Our fundraising campaign has launched! The last few days have given me a taste of what it feels like to stand in the back of the movie theater while your movie screens for the first time in front of a public audience. By launching this Seed & Spark fundraiser, I am asking people to believe in me enough to fork over hard-earned dollars. I haven’t done this since 5th grade when I went door to door selling candy bars. I remember my Dad saying so clearly, “What’s your pitch? You gotta have a pitch.” For candy bars, Daddy? Really?
My pitch involves several tenets. First and foremost, the importance of independent cinema. A few years ago, an iconic movie theater was bulldozed in my hometown (technically, a block outside my hometown). The 95-foot domed theater had a giant 100-foot screen and over 900 rocking seats. There was an ice cream parlor next door as well as a dive bar called “The Loaded Hog.” I’ve always imagined my character Alex hangs out at that bar. Over the years, as the film industry became more and more corporate, the Dome became more and more “indie.”
I remember waiting in a long line with my brothers and cousins to see Jurassic Park. It was the first time we were all allowed to go to the movies without our parents, and Jeff was so scared he left the theater and called home. To this day, he claims it was “too loud.”
I remember going on my first date to see some sappy mid-90s Meg Ryan rom-com (sorry, James). Or rather, I remember sitting outside, awkwardly holding hands, waiting for his mom to pick us up (thanks, James’ mom).
I remember being home from college on Christmas break and going with all my old friends to watch The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The projectionist must have been smoking the same thing we were because in the middle of the movie, the film just burned up. It was like one of those digital “peel” effects starting in the center and quickly singeing outwards.
And finally, in the year before it was destroyed, I remember watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master on 70mm film. Mr. Anderson is one of today’s great filmmaking masters, and I would not have had the opportunity to see that film the way he intended it – on 70mm instead of 35mm – at any other cinema in the county.
Back in the day, there was an evangelical church that rented out the Dome on Sunday mornings to hold their massive revival-style services, which I recall attending one time with my aunt. Looking back, this feels like a fitting foreshadow. The Cinema is now my Church, the place where I suspend disbelief and journey to other worlds.
The Dome was the only place to see independent films where I grew up, and it was demolished two years ago to make way for a Dick’s Sporting Goods. There were protests and City Council meetings. I was in NY at the time, and cousin Jaime sent me a commemorative tee-shirt. It was all so very disheartening, but I was consoled to see that there was still a community of people who cared enough to go out and protest.
I’ve thought a lot about those protesters the past few years. The corporate chain theaters in my county show the same mediocre paint-by-numbers movies that are screened all over the country and dubbed all over the world. You know them well: action trilogies that look better in 3D, animation franchises that sell toys and lunchboxes, inane comedies with all the best punch lines assembled in the trailers. Steven Soderbergh described the situation very well in his keynote speech at the San Francisco International Film Festival a few years ago:
“Well, how does a studio decide what movies get made? One thing they take into consideration is the foreign market, obviously. It’s become very big. So that means, you know, things that travel best are going to be action-adventure, science fiction, fantasy, spectacle, some animation thrown in there. Obviously the bigger the budget, the more people this thing is going to have to appeal to—the more homogenized it’s got to be, the more simplified it’s got to be. So things like cultural specificity and narrative complexity, and, god forbid, ambiguity, those become real obstacles to the success of the film here and abroad.”
That is what we are up against. That is why what we are trying to do is important to the survival of cinema. If we don’t support the complexity and specificity and ambiguity inherent in independent filmmaking, we will be left with movies manufactured in corporate boardrooms. Theaters like the Dome will not survive.
If you have some nostalgic memory of going to the movies and crying, or laughing until you cried, or scratching your head for days afterwards…consider supporting our effort to defeat the corporate movie industry and make a small but incredibly memorable film. Maybe we’ll hold a screening in the parking lot of Dick’s Sporting Goods.