Filmed by Bike: The Nation’s Most Bike Friendly City Meets The Nation’s Best Bike Film Festival

Bike-themed film festivals are held in major cities across the globe, including London, Chicago, New York, Sydney and San Francisco. But none are held in a city as bike centric as Portland, Oregon.

The largest city to have met the League of American Bicyclists’ “platinum” bike-friendly qualifications, Portland leads the pack in what the League considers the five E’s: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation and planning. If bike film festivals were factored in, Portland would likely win that category, too. The annual Filmed by Bike Festival, which highlights independent, bike-themed short films from around the world, is quirky, fun and very popular—in other words, a quintessential Portland experience.

For the past 13 years, film lovers and cyclists have descended on Portland for this highly anticipated festival with film screenings held at the historic Hollywood Theatre in Northeast Portland for a fascinating glimpse into bicycle cultures across the globe. The festival’s curated mash-up of shorts—films are limited to 10 minutes (one of this year’s best is only 30 seconds long)—and its bike-celebrating entertainment and activities draws exponentially larger crowds every year.

Make no mistake,”Filmed by Bike” doesn’t mean filmmakers sit on bikes filming their movies. It simply means they’ve focused their lens on bikes and bike culture. But a love of cycling isn’t the only reason this festival has become so popular with independent filmmakers—the event also gives them an opportunity to meet and connect with other filmmakers and a diversity of bike enthusiasts. And all who come from outside Portland rave about the chance they get to explore Portland by bike with the city’s bike most enthusiastic bike-loving residents.

074f141Founded in 2003 by self-described bike culture ambassador Ayleen Crotty, a former film student and event planner, Filmed by Bike‘s main goal is to inspire a better world through art and cycling. In the early years of the festival, Crotty says Filmed by Bike screened movies on VHS tapes. They—Crotty and her team—were highly challenged to find films with themes related to cycling or cycling culture. “There just weren’t bike movies out there,” says Crotty. “And now, they’re everywhere. These days, you don’t have to look far to find bikes at the intersection of art. Cycling is celebrated in all forms of creative expression—from music to handcrafted bikes, and of course, filmmaking.”

Hundreds of international entries are submitted annually, but on average only 45 make the final cut (this year 50 short films show over three days). A panel of well-vetted jurors makes that tough decision. This year 11 percent of the films were actually made in Portland while the balance were submitted by filmmakers in other states, and another 60% from outside the country (including Canada, Slovenia, Hungary, Portugal, Australia, France, and Ireland). After the festival, Crotty, also the festival’s director, hits the road with each year’s curated collection to do special screenings at other festivals around the world.

Crotty says that even though Filmed by Bike is a film festival (benefiting NW Documentary, a non-profit organization that helps people tell their stories through film) attendees can expect a variety of fun bike-centered experiences beyond just the main film event. There’s a wide array of satellite activities that orbit film screenings, including a lively opening night street party, a filmmakers’ Q+A session, a panel discussion on women in cycling, a Festival Lounge with craft beer and coffee, a video storytelling booth, VIP screenings (for festival pass holders), an award ceremony, and a filmmakers’ brewery tour. There’s even a designated bike parking arena to encourage attendees to arrive Portland-style: by bike.

Attendees have a wide selection of show times to choose from and many different programs of movies to see. Tickets and a schedule can be found at FilmedByBike.org. This year’s Festival takes place May 22-24, 2015. The Filmed by Bike festival pass allows attendees to pop in and out of the theater during the entire weekend, and also provides access to VIP screenings, as well as a free brewery tour with the filmmakers, and other activities. Advance tickets are recommended.

Gearographer.com talked to Ayleen Crotty about the zeitgeist behind Filmed by Bike.

Gearographer: What inspired you to create this event?
AC: My background in film [as a film student], and event planning, and my love of cycling—but especially my desire to get people on their bikes so they can know what I know about cycling. The joy in these movies is undeniable and resonates with everyone who sees them, as evident in the continued growth of this event, but also the more creative and expressive the films get year after year.

Gearographer: What do you think is the Filmed by Bikes biggest pull or why it continues to flourish and grow?
AC: The ever-changing art depicted and expressed in the films. We’ve evolved from primarily using bikes as way to get around to include a way of experiencing life, and Filmed by Bike films capture the diversity of all the different aspects of those experiences. Biking, on many levels, has become a way for people to understand and see the world—bike culture is changing the world. And people want to be a part of that.

Gearographer: What do you think FBB says about bike culture on a macro level?
AC: I think the sign that something has become fully embraced is when it’s expressed artistically—visually, musically and literally—and that is happening all around us in so many ways. This festival is a reflection of that. We’ve never preached or told people to ride their bikes. The films and the energy of the festival really does just inspire people to get out of their cars and experience life from a bike. Cycling as a road trip: People are bored with just buying stuff; they want to spend their money on experiences, to have real experiences.

Gearographer: When the festival first started what were the most popular films, and where is that now?
AC: This festival has gone from being local to being international—in the past most submissions were focused on trick riding and BMX, and mountain biking racing and such, and now they’re largely about adventuring—about getting out there in the world, physically and emotionally.

Gearographer: Any advice for filmmakers interested in getting their film in the festival?
AC: Short is sweet. Our film journeys do not need to be long to be satisfying. Spend that time in the saddle instead.

FilmedByBikePoster2015

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Jo Ostgarden

Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she's an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She's also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.

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