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 starting to make an impact with our guests.

"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.

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 "Arlo and Julie"

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.

Over the last eleven years over 150 directors, producers, screenwriters and actors have joined our growing audience. We provide travel and accommodations to a select number of filmmakers, plus 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. Visit hellshalfmile.com for links to the venues and video recaps of previous festivals. We schedule 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.

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. Its 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 2017. Just a prediction.

After eleven 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 $1000 for the Grand Jury Award, as well as other valued prizes. Grand Jury Winners include the dark comedy "Donald Cried" (2016), the controversial “Lamb” (2015), the Icelandic “Metalhead” (2014), and the acclaimed documentary "Remote Area Medical" (2013). Past jurors include Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Adam Busch (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Adam Schartoff (Filmwax Radio), Jasmine McGlade (Maria My Love), Joey Kern (“Super Troopers”), Geoff Marslett (Loves Her Gun), WAW Parker (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench), Rider Strong (Cabin Fever), Leslie Raymond (Ann Arbor Film Festival), Mark Covino (A Band Called Death), Michael Dunaway (Paste Magazine), Joel Potrykus (Buzzard), Jeff Meyers (Metro Times), Jon Lindstrom (True Detective), Cynthia Canty (NPR Michigan Radio), Aaron Wertheimer (Wedgerino), Russell Sheaffer (Variety's "110 Students to Watch"), Jess Levandoski (Middle Coast Film Festival), and Tom Hall (Montclair Film Festival).

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 two years the Crowdfunding Rally has helped projects get greenlit.

Each year we screen great narrative films, like Terry McMahon’s “Patrick’s Day” 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" which won the HHM "Fest Best" award. 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.

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 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 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.

Hell's Half Mile utilizes a unique mix of venues including Bay City’s historic Mayan themed State Theatre, the Delta College Planetarium, and a turn-of-the-century red sandstone former Masonic Temple. Likewise, the 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, to bring to our seriously appreciative audiences. 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.

Awards & Prizes

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
Special - Festival Programmers Award

Rules & Terms

The 12th 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.

If you prefer to submit on DVD, some exceptions will be made. Please email don@hellshalfmile.com and request an exception. If you submit via DVD it may be returned at filmmakers expense only. For submission deadlines please see our schedule. Extensions for submission may be made by contacting the festival director.

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 or .mov; Apple Pro Res 422 or 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.

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.

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 purpose, for the period of one year. And will do so, unless directed otherwise.

10 Reviews

Overall Rating
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    Ralf Beyerle

    My short film "Aftermath" was screened at HHM in 2016 and although I unfortunately couldn't make it (as it's such a long way from Germany), I can say that it was a pleasure to deal with Don and everyone who's involved in this festival.
    The communication was fantastic and they gave me a very good feeling about how they handled my movie - and they even wrote a synopsis which was better than my own (although I’m not sure if I really should be happy about this).
    Thank you very much and I really hope that I can attend personally someday in the future.

    May 2017
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    Michael Goldburg

    Hell's Half Mile is one of my favorite festivals, period! And definitely one of the most personal experiences on the festival circuit. Alan, Don, Jay, and the whole staff make you feel right at home and like one of the family. They also know how to program and run a first-rate festival of very cool films and bands. I met so many great filmmakers, staff, filmgoers, and locals here -- many of whom I'm still in touch with. I'm very proud to be an alum of Hell's Half Mile!

    January 2017
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you so much, Michael! You're a hard-working, talented filmmaker, and the kind of person we're fortunate to have met at our festival. Having great guests not only adds value to the film-going experience, but also makes it more fun for us as organizers. As you continue to work on new projects just know we're here along the way cheering you on! We hope you can join us again in Bay City sometime soon. Please keep doing what you're doing, and spreading the good word about HHM! That means a lot to us. You rock!!!

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    Jerry White Jr.

    This is one of my favorite festivals—and I swear it's not just because I'm a native Michigander! I first heard about it from a fellow filmmaker (who is NOT from Michigan) who also loved it; the people, the venues, the audiences, the parties, the films. She was right and I'm so thankful I got to experience it myself the following year with our film.

    Two years later I'm still in touch with people I met here. That includes filmmakers as well as the festival folks I befriended. It's definitely a fest I would attend purely as a filmgoer, regardless of whether I had a project to promote.

    Everyone from their festival organizers to volunteers legitimately cares about the films and filmmakers. I love that it's in a part of the country not known for tourism—they're doing cool things for Bay City and Michigan as a whole. And the music festival aspect adds something truly unique. They curate the music program with as much taste and care as their film program.

    You may not sign with a distributor at this fest (although I believe some have), but you WILL meet great people, connect with engaged audiences, and have a great time. It's not Hollywood...and I'm totally OK with that!!

    January 2017
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Jerry, it's people like you that gives us the motivation to continue our festival year after year. It's a pleasure to have you part of the HHM family, and we look forward to what you're working on next. We know it's going to be great! Hopefully you'll have a chance to visit us again soon.....and when you do, be sure to bring your guitar!!

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    karl schirnhofer

    I have had contact with many festivals, but Hell's Half Mile takes the cake. The communications was amazing, I felt very appreciated by the festival and they took very good care of my film.

    Sadly I wasn't able to attend the festival, but if I ever get the chance of visiting the festival I won't hesitate.

    Dear HHM, thank you for your kindness and hopefully see you soon!

    November 2016
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you so much, Karl! It was our pleasure screening your film, and look forward to your next one......and hopefully a visit to Bay City, Michigan. We take our fun seriously here, and we're sure you'd enjoy yourself. Keep doing what you're doing!!

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    Trevor Kristjanson

    Hell's Half Mile was a a blast. The audiences were very receptive, festival staff were courteous and communicative, and the the town itself is charming and beautiful. I'll definitely be back!

    November 2016
    Hhm 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thanks, Trevor! It was our pleasure having you as our guest. We're thrilled you enjoyed yourself in Bay City. Please send us all of your future work, and we hope to see you again soon.