Teachable Moments: Alamo Drafthouse, Cinefamily & the Future of Repertory Cinema

So I think its time to have a little conversation about value, worth and intersectionality.

Things are pretty weird right now. I was talking with a girlfriend the other day and both of us have been in the film community for a really long time. Long enough to remember when internet-based film writing/promotion and communities didn’t rule the scene. Imagine that! But internet/no Internet, there has always been misogyny. Always been racism. The homophobia has been lesser to an extent, but…that’s entertainment. It’s still there. We all know that transphobia is awful no matter where you go so…end scene.

gender neutral robot

 

Let’s set the stage. Current events: if you’re a straight white male celebrity who sexually assaults women, you might want to start getting scared. James Woods found this out the hard way when Amber Tamblyn called him out on Twitter last week. She wrote two brilliant pieces on Teen Vogue and the NYT, in response to him calling her a liar after she recounted his ill-fated pick-up attempt when she was just 16. Tig Notaro’s recent season of One Mississippi dedicates 2 episodes to addressing sexual assault, which is a direct shout out to Louis CK. Tig has spoken widely about CK’s refusal to address his problem, as have other female comedians.

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Real talk: this shit has been shoved under the rug in the entertainment world since the casting couch was invented and studio heads invited women in for “lunchtime interviews,” promising them the “role of a lifetime.” But women are finally breaking their silence. Which is great. This should be supported and encouraged, especially by powerful men in the media world. But there’s a big chance it won’t be. Why not? Because making a “bold move” such as that might mean outing their friends or losing their buddies. And that’s scary and uncomfortable.

Dudes, I’m calling you out. It’s time. It’s not brave for you to step forward and join us in talking about what’s actually going on. If anyone tells you you’re “brave” or thanks you, tells you how “amazing” you are for standing up, that’s straight up bullshit. You should have always been doing this. You just finally smelled what The Rock was cooking, ok? No back pats, no OMG YOU’RE SO AWESOME!

Make a decision. Look at what’s going on and be on the right side of history. Because history does not wait and it certainly has no sympathy.

Over the last week, some straight white men in the film community have had a few real HOLY FUCKING SHIT moments. These were all heavily tied into the fact that they have absolutely zero comprehension of what VALUE means or what or who might, in fact, be VALUABLE.

It is important to note that most of the recent conversations being had in the film world have been incredibly white and privileged conversations. We have not stopped for one second to address women/people of color, trans bodies, or any communities that might have felt equally bludgeoned by what has been happening in the repertory theater scene. And by that I mean the recent scandals at the Alamo Drafthouse and the Cinefamily.

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LA Weekly, September 13, 2017

I want to approach this discussion of VALUE on an intersectional level and include every body that has ever felt assaulted by today’s straight white male dominated film culture. It is a structure designed specifically to celebrate all that is white, male, moneyed and heterosexual and oppress all that are not. All marginalized groups-defined as women (women of color especially), people of color, queer folx; trans and non-binary identifying individuals- are considered outsiders from this Primary Group and ostracized. We may try to affiliate ourselves with those in this Clique, but the very nature of its construction denies us entry. We haven’t gotten good seats in the movie theater for quite some time.

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I have been in the world of cinema and media studies for most of my adult life. The world has changed a lot in the last twenty years, and I’ve changed with it. The one thing that has not changed is the way that marginalized groups have been treated. This is absolutely a question of VALUE. We are simply not considered to have worth.

Structures of value and worth are why women are spoken over on newscasts and televised political arenas. It’s the reason so few brown faces are protagonists in feature films, there are currently no Asian superhero movies and why black bodies have rarely been lit correctly on film and television until work like Insecure (creators: Issa Rae & Larry Wilmore, 2016) or Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014).

