Kyle T. Webster

For 10 days in June, Seattle venues like the Rendezvous, Seattle Art Museum, R Place, and Chop Suey will be inundated with independent films, live music, and comedy. The source: STIFF, Seattle's True Independent Film Festival.


Last year, STIFF added "STIFF Licks" to its programming, a series that combines a trio of arts—movies, music, and comedy—in an entertaining, interesting, and sometimes shocking way that sets it apart from other arts festivals.

"I think both [SIFF and STIFF] are great," says Troy Nelson, STIFF's music director newly hired for this year. "I'm a fan of SIFF, too. But the coolest thing about STIFF is that their films are coming out of nowhere. They get the craziest stuff... burned CDs in little hand-knit pouches. For lack of a better word, there is some fucked-up shit. But they like that. They like the crazier, more creative films that bigger film festivals wouldn't pay attention to because they're so off the wall. There's a nice healthy dose of 'what the fuck.'"

In previous years, STIFF has shown movies about a supergenius head-wound victim who has occasional issues with nymphomania (The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai); a mockumentary political comedy about a small-town man running for mayor (A New Tomorrow); a real documentary about one man's battle with cancer (My Left Hand); and more "professional" films that also star familiar names like Christian Slater, Elisa Cuthbert, and William H. Macy (He Was a Quiet Man). STIFF has also shown music-related films, including last year's documentary about local band the Briefs.

As STIFF garnered more attention from media and movie fans alike since being founded in 2005, it expanded its programming in 2007 to include live music and comedy, which Nelson also assisted with last year. The lineup flaunted both up-and-coming and established musical acts, like Cancer Rising, A Gun That Shoots Knives, H Is for Hellgate, Neezie Pleaze, Sleep from Oldominion, and the Transmissionary Six.

This year, with Nelson at the helm of the musical portion, STIFF hopes to take things even further and better exploit the fact that it isn't just about the (fucked-up) movies.

Since moving to Seattle in 1999, Nelson, who grew up in South Dakota, has had a deep love for the local music scene. He's been doing local consignment for Easy Street Records for four years and he's been a KEXP DJ for two. He's also one half of the comedy act Black Daisy, which he describes as "anticomedy comedy." (For a good laugh, search for their nu-metal parody, "Voltage Periscope," on MySpace.) His tastes range from weird avant-garde jazz stuff to college rock, and he plans on catering to all his likes in this year's festival.

"Last year, STIFF had live music after the films, but a lot of people were coming to watch just the movies or just the music," says Nelson. "This year, there will be some bands that have something to do with film. Instead of one musical act after a movie or a couple bands playing while the movie's projected in the background, it's gonna be more of a multimedia event.

"And there may be artists that have nothing to do with the film festival, necessarily, except for the fact that they are part of the local art scene. To me, STIFF's not just film; it's art in general."

So while Nelson says he would like to involve local bands like Bronze Fawn, Sleepy Eyes of Death, and Joy Wants Eternity, all local acts who have really strong visual aspects to their live shows, he's also excited about stacking the bills with great music that you may or may not already be familiar with—like the film aspect of STIFF, he wants to bring a healthy dose of "what the fuck".

"I'm still bringing in the relatively unknown bands that people will probably end up knowing about because they're great bands, at least in my humble opinion," he says. "Having them in there with more well-known acts or bands people don't get to see all the time is exciting. [STIFF is] really about exposing new talent." recommended

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STIFF comes to Seattle in June 2008. To submit your film or apply to play the festival, visit