Couch Fest 2012: Global film couched In fun

Couch Fest volunteers. (Photo courtesy of Couch Fest)

Couch Fest 2012 is today!

It’s a festival of short films screened in the houses of total strangers, in cities all around the world, including Seattle.

The concept is simple: neighbors invite you in to watch shorts in their home, on their cozy couch.

It sounds just like inviting your friends over to watch youtube, right? So what’s so great about that?

First off, the content: the films are divided into different houses by genre, and are international in scope.

Here’s Couch Fest founder, Craig Downing:
“The films come from really everywhere. We scoured every decent film festival and film portal we could find.”

And it shows.

Couch Fest is curated by a crack team of obsessive short film watchers.

If it sounds quirky, it is. From their submission requirements, notably: “Films must not suck.” to their tagline “Awkwardly Awesome”, just about every aspect of Couch Fest has an inviting personal touch.

As silly as a “Couch Fest” sounds, they are a real festival, with Gold, Silver & Bronze Couch Awards with prize money, and audience-voted best-of listings. The listings present a diverse mix of countries, and include U.S. films too! (I even spotted the locally made short The Whale Story which I’ve been meaning to see.)

Couch Fest Award Medals. (Photo courtesy Couch Fest)

This attention to detail extends to the genial hosts you’ll encounter upon knocking on their door.

Pick a house: Truth & Fiction, Comedy, Animation, or Experimental & Intense – and you’ll get some of the best shorts from the last year. You’ll see films from Sundance, SXSW, SIFF, CFC Worldwide Shorts, and the New Horizons Film Festival.

When watching shorts at a big fest, often the only options are a single short before a thematically similar film, or long topically-chosen showcases to sit through. Couch Fest only shows shorts, has short showings, and only shows new work.

Couch Fest is in its fifth year, and in 2011 Downing moved to Reykjavik, Iceland. Rather than backing off, organizers continued full-bore, adding couches in Iceland and beyond. The event has since gone global: this year it’s in 50 houses in 40 cities in 21 countries!

You can watch in houses, coffee shops, bike shops, castles, and even on a boat.

“We reached out to every possible free newsgroup and bulletin board we could find,” Downing says. “We also posted a lot in CouchSurfer groups.”

Community is in the forefront of the planning.

“For Seattle, we get lots of requests [to host]…but we look at the overall map and see if there are clusters of houses near each other so that it makes sense for people to ride bikes or stroll among the available hosts.  In some cases, the locations are spaced just right that it’ll probably be way quicker to ride on bike than to drive and find parking each time.”

The showings run every hour and a half, and contain an intermission so attendees can get to know each other while discussing film. And did I mention that Couch Fest is now FREE!?! What could be more friendly than free?

I hope you’ll join me: If you see a bike rider with long hair trailing a 7-year-old, follow me to the Fest! We can grab a cushion, discuss the show & decide which house to hit next!

You can find a map of all the houses and times when screenings start RIGHT HERE!