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Issa and Molly, Insecure, Photo: HBO

The incidents I will be discussing- the sexual assault troubles at LA repertory movie theater Cinefamily and the sexual assault/employment cover-up/what-have-you at the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse- are not ones that I plan to give space to here. Please feel free to Google them at your leisure; there are tons of articles available on both subjects. I will be using them and specific details/ experiences in context that I believe to be important to this piece but I don’t believe that I need to link any articles.

Moving forward then- value has been an issue for hundreds of years in marginalized communities. Consider the following: a body’s worth measured in economics (slavery) or a body’s worth measured in marriage and reproduction (a son is good, the family name/legacy continues, a daughter is bad except for marrying off/childbearing). What about a slave body that can reproduce another slave body (a woman of color)? Think on these things. These evaluations are not done by the bodies themselves but by an outside force; an oppressor. Whether it is White Supremacy or Patriarchal Heteronormativity, dominating another body because of your self-created value structures is just fucked up.

One of the primary topics of this article is sexual assault, an act that involves our physical selves. Our bodies. Our bodies are a big part of our worth. Our bodies are physical containers but they are also reflections of our PERSONAL worth. We value ourselves and we value our bodies. So what do we do when our bodies are violated? Worse than that, what do we do when those whom we value enact violence upon our valuable, worthwhile bodies? Who do we turn to when we are viewed as so invaluable that we cannot even be consulted about intimacy? That’s a fucked up feeling.

This was something many women faced at Cinefamily and have faced for years in the film community. Who would believe that so-and-so did THAT? “He’s so coooool Are you sure you remember right? You weren’t just a little drunk?” Because then he’s off the hook. If you’re drunk, the incident didn’t happen. And if he’s got some kind of high-level rep or if he’s famous then it definitely didn’t happen.

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IndieWire Headline, Aug 22, 2017 11:21 pm

Intimate violence is visited upon our bodies and we can do nothing about it. We are not believed because we have women’s voices. Or queer voices. Or black voices. Or trans voices. While white women like Amber Tamblyn can reveal their stories and talk back to James Woods, do you think anyone would’ve believed a black trans woman who wasn’t famous?

Let’s look at social structures of VALUE. White people don’t value POC. If we did, black bodies wouldn’t be strewn lifeless throughout American streets, while the white bodies that violated them are legally allowed to move on without repercussions. Women/women-identifying folx are not valued. If we were, there would be no such term as “mansplaining.” White women are valued more than Women of Color but that in and of itself makes me cringe. And let’s be honest: trans and non-binary identifying individuals get the worst of it. It’s not just that people don’t value them. People pretend they don’t exist. Value and worth. If society, structured exclusively by White Rich Straight Older Men sees no value in you, you play no part and you are worthless.

Having attended the Cinefamily for a long time, I always noticed that there were many female employees and volunteers. Like an overt amount. I knew a few of them. I also saw a huge turnover rate. I stopped going a few years ago except to certain screenings. I saw brilliant and painfully talented people get treated poorly and that left a bad taste in my mouth.

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Film School Rejects, AUGUST 25, 2017

There were a few men employed there, but for the most part, it was women and not in an “empowering women” way. Looking back, the presence of so many women employees had a display case feel. Which I thought was strange. I chalked it up to Cinefamily being an “extreme hipster” theater but that was definitely not it. Sometimes we tend to compartmentalize when we don’t want to see things that are staring us right in the face. This was one of those things.

To Hadrian (Cinefamily founder), cultivating the look and molding the culture around that theater was part of its cachet. He did a masterful job in many ways. On the other hand, other people who never received the credit did much of the work attributed to him. What is critical here is that he created an environment where the only value system at play was his own. In any other work setting, this would have been seen as abusive. In any other work setting there would’ve been a HR person to assist his employees. But his male-dominated upper management structure (which includes the board) was in charge of the entire feel and social landscape of Cinefamily, from screen to popcorn maker.

