectively by the other markets. They were at about 60,000 tickets annually when COVID-19 struck, shutting down the theaters.

That prompted the festival, which had been committed to theaters, to move online to a streaming model. Cataldo said it was a big shift for a show that early on included the smashing of the DVD of films, a symbolic gesture that signaled that year’s HUMP! had been unique, never to be seen again.

With each shift in the business model, Cataldo said they turned to the filmmakers to ask them what they wanted. The first time it was whether to expand beyond the local market, and then whether to expand nationwide, and finally whether to expand to streaming. Support was “overwhelming” at each turn, she said.

The people who submit short movies get a percentage of ticket sales, said Cataldo. “Each filmmaker that makes it into the festival is likely to earn a couple of thousand dollars a year in royalties.” While there is no way to guarantee an amount, it has been at least $2,000.

The business is still recovering from COVID-19. In the fall of 2021 they opened up in a few cities, selling about 30,000 tickets, and were up to 40,000 last year. They have continued the streaming business, as well. Those numbers are different, because sales are per device, where there can be multiple viewers.

Aside from the launch of the festival in the Northwest, which happens in the early months of the year, Cataldo said the team of five who work on the film festival rarely attend festivals in person and won’t be in Juneau. But reaching out to smaller markets matters, even if it generates less money for the company, Cataldo said.

She recalled working at the festival in Kansas City in 2016 where they had sold about 250 tickets. It followed festivals in the Northwest which had about 30,000 people attend over the course of four weeks.

“It sounds like Kansas City would be small potatoes after that, but it was just as meaningful and just as important that we screened there,” she said. “So many people came up, a lot of them young, queer kids who don’t have any other outlet.” They were thankful for the experience.

Savage’s vision for the festival from the outset has been to present sex in a positive light. The entrepreneur, author, pundit and screenwriter (“Spoiler Alert”) is well known for his activism. He is behind “It Gets Better,” a project he created with husband Terry Miller to help prevent suicide among LGBTQ teams. While he isn’t involved in day-to-day management, he signs off on everything with HUMP!.

“It’s his vision,” said Cataldo.

Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

•••••

Know & Go

What: HUMP! Film Festival

Where: Gold Town Theater, 171 Shattuck Way #109

When: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-22, 8:30 p.m

Cost: $23.25 each day ($18 plus fees)

Tickets: https://btt.boldtypetickets.com/events/138022350/2023-hump-film-festival-juneau-ak

Patrons must be 18 or older.

”Crimson Cruising,” described as “an ode to the venerable tradition of ‘Hot Girl Summer,’” is scheduled to be screened during the HUMP! Film Fest scheduled at the Gold Town Theater Oct. 21-22. (Photo courtesy of HUMP! Film Fest)

”Crimson Cruising,” described as “an ode to the venerable tradition of ‘Hot Girl Summer,’” is scheduled to be screened during the HUMP! Film Fest scheduled at the Gold Town Theater Oct. 21-22. (Photo courtesy of HUMP! Film Fest)

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