“You get theses audiences together: mostly straight, but there are gay people, lesbians, trans people, kinky people, vanilla people. You’ve got gay guys watching cunnilingus and straight guys watching gay sex. Vanilla people watching kinky sex.”
The first short movie in the 21-film festival offers lots of vanilla — and chocolate and flour — as a straight young couple have sex coated in cake batter. They never get around to baking a cake, though, and the only thing that rises is the male star.
“When you watch porn home alone, you’re usually watching porn to masturbate with. There’s no masturbating at HUMP!, except on the screen,” says Savage, a nationally syndicated sex advice columnist who lives in Seattle and writes for The Stranger, an alternative weekly that mounts the annual film festival.
HUMP! began 11 years ago, when Savage “asked people to send him homemade dirty movies, and surprisingly, they did,” according to a news release.
“I’ve always said that when we first came up with the idea, the first question was, ‘Would people make porn to be screened in the city where they live?’ The answer was yes, as long as we safeguard people’s privacy. As long as it didn’t end up on the internet, people were only too happy,” Savage tells the Miami Herald. “The second question then became, ‘Would people come and sit in the dark next to strangers in a movie theater and watch porn the way their grandparents used to?’ The answer to that was yes, also — as we speak — all over the country.”
HUMP!, which is “intended for mature audiences,” screens 7 and 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at O Cinema Wynwood, according to Kareem Tabsch, the movie group’s co-founder and co-director.
“O Cinema is all about celebrating independent films and films that carry a message,” Tabsch says. “The HUMP! tour is wonderful because it celebrates sexual diversity and all different kinds of body types, gender identities and fetishes.”
Despite the hardcore sex scenes, Savage reminds that HUMP! is a recognized short-film festival that two years ago began touring the United States.
“Some of HUMP! is very creative,” he says. “Some [films] are very funny and some have no porn in them at all. No sex in it at all.”
The best part about HUMP!, according to Savage, is that it literally exposes audience members to different kinds of sexuality.
“The thing that happens at HUMP! that’s different than watching porn at home is that when you watch porn at home, you only click on what you want to see. You only click on what works for you, what turns you on,” he says. “Sitting at HUMP!, we click on it for you. You don’t get to click. We click. And you’re going to watch porn that if you were home alone, sitting in front of your computer masturbating, you would not click it.”
Savage loves watching an audience experience HUMP!
“We just see people with the wind knocked out of them, thrown back in their seats, their hands over their mouths, sometimes a little stunned. Because all they can see are the differences. All they can see is what’s not their sexual orientations, the kind of body they’re attracted to, the kind of sex they like to have. All they see is, ‘That’s not me. That’s not my … Whoa, it’s crazy!’
“There’s this thing that happens about halfway through the show where you don’t see that look on anyone’s face anymore. Everyone’s laughing and cheering. No one is covering their eyes anymore. There’s this kind of shift in the mood of the audience, where they go from at first only being able to see what’s different to halfway through being able to see everything that’s the same. Because under the differences, the plumbing, the activities, the orientations, the gender identities, everything under that thin layer is exactly the same: lust, desire, passion, vulnerability, humor, risk. All of that is identical. We all share all of those things.”
Every year, The Stranger receives thousands of short-film submissions for HUMP!, described online as the porn festival “Where everyone is sexy.”
The festival makes money, says Savage, who in 2010 with husband Terry Miller began the “It Gets Better” antibullying video project, which immediately went viral online.
“I don’t get paid to do HUMP!,” Savage says. “HUMP! is sort of run for the joy and fun of it by a handful of us at The Stranger. Some part of the money HUMP! makes will end up in our paychecks, in our salaries, but HUMP! is no goldmine.”
Savage says that unlike other film festivals, no one pays to enter a film in HUMP! “Almost all of them you have to pay an entry fee to have your film looked at and considered,” he says. “There’s no entry fee for Hump. There’s $12,000 in cash prizes awarded by the audience at Hump Film Festival in Seattle. Only 20 to 25 films get in. There are like seven or eight prizes total, including a $5,000 Best in Show award. Your odds if you get in that you’re going to win are pretty good.”
HUMP! staff members valiantly guard the privacy of those who appear in the festival.
“Here’s a way to be a porn star for a weekend in a movie theater without having to be a porn star on the internet for all eternity,” Savage says.
Some HUMP! submissions make it to Xtube and YouTube (the softcore ones). “That’s the filmmakers and performers’ choice to make it public,” Savage says. “But what HUMP! created for a lot of people was a space where they could make a funny dirty movie, or a dirty dirty movie, know that people are going to see it, but know that their great-grandchildren weren’t going to see it. Or their employer wasn’t necessarily going to see it. Or their parents weren’t necessarily going to see it.”
Not all filmmakers are shy, though.
“I’ve gone to the festival and seen people I know from — they work at my grocery store or at the coffee shop that I frequent,” Savage says. “We had someone who was in HUMP! bring his brothers to watch the film that he made with his boyfriend. I couldn’t do that, but your family is obviously closer than my family.”