EVERETT — Filmmaker Daniel A. Cardenas was inspired by an assignment in Yakima Valley to film a documentary about hop farmers.
Cardenas, 63, is the creative director and founder of Bakerbuilt Works, an Everett video production company. After 30 years of filming advertising and marketing videos, Cardenas decided to make a film that was longer than seven minutes.
“We’re creative storytellers,” he said. “I’ve always liked that aspect of my job — interviewing people and having them talk about their passions.”
His foray into feature films has proven to be award-winning. The new documentary, “Hopped Up: How Yakima Valley Changed Craft Beer Forever,” was named Best Feature Documentary in this year’s Ellensburg Film Festival.
“I really liked it; I’m a big fan of documentaries,” said Keith Alholm, director of the Ellensburg Film Festival. “I’m also a big fan of beer, but I really didn’t know much about what went into it. I learned a lot about the industry, which supports most of the Yakima Valley.”
Now in its 16th year, the Ellensburg Film Festival has a total of 32 films available to stream through June 30. You can purchase a festival pass or pay to stream just the “Hopped Up” documentary. Once you hit play, you will have 72 hours to finish watching the film(s).
There were a record 256 films submitted into the Ellensburg contest this year — but only those that scored well with judges were eligible for festival awards. The other feature films screening in the festival are “Bone Cage,” “Connect/Disconnect,” “Electric Jesus,” “Maxie” and “Browntown!”
Seven feature-length documentaries were entered into this year’s contest, but only ”Hopped Up” was selected for screening.
Cardenas got the idea for the “Hopped Up” documentary five years ago when he was hired to interview hop breeders in the Yakima Valley. When he learned that growing hops was a family operation that was oftentimes generations in the making, he wanted to tell that story.
“I went out there and thought, ‘Man, this is really interesting,’” he said. “There are five generations of people here that work really hard to grow crops. It’s really popular with the craft beer community. This is a story that had to be told.”
One of the five featured farms in the film is Carpenter Ranches in the Ahtanum area, southwest of Yakima. The Carpenter family has been growing hops in the Yakima Valley since 1868. Six generations later, the family-owned operation is breeding many of the Yakima Chief Ranches and Hop Breeding Co. hop brands.
He couldn’t find a backer for the film, so Cardenas set out to produce it himself with the help of his Bakerbuilt Works team.
“I get into the whole craft beer movement,” he said of the documentary. “They want to know where the hop came from, who is the farm, how did it breed it, how was it harvested? I was fascinated with what drives the craft brewers.
“Every season, craft brewers descend upon Yakima Valley. They go out to the farms to meet the farmers.”
Tony Capelli, of Lake Stevens, who has worked for Bakerbuilt Works for four years, was the editor and helped write the screenplay for the film. Capelli graduated from Academy of Art University in San Francisco with a bachelor’s degree in motion-picture television.
He has credits on more than 250 TV shows. Among them are the History Channel’s “Man, Moment, Machine” and HGTV’s “Color Splash,” “Real Estate Intervention,” “Design on a Dime” and “Flip It to Win It.”
The Bakerbuilt Works team worked on “Hopped Up” in their spare time. When COVID-19 hit, they had lots of extra time to finish producing the film.
“There were five years of shooting — just a jumble of interviews and footage — that I’m not sure if the pandemic didn’t happen that it could have been finished the way it was,” Capelli said. “I probably edited it for five to six months at home, because there really wasn’t much to work on beyond that. It gave me a chance to concentrate on it daily.”
Cardenas has loved film since playing around with a Super 8 camera when he was 12. After trying out acting, Cardenas figured out he enjoyed working behind the camera better.
He studied filmmaking at California State University, Long Beach, University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California. He has a bachelor’s degree in radio and television film production from Cal State Long Beach.
Cardenas worked in television for five years in Southern California. After moving to Everett, he founded Bakerbuilt Works in 1988.
His company has made commercials for Everett-based Fluke, Compass Thermal Imaging, Providence General Foundation, Intermec Technologies, Access Laser Co. and Kimberly-Clark. Bakerbuilt has also worked for or is working for Microsoft and Intel.
“Hopped Up,” which has a 94-minute running time, was entered into several international film festivals. In addition to streaming via the Ellensburg Film Festival, a screening of the film is schedule for Sept. 30 at the Mighty Tieton Warehouse, which is about 20 minutes away from the featured hop fields.
Cardenas might try to get “Hopped Up” to show at the Historic Everett Theatre, too.
What’s next for Cardenas? He’s brainstorming more ideas for Washington-based documentaries.
“I want to turn Bakerbuilt into my film production company,” he said. “We’re actually starting on working on other films. My goal is to make three to four more documentaries in the next five years.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarabruestle.
If you stream
Watch the award-winning documentary “Hopped Up: How Yakima Valley Changed Craft Beer Forever” by Everett filmmaker Daniel A. Cardenas via the Ellensburg Film Festival through June 30. Watch all 32 films for the 16th Ellensburg Film Festival or just “Hopped Up” — it’s up to you! Once you hit play, you will have 72 hours to finish watching the film(s). Festival passes are $25-$35. Or stream just the documentary for $6.99. Go to www.ellensburgfilmfestival.com for more information.