The Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival (HHM) is the perfect mix of independent film and live indie music. We're finally on the radar of filmmakers and have been making an impact with our guests. Sort of.

"I don't remember much of my two years going to Hell's Half Mile. That's how much fun I had." – Rider Strong, “Cabin Fever” and two-time guest.

To get a feel for our fest, check out this highlight video:

Our taste is eclectic, everything from quirky comedies to hard-hitting documentaries to emotional drama. Our goal is to find "the little film that could" -- a bunch of them actually -- and bring the filmmakers together to take over Bay City, MI. Our primary concern is community, and the filmmakers who attend our long weekend walk away with lifelong friends and future collaborators.

"I’ve been to SXSW several times, San Francisco, a bunch of smaller festivals all over the U.S. It [Hell’s Half Mile] feels like the real deal. It’s people who genuinely love film, love the independent film community. The quality and lineup is incredible” – Ashley Spillers HBO’s “Vice Principals”

"The Hell’s Half Mile audience isn’t the jaded, over-exposed audience of the big festivals. They’re hungry and appreciative of great storytelling and genuinely open-minded to cinema from unknown independent filmmakers." - us, directors of Hell's Half Mile

Over the last fourteen years over 500 directors, producers, screenwriters and actors have joined our growing audience. We provide:
* travel and accommodations to a select number of filmmakers
* all-access guest passes and
* catered receptions.
* all of our venues are within a few block radius and
* hotels are within walking distance, making it super easy to get around.
* events to help you connect with other filmmakers, musicians, movie fans,
and our supportive local community.

Our goal is to provide you with a professional, casual and fun experience during your stay with us, including unique outings that give you a taste of the local flavor. It’s the least we can do in return for providing our festival-goers with great independent cinema. Visit hellshalfmile.com for links to the venues and video recaps of the previous years.

Hell’s Half Mile programmers are looking for the right mix of creative and challenging works, including those from underserved segments of the film community. We truly hope to expand the pool of films from which we make our selections. We want to see more films from female filmmakers, filmmakers of color, and LGBTQ filmmakers in the mix so that we can select, for our audience, storytelling from a highly diverse group of storytellers.

Once your festival experience ends, Hell’s Half Mile looks to the future. HHM alumni receive fee waivers for future projects and all-access guest passes for subsequent year’s festivals, whether you have a film in our program or not. We continue to support alumni projects through social media and newsletters celebrating victories and other milestones through our growing network of filmmakers and film lovers.

“Hell's Half Mile gives me warm feelings in my heart. The warm feeling in my pants is possibly unrelated. It’s worth every minute and it's the kind of festival that you make movies for.” – Kenny Stevenson, writer and actor, "Love, Sex and Missed Connections".

Guests are not left alone to fend for themselves amidst our rabid audiences and interested community members. Programmers and organizers are ever-present and ready with introductions, recommendations and the occasional swift exit from oversharers. Bay City nights are filled with raw rock and roll sounds giving us the moniker of “little Detroit”, especially into the wee hours at super-secret-after-parties. Daytime in Bay City is cool Fall days with sunny riverside strolls or bike rides past historic lumber baron mansions. Or, there are always plenty of great films to watch. It's up to you!

Filmmakers are also encouraged to participate in panel discussions, receptions and other events. We continue to foster student and local filmmaking, which provides opportunities for guest filmmakers to present a workshop or lecture focused on a specific topic or specialty. Other guests are invited to screen our student and local short films and give constructive feedback to the filmmakers. This type of mentoring helps to strengthen local filmmaking and continue our relationships with area universities.

Hell’s Half Mile, ranked 27th in Moviemaker Magazine’s Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals of 2020. Just a prediction.

After fourteen years, Hell’s Half Mile organizers continue to strive to be an innovative festival for genuinely independent films and original music. This festival is about connecting the filmmaker and the festival-goer. Period. Well, parties too.