So the regular floor employees were intimidated as fuck. The value of the women had been as objects, the men as continuing the promoting of the world/culture that had been created. Sounds a little bit culty. Which has been mentioned before. But I really read this as a lot of fear and sadness and a deterioration of personal worth as you continue to be abused by a workplace situation that you used to adore.

Here’s the even shittier part: this is what the world of repertory theaters and film festivals has been like forever. So the fact that Cinefamily exploded when it did made me roll my eyes a little. I couldn’t help but think: OH FUCK. Here we go. So who’s next? And let me stress right now that I have a lot of love for a lot of people working in the film festival and repertory worlds. My archivist/preservationist world is 100% not without its horror stories. In fact, we are probably due for some explosions too. But we’ll deal with those when they happen.

 

Guerrilla Girls' Pop Quiz 1990 by Guerrilla Girls

 

As for theaters and festivals and their dreadfully loosey goosey culture…These white, straight and male-dominated events and networks have always had Questionable Incidents. In the past, they were sighed at, and “Oh, that’s just so-and-so”-ed at. It really was like Mad Men. Whispers and secret confrontations swept under the rug. It was expected and built in. But when the ladies talk behind closed doors, we’re not fucking happy about it. And we haven’t been happy about it for years.

Did you know that, guys? Or did you think things were ok? Because a lot of you had to know about a lot of the heinous shit that has happened over the last 20 years. Whether I am in academia, the film festival world, entertainment journalism or my current archiving/preservation community, I want some answers. If my girlfriends and I know, if we’ve been frustrated and angry because we couldn’t call someone out because they were Too Big Time, then you guys must know the stories too. You probably know worse stories and have laughed or just rolled your eyes about it. Every time you didn’t warn us or stop those guys or call them out or do something, you let the women in your life and in the film community know that they were not valued.

Friends. WE JUST HAD TWO NUCLEAR MOVIE HOUSE EXPLOSIONS IN LESS THAN TWO MONTHS. Think there’s something rotten in the state of theatrical? Cuz I fuckin’ do.

So let’s update. It’s 2017. Less rep houses, mostly due to the analog/digital changeover. So we’re down a lotta movie houses and up a hellovalot more film festivals. What did that do? Well, it gave us the white, straight male-dominated film culture that focuses on the White Male Film Geek as Lord King God. It is literally White Geek-Bro Supremacy. This is something that has been planted, cultivated and grown over the years, carefully and intentionally. Fed with social media and entertainment journalism, it is so large that it IS VALUE and considered something OF WORTH. Basically, these geeks bring in the bucks. But at what cost?

I’m here to tell you fuck White Geek-Bro Supremacy. There is nothing valuable that can be created by this system. It does not create communities of worth. It gives NOTHING back.  The Cinefamily, Alamo Drafthouse, Fantastic Fest are examples of this dynamic in action and each one of these has either imploded completely or fractured under the weight of its toxic masculinity.

Communities established under this structure do not value women of color who love to read comic books or cosplay because it is joyful. In fact, the communities developed by White Geek-Bro Supremacy do not center joy at all. White Geek-Bro Supremacy centers competition, bullying, and one-upsmanship instead of goodwill, respect and an infectious love for cinema. The cradle of this system is binary viewpoints (best/worst) and list-dependency (top ten most ___). It was heavily nurtured with the idea that some media was indubitably to be valued and some not to be valued, based upon a knowledgeable hierarchy that rose to the top of the message board/chat group communities and eventually published blogs and articles. Incidentally, this is how men ended up dominating authorship of Internet movie sites.

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from Katie Kilkenny’s article, “Why Are So Few Film Critics Female?” in The Atlantic, Dec 27, 2015

White Geek-Bro Supremacy is what was working overtime during the Alamo Drafthouse turmoil this week.

