A Look Into World Coffee Events' Inaugural Coffee Film Festival

By Jasmin Addy-McGinnis, Barista's Daily Grind When people talk about exceptional coffee in the US, the Midwest doesn’t often come to mind. Fifteen years ago Barista’s Daily Grind set out to change that, and I have always been very proud of our work here in Kearney, Nebraska. All of our baristas are trained by Ryan Dennhardt, a national champion, and while most people in our area don’t recognize the skill that goes into a proper espresso drink, they definitely appreciate the difference in taste. Two years ago we decided to make a video about our coffee shop, and while our intention was to capture the feel of Barista’s Daily Grind we also set out to briefly explain the process of Artisan coffee and show, in a small way, what was happening behind the counter. We spent over a full year making our video, aptly titled “Hand Crafted Espresso,” and when we released it on our website the response was overwhelmingly positive. It received over 14,000 video views.

 

Twelve years ago, at the height of BDG’s success, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Allen (then the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine) at a Barista Jam we held here in Kearney. Today Sarah is the editor of Barista Magazine, and I follow her on Instagram. Sarah posted a quick Instagram post, back in July, announcing that “World Coffee Events was calling for short film submissions to the first-ever Coffee Film Festival to be held in August in Southern California.” Film submissions needed to be between 2-7 minutes and were supposed to fall into three categories: Educational/Instructional, Coffee Passion or Parody. I was pretty sure I had a great film on my hands, though I was doubtful that it would fit into any of those three categories. When the video was created, I certainly didn’t expect it to reach an audience much wider than our local area.

Nonetheless, I called my film maker and told him about the opportunity. He laughed. “Go for it,” he said. “But I think what we have it a little too commercial.” With that kind of confidence behind me I decided not to tell anyone I was submitting the video. I just thought I needed to take the chance. I reasoned that if the winning films were worse than mine I would kick myself for not even trying. My confidence was further deflated after receiving a second email on July 28th: apparently there were so many submissions that World Coffee Events needed additional time to view all the films. Thus, it came as no surprise when I received a generic email on August 4th informing me that my short firm did not make it into this year’s selections for competition, yada yada yada. I was glad I hadn’t told anyone I was entering. At least I tried.

Fast forward two days. See, I have this annoying habit of checking all my social media accounts and email before I go to bed. So, it’s 11:30 and I’m sitting in bed with my husband when an email catches my eye: Coffee Film Festival Submission—UPDATE. I open up the link and read the following:

Hello Jasmin!

We recently opened up a new category for the Coffee Film Festival, and I'm pleased to announce that your film was picked by the Barista Guild of America (BGA) as their pick of the festival.

Therefore, we'd love to include your film in our Santa Ana Coffee Film Festival on August 15, as the BGA Pick.

I had to read the email twice before scaring the living daylights out of my husband by literally screaming. I couldn’t believe it—let alone go to bed. My mind was exploding with possibilities. To be recognized by the people I most respected was an incredible feeling. Barista’s Daily Grind has been acknowledging the SCAA and romancing our customers with our craft for nearly fifteen years now.

The festival was less than a week away, and I had not budgeted the time or money to be away from my shop. A million questions flew through my mind. Should we go? Was this even a big deal, or was I just being super small town? Would people think I was silly if I flew half way across the country to watch a three minute video I already own? To say I was nervous would be an exceptional understatement.

After talking it over with friends and family I decided to get over my nerves and just go. It was unlikely I would ever have an opportunity like this again. Just like the film submission, I didn’t want to regret not even trying. My staff was tremendous in helping me get the time off and cover my responsibilities on such short notice. Before I knew it my husband and I had booked our flights and were on our way to LA. I had emailed Amy Ball, the Events Coordinator, and knew the festival would be fairly modest this first year, and I was grateful to know that I would not be walking into a theater with hundreds of other people.

Since we traveled so far I wanted to make sure I supported the entire event. At 10:30, the first film began: A Small Section of the World. I felt that it really did an excellent job of focusing on the role women play in the coffee industry. It was wonderful to learn more about Costa Rica and what the women at ASOMOBI are contributing to the entire coffee culture.

