Q&A with Festival Director Ayleen Crotty
What’s the origin story of the Film by Bike Festival? The early 2000s was a special time in Portland's bike history. There was a strong contingent of bike enthusiasts, but we were small in numbers. We were eager to find and connect with others who shared a passion for riding bikes. As a result, many creative endeavors began - opportunities to connect and enjoy time on bikes together. Some of those events and projects still exist to this day, such as Pedalpalooza, the group Shift, Breakfast on the Bridges, Zoobomb, the Midnight Mystery Rides and more. At the time, there was one person in Portland making bike-themed movies. Friends and I needed to raise funds to put on a large scale bike event, so we decided to host a film night showcasing all bike-related films. We hoped for 40 people and were blow away when we sold 60 tickets. We were at La Palabra Cafe Press, a now closed micro theater and arts space just off MLK. After we reached capacity, people kept purchasing tickets even though we told them they wouldn't be able to see the screen. They just wanted to be there and be a part of the night. That spoke volumes to me and I decided to continue to host an annual bike movie night.
Here we are, 16 years later with an annual weekend film festival at the Hollywood Theatre and a collection of films that tours the world, year round.
How has your role as a bike advocate evolved since founding the festival?
I believe the best way to get people excited about something is to make it fun and creative. At Filmed by Bike, we'll never tell people, "Go ride your bike." but there is almost no way people can leave the theater without being inspired to ride more. And because of demand, they are now seen year round, worldwide. Filmed by Bike movie collections are an important tool in the bike advocacy tool kit - and powerful way to motivate and build community. I come from an experiential and interactive arts background and I'm a professional event coordinator. I like to create extraordinary event experiences that offer people an escape from the daily grind and leave them utterly inspired. Any chance to do that with bikes incorporated is a dream come true. Filmed by Bike has evolved into being one of Portland's most inventive arts and culture events. We spend a lot of time sculpting the Portland event, considering our music choices for when people enter the theater, planning the stage entertainment at the Street Party and creating an awesome experience.
How has the conversation about the intersection of bikes and film changed?
It's interesting you ask that. Throughout the course of history, we see politics and cultural shifts reflected in the arts; the growing and changing movements of the world are often first reflected in the arts.
At this year's festival we are showing a "from the vault" program of movies from our early days. We recently went through our archives and dug deeply. We knew it would be fun to see the old movies, but we had no idea how different they would be from films today, and not just in terms of production quality. The early days films told more stories, were more artistic and had tons of heart. That's not to say they were better, they were just different, and they were certainly a reflection of a growing culture that came from a deep well of heart and passion.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I'm fired up! in the past few months I've had the opportunity to focus on more arts related aspects of the festival. I created an installation for the Portland Winter Lights Festival, one of my favorite Portland events. And just recently Filmed by Bike hosted a popup event at SXSW where we showed bike movies in the heart of that huge event and even projected films on the side of the Austin Convention Center.
I want to be creating more opportunities for people to experience projection large scale and outside. I'm dreaming of some summertime projects! And some events in nature!
Outside of Filmed by Bike, I keep busy with a few other endeavors I oversee for work and I enjoy spending long days on my bike with friends.
I recently saw and loved the movie Youth - the music, characters, message and styling were all inspiring.
I absolutely love the Czech film Záhrada, which translates as The Garden. I saw it at a film festival in Dublin in the 90s - just one of the many reasons I believe in the power of film festivals! I still think often about that film and the experience of seeing it.
I could go on and on! Who wants to talk with me about the cultural significance of all of this? I can't wait for the Dinner at Citizen and a chance to chat further, and in person.