In addition to relentless promotion of films, Hell’s Half Mile recognizes and rewards films with jury, programmer and audience awards, some with prizes. Prizes include a cash prize of $500 for Best Made In Michigan film and $1000 for the Grand Jury Award. Grand Jury Winners include the raw and deeply affecting "Happy Face" (2019), the poignant comedy/drama “Funny Story" (2018), powerful thriller “The Scent of Rain & Lightning” (2017), the dark comedy "Donald Cried" (2016), the controversial “Lamb” (2015), the Icelandic “Metalhead” (2014), and the acclaimed documentary "Remote Area Medical" (2013).

Highlights of past jurors include:
* Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
* Adam Busch (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
* Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks)
* Rebecca Green (It Follows)
* Joey Kern (Big Bear)
* Lela Meadow-Conner (Film Festival Alliance)
* Matt Enlow (Just Shoot It Podcast)
* Oren Kaplan (Just Shoot It Podcast)
* Geoff Marslett (Loves Her Gun)
* Rider Strong (Cabin Fever)
* Violet Lucca (Film Comment Magazine/Podcast)
* Mark Covino (A Band Called Death)
* Joel Potrykus (Buzzard)
* Tom Hall (Montclair Film Festival)
* Laura Heberton (God Bless the Child)
* Caleb Ward (The Orchard)

Hell's Half Mile also champions independent filmmaking by helping to raise funds for new projects through our Crowdfunding Rally. Designed for those who are ready to start crowdfunding their next project, or who are looking for a fresh approach to supplement their current funding efforts, this two-part event begins and ends online, but makes a pit stop with a live pitch event. It creates the opportunity for filmmakers to capitalize on the excitement at film festivals by helping them convert festival-going fans into contributors. We try to advocate for independent filmmaking anyway possible, and for four years the Crowdfunding Rally has helped projects get greenlit.

Each year we screen great narrative films, like Jim Cumming’s “Thunder Road” and the Slamdance hit "Neptune". Quirky comedies like James Westby’s “Rid of Me” and Kris Avedisian's “Donald Cried” have been big hits with HHM audiences. Co-director Mark Covino attended with the international hit "A Band Called Death". Rider Strong has been a guest at HHM with four amazing films over two years, including “The Dungeon Master,” written and directed with his brother Shiloh and winner of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Best (Online) Short Film. Visit hellshalfmile.com for complete lists of all films presented.

Beginning in 2020, we've begun a partnership with the Made-in-Michigan Film Festival where they'll be helping program films made in our great state. In addition to film programming, the audience award winner for the "Best Michigan Film" will receive the "Wally Green Award" in honor of the the founder of the MiMFF, along with a $500 cash prize. We'll also work hard to promote Michigan filmmakers, and give them opportunities to showcase their work beyond the festival.

Some of the great music we’ve had over the years connects our film and music events. Matt Pond PA joined us at HHM in 2010. This same year, screening at the festival was “Lebanon PA,” with an original score by Matt Pond and Chris Hansen of Matt Pond PA. Another great band that performed at HHM in 2011 was The One AM Radio, led by Hrishikesh Hirway (creator of podcasts Song Exploder and The West Wing Weekly) who also did the original music for the 2012 feature film “Save the Date.” Visit hellshalfmile.com for lists and links of previous music performers.

We hope you’ll consider us.

What's with the name?
In the late 1800's, a stretch of Bay City's riverfront was lined with raucous saloons and two-bit hotels where turn-of-the-century loggers and shipmen would go to blow off steam and take in more than a little local color. This strip was known to locals as Hell's Half Mile. "'Hell's Half Mile' was the strip of waterfront where lumberjacks used to go boozing and whoring. Now, a bunch of us from Hollywood go there for a film festival. Not much has changed." – Rider Strong

Time has passed, but the same rough-and-tumble spirit of the day is reborn in the Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival. Today, the city boasts a beautiful downtown riverfront with boutiques, restaurants, theatres, pubs, hotel accommodations and other points of interest....a state of the art planetarium, art galleries, a thriving business community, and an active shipping lane for Great Lakes freighters...Downtown Bay City is alive with activity.

