The Brilliance of Filmless

I’m fresh from the Third Coast Filmless Festival and feeling great. This tiny, vibrant gem of a festival is a weekend of calm in a storm of media distraction, and an inspiration to both producers and listeners.


Filmless is the Third Coast International Audio Festival’s answer to film festivals. There are “screenings” and “reels” – just no films. Instead, everyone sits in the dark, listening to audio pieces, from personal stories to documentaries to fictional drama. We laughed together, we laughed out of sync, and I know for at least one piece, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Roman Mars
Roman Mars talks podcasting.

You can view the entire program on the Filmless site, and look for the pieces on PRX, SoundCloud, and the producers’ own sites.

In addition to screenings, there were workshops. Our very own PRX Remix program director Roman Mars led a Podcasting session that, as a sign of our times, focused nearly as much on the fundraising needed to sustain the craft as on the craft itself. Meanwhile, volunteers at Lea Thau’s Storytelling session got a taste of The Moth’s brand of name-pulled-from-a-hat spontaneous storytelling.

Some of the questions explored over the course of the weekend:

  • In a nonfiction piece involving a horse from the 1830s, before recorded sound, is it ethical to include audio of a horse living now?
  • How much do you coach an interviewee to draw out the story you know they have inside?
  • Can you rearrange tape, sometimes phrase by phrase, even word by word, if you are keeping the meaning intact?
  • Is it cool to make a Cecil B. DeMille joke even if not everyone will get it?
  • How many podcast episodes do you have to make before you don’t cringe when someone compliments you?
Julie Shapiro
Julie Shapiro samples culinary art

Saturday night, the Short Docs Feast did something bold, risky, and awesome: Local chefs were invited to make dishes inspired by the winning audio works. Each chef served their dish to the producer, on stage, while describing their creative process. I now know how blackbird pie works. It’s a little shocking, but in a surprisingly appetizing way.

The event culminated with the Third Coast awards ceremony, emcee’d by Snap Judgment’s Glynn Washington. Winners walked away with funky trophies and a sense of recognition for their work.

Filmless showcases the state of the art, and it sounds wonderful. It inspires me and my colleagues as we work hard to get good audio out into the world and support the producers who make it.

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