Hartford-based filmmaker Pedro Bermudez is founder of Revisionist Films and co-founder of Small State Great Beer. During Hispanic Heritage Month, he spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about creating opportunities in Hartford and where he sees the future of the city.
NAN PRICE: In what ways has Hartford become a part of you?
PEDRO BERMUDEZ: My involvement in the Hartford community is long-running. I grew up in Hartford and my entire family lives in the city of Hartford. It’s a place that has shaped me and molded my thinking, and it’s where some of the most important relationships of my life had been formed.
NAN: You moved away for a time and deliberately returned to Hartford.
PEDRO: Right. After studying filmmaking in Los Angeles, I did some traveling and lived in other places including Portland, OR. When I came back to Hartford about seven years ago, I wanted to make sure I was still working in an area I was passionate about and looking at the landscape. Also, there weren’t many places to do filmmaking at a very high level. I realized I had to make those things happen and create those opportunities for myself.
NAN: How did you go about creating those opportunities?
PEDRO: I began staging different types of events for filmmakers in the area. I worked on community-driven filmmaking projects wherever and whenever I could. One of the first things I did was a project along the riverfront that was influenced and inspired by the sculpture walk. Kristina Newman Scott, who was leading the Marketing, Events & Cultural Affairs (MECA) office at The City of Hartford, was incredibly supportive of my early community film screenings.
NAN: Let’s talk about Small State Great Beer. How did that idea come about?
PEDRO: I had been collaborating with my business partner John Michael Mason and my wife, Rory Gale, who co-owns Hartford Prints! to film a series of high-end commercials. We were thinking about other types of projects within the community. Hartford Prints! carried pint glasses with the Small State Great Beer wording, which they were selling to local bars and breweries, so the brand was becoming well-known. One day we said to each other: Why don’t we combine beer and music and create a festival?
We had that initial conversation five years ago. The fourth Small State Great Beer festival took place this September. It was the biggest and the most successful in terms of attendance and the number of vendors we had on plaza.
Now we’re looking at the potential for Small State Great Beer to become more of a production itself. We’re excited to continue building the scope, size, and scale of the festival and considering doing it over the course of several days instead of just one day.
If you’re interested in doing anything in Hartford in terms of development or growing the capabilities and capacity of the city, I would suggest tapping into something here that’s already organically growing. That’s certainly what we did with the beer festival. It was already something people were excited about. Beer is a culture on its own. We just took the best aspects about that culture and amplified them. I think that’s a recipe that’s sustainable and repeatable—and it’s a human-centered design. It revolves around taking what people are already passionate about and finding ways to build upon that.
NAN: You’re already telling the story of Hartford through video and creating opportunities and events.
PEDRO: Yes, and I think you have to do it in very authentic and truthful ways. Once you can tell the story of Hartford from the most honest vantage point, that builds trust, then you can add dynamism and try to make the message as compelling as possible. But any message you want to communicate to a lot of people and have them buy into must begin with authenticity.
To tell the Hartford story, it’s a matter of telling the story of many different communities. Our diversity is what makes us great. And you have to find interesting and compelling ways to get that message out.
NAN: Where you see the future of Hartford?
PEDRO: I hope it continues to build and to grow, but in a way that it remains connected to the people who live in the city. If we could figure out how to celebrate and activate the wealth of cultures, communities, and people we have in the city and create plans for development in the city that were entirely human-centered, we’d be in a much better place. It’s a challenge, but I’m optimistic.