Jury - Best Feature ($1000 prize)
Jury - Best Short
Jury - Best Screenplay
Jury - Best Cinematography
Jury - Best Soundtrack
Jury - Best Lead Actor
Jury - Best Lead Actress
Jury - Best Supporting Actor
Jury - Best Supporting Actress
Audience - Fest Best
Audience - Best Feature
Audience - Best Short
Audience - Best Documentary
Audience - Best Foreign Language Film
Audience - Best Michigan Film ($500)
Special - Festival Programmers Award

The 15th HHM Film & Music Festival is open to all genres and categories (narrative features, animation, shorts, documentaries, genre etc).

All entries must be submitted with an online screener (Vimeo, FilmFreeway, etc). Our preference is Vimeo, as it's usually the best quality and consistently reliable.

All submission fees are listed in the deadline/fee schedule. We recommend that entries submit press kits including a short synopsis, a filmmaker bio, a list of the principal cast and credits, a production still and any other media information available. Any photo submitted may be used for festival promotion. Electronic files preferred.


Selected films must provide MP4; H.264; 1920x1080 or 1080p;24-bit audio at 48khz; and a Bluray backup. Files may be delivered via download or on unencrypted hard drive. Other file formats may be added and will be identified for all selected films.

Please use permanent marker to label your Blu-ray. Do not use a paper label on your disc; stickers and paper may make a disc unplayable. We prefer Blu-rays to be sent in a simple paper sleeve in order to minimize waste.

Non-English language films must have subtitles.

The number, date and time of screenings are at the discretion of the festival.

Film selection announcements will be made in mid-August. Early selections may be made and submitters notified before the posted final notification date.

If your film is in distribution and requires a screening fee, please do not submit to our festival without openly notifying us first. As a small, non-profit festival we have a limited budget, and unexpected fees are difficult for us to handle. Please email don@hellshalfmile.com to discuss.

Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival is hereby granted the right to utilize an excerpt from any film submitted and accepted for exhibition at the Festival for promotional purposes.

The individual or corporation submitting the film hereby warrants that it is authorized to commit the film for screening, and understands and accepts these requirements and regulations.

The undersigned shall indemnify and hold harmless Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney's fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos entered.

If a film is accepted, the programmers request the right to screen the film for educational and promotional purposes, for a period of one year. And will do so, unless directed otherwise.

Overall Rating
  • Chris Randall

    This festival is awesome. They go out of their way to treat filmmakers well. The State Theater is a beautiful venue to screen your film. The screenings were fun. The parties were fun. The music was fun. I'm so glad we got in and that I could attend. I had a great time.

    October 2019
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thanks for the kind words, Chris! It was a pleasure to have you as our guest, and we look forward to future films.

  • Jason Cooper

    Loved HHM. Friendly team, great venue, wonderful films...and excellent music too. Couldn't have been happier with the experience.

    October 2019
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, Jason! We appreciate you making the trip to see us and spend your weekend in Bay City. Please stay in touch and let us know about all future projects. Go blue!!

  • Curtis Matzke

    Amazing festival! Extremely supportive of filmmakers throughout their careers. Great city with very friendly people. Highly recommended.

    October 2019
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, Curtis! Thanks for being an important part of our 14th annual festival. It was a real pleasure having you here, and look forward to your return sometime down the road. We love your work!!

  • Andrew Gibson

    HHM is one of the best festivals I have attended. The staff is very helpful and enthusiastic. Bay City is a unique town with lots of character, and the whole community really comes out and supports the festival and the films. The music is also an awesome element and the parties were A TON of fun. The programming was diverse and the Planetarium Theatre in particular is a super unique way to watch a film! I would highly recommend attending the festival as an out of town filmmaker as communication and hospitality from the staff makes the whole experience very relaxed and enjoyable.

    October 2019
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, Andrew! We really loved having you here in Bay City for our festival. Your film was a hit @ Hell's Half Mile, and we look forward to your future projects. Please stay in touch, and give us updates on Gutterbug. Best wishes to you!!! :)

  • Eileen Kearney

    I was not able to attend, but right from our official selection email, Don was in contact every step of the way! I would highly suggest entering this festival.

    October 2018
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, Eileen!! We love your film and it's been a pleasure talking with you via email. Next time around we hope you can visit us in Bay City. Our audiences truly appreciate great independent film, and having guest filmmakers is something we really enjoy. Let us know about your next project!!