After the first film, Amy Ball introduced the short film winners: Soren Stiller Markussen won the Passion Film, Counter Culture Coffee took the Educational Category and Noel Salinas was chosen for the parody category. Amy explained how an additional category “The Barista Guild Pick” was added due to the overwhelming response for the film festival.

I was extremely nervous to see my film on the big screen. Besides the obvious discomfort of viewing your face enlarged ten times, I was worried our shop would seem quaint and rustic compared with the glamour of LA and California. Instead, as I sat there, I was overcome with pride for the people I work with. When the audience laughed at our squirrel nibbling away on the corn we keep on the fence in our drive through, I relaxed. It didn’t matter whether my shop was in the heart of LA or the heartland of America: it was MY shop, and those kids make me dang proud every day.

The second film of the day was A Film about Coffee which, ironically, I had watched on YouTube two weeks prior and then shown to my entire staff. I love the way this film takes you back to the coffee source and inspires respect and appreciation for every level of its development. During the festival breaks we were treated to several different coffee treats from Klatch Coffee, Lift Coffee Roasters and Portola Coffee Lab. Several other sponsors were present for the festival, as well: milk alternatives from Pacific Barista Series, Chemex, Hario, Wilbur Curtis, and Espresso Parts.

After lunch we watched Aroma of Heaven, which heavily featured the coffee culture in Indonesia and the challenges faced in a market with diverse tastes in production and development. The short films were then shown again and followed up with the film Caffeinated. coffee through the perspectives of people who have dedicated their lives to it.

It was a special treat to have the directors of Caffeinated, Hanh Nguyen and Vishal Solanki, there at the event. After the screening they were asked to come up on stage for a Q&A with the audience. I knew there would be a Q&A with the directors, but being neither a director nor a film maker I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I was asked to participate as well. You can view my full awkwardness in this clip, if you so desire:

 

The final film of the evening was the world premiere of the documentary Barista by Rock Baijnauth.

This film blew me away, and I cannot wait show it to my baristas. My shop is built upon the reputation of Ryan Dennhardt, who was the Midwest Champion 2004 and 2006 as well as a USBC finalist 2004, 2005 and 2006. My staff dream of joining in the competition field again, and I encourage them to view each of their shifts at Barista’s as an opportunity to hone their skill and appreciate the level of dedication it took for their trainer to join the ranks of such a highly esteemed company.

After the film festival everyone was invited to Portola Coffee Lab, which was just down the street from the Frida Theater where the films were screened. Portola holds the distinct reputation of being the 2015 Roaster of the Year and the owners, Jeff and Christa Duggan, put on a wonderful after party.

Their passion for excellence was inspiring, and everyone present had a blast noshing on delicious food and coffee-inspired cocktails. It all culminated in a latte throw down, bringing down both lattes and the house.

_MG_0421It was at the after party that I got to meet Alexandra LittleJohn, the woman responsible for choosing our film as the Barista Guild Pick.

I was really curious why and how our film was chosen. She said she had watched twenty-two films and out of all of them she felt that our film best captured the essence of why, as coffee makers, we are in the industry. (She also loved that our shop was called Barista’s Daily Grind.)

It was, and is, still difficult for me to wrap my head around a little shop in the Midwest getting the kind of attention we got at the Coffee Film Festival. I’m incredibly proud of my shop and my team for all that we’ve achieved, and I’m so glad that I had this opportunity to share it with the rest of the world.

I had an outstanding time at the Coffee Film Festival: the atmosphere, the films, and the opportunity to meet so many people I so highly respect within my field was simply amazing. I’m so glad that I took the chance I did in submitting our video. I would never have known what an awesome event I was missing if I hadn’t. Here’s to World Coffee Events for their stroke of brilliance in getting this started—I hope there are many more incredible Coffee Film Festivals in the future!

BlogDanny Pinnell