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If I were to encourage you to attend The Germ on Thursday night, you might think I was pushing you to go get checked for disease-causing microorganisms—but then you’d have me all wrong.
As you may or may not already know, The Germ is an event for local filmmakers and film buffs that takes its name from that other sense of the word “germ,” indicating the first kernel of an idea. Since 2012, it has been offering aspiring filmmakers a unique opportunity to come together in filmmaking fellowship. Celebrating the initial spark of inspiration that underlies art, The Germ aims to give a push to local people who dream of making films.
At intervals, usually every few months, The Germ offers up a rudimentary suggestion for a movie, then makes an open call to the public for submissions based on that prompt. Once these submissions are received, the festival’s entrants are publicly screened, as filmmakers, along with their creative teams, supportive friends and family, and the curious public, come together to view these homemade works of cinema all based on a common cue. Germ screenings offer filmmakers a unique chance to experience each other’s work in a supportive environment free of judgment and competition, while also reveling in the similarities and differences that emerge from a shared root.
With only a seed of a concept (and a limiting condition or two) as a prompt, participating filmmakers are encouraged to craft their own movies (broadly defined by the folks in charge of The Germ as “anything that can be presented as a series of still or moving images,” whether “animation, art films, recorded stage performances, scripted work, iPhone videos, Flip cam videos, edited or unedited, fully lit, captured surreptitiously or filmed in a production studio”). Thanks to such a liberal definition of what constitutes a film, The Germ makes the magical process of filmmaking accessible to everyone, regardless of skill level, budget, or experience.
Beyond the germ of an idea and the arbitrary limitation imposed by the organizers, filmmakers are on their own to create their own beautiful testaments to reality. By emphasizing inspiration above technical prowess, The Germ celebrates the raw energy and passion that drives creativity; just as importantly, it democratizes and demystifies the process of movie making.
After a hiatus in 2017, The Germ returns this week with a program based on the cue “Pets.” Limited to five minutes, submissions are required to feature at least two locations and three characters. As most of us are crazy about our pets, this wildly popular theme should yield some special viewing pleasures.
Previous Germ prompts have ranged from simple words, like “Red” (with the stipulation that the color could not appear anywhere in the piece) and “Summer” (with the limiter that the film must be shot on a camera phone), to other works of art, such as the photo “Near Greenwood, Mississippi” by William Eggleston and the song “Tables and Chairs” by Andrew Bird. You can find a comprehensive archival tour of past Germs is housed right here.
How to attend The Germ
The Germ’s next screening will take place Thursday, Feb. 22, at Windsong Productions, 351 O Street, Fresno, at 7 p.m. The screening is free and open to the public. Find more information here.