Many thought the mess was about a sexual assault(s) committed by a former writer for an Alamo Drafthouse publication. It was about more than that. It was about a severe lack of transparency, the preferential treatment for a pal and the willingness to risk an entire company’s reputation and national operations on an individual relationship. This speaks of a special kind of blindness: Privilege Blindness. As my friend John Wildman eloquently wrote, a large problem in the Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League’s “crisis management” was that he never stopped to listen to those who should have been listened to.

This is a recurring theme with privilege. Those with White Privilege, Male Privilege, and Heterosexual Privilege have the idea that their privilege affords them earplugs & blinders. The definition of Privilege Blindness is “I will not make the space to listen to you because of xxxx reasons.” Guess what, honey? Not one of those xxxx reasons is valid. Grab a beer. Pop the top. Just get uncomfortable with this.

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When you do not take the time to listen to another person, you are telling them, “You are not valuable. You are not worth anything. You have nothing to tell me of any value. I do not see you as someone who could add value to my life. Your experiences/thoughts/feelings mean nothing to me.” When you do that to someone in a marginalized group, it can be both achingly familiar (we’ve lived our whole lives not being listened to) and possibly life threatening. While the aforementioned former writer for Drafthouse certainly did lousy things, he wrote one good thing on his now-deleted Medium post: “Believe women. Especially when they are talking about you.”

What is it going to take to destroy these systems of oppression? What is it going to take to break down years of abuse? The men and women who have spoken out against the ongoing practices at the Drafthouse are mirror images of those at Cinefamily. They feel ignored, stepped on, devalued and left in the cold. They were not hip enough. Not in the cool kids club. Stories of floor staff at the Drafthouse being treated as “lesser than” because they were not within the upper echelon of the Who’s Who. And I get it: it’s largely impossible in a company that size to have some utopian vision where people are all partying together. But it is possible to have people feel appreciated and like they are part of an institution that is doing something amazing for the cinema community, which is the image that the Drafthouse outwardly projects. Bottom line: the party should never end up being more important than the people who decorated the room for the celebration.

As for Fantastic Fest… Tim League’s gotta be a little sad about that right now. His actions have put him in that funky little zone where moral values have impacted his Financial Value. Fox Searchlight pulled their film from Fantastic Fest. That’s kind of a big deal. While FF usually goes for more unusual fare, it could always use a big studio film for a bump, especially after recently launching new distribution shingle, Neon. Get rid of the testosterone-fueled boxing-matches, limit the VIP-only bashes that create such clear hierarchies and go back to what made the festival unique- its content.

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Boxing match from Fantastic Fest 2014, Photo: Alamo Drafthouse, September 21, 2014

 

So this may have been a lot to get through for many of you. And it may not have made sense or connected to the Cinefamily and Drafthouse situations for some. But please trust me- it all does. Obviously right now I don’t give a shit about TL;DR. Some will read this, others won’t. I’m really pissed off. I hate that it’s taken the devastation of two cinematic institutions and one film festival in order to knock some sense into dudes’ heads and make them remember that women are people too, with feelings and needs and all kinds of INSANE THINGS.

And please know- I never wanted Cinefamily to die. However, in the form that it was in, with that board of directors (some of whom are still very active in the LA rep theater scene), it was impossible. There were amazing people at Cinefamily and amazing people are suffering unemployment now due to its closure. I also do not advocate skipping Fantastic Fest (unless you feel you need to). I think that taking the discussion to the source and holding people accountable is key. But don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

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An interesting ad from an anti-rape campaign in Missoula, MT.

I don’t want to see Drafthouse go down in flames but I would like to see its encouragement of White Geek Bro Supremacy stop. This will take more than a few professional sessions with a “crisis management” team. This will mean letting real people – women, POC, queer folx, trans/non-binary film lovers- talk to you, Tim League. And you need to shut up and listen.

Turn a new page. It’s possible, but it’s going to take work. It’s going to take a lot of listening and a lot of people are going to have to get really uncomfortable. A lot of people are going to have to do some major self-reflection. But as Amber Tamblyn wrote to James Woods, “What you are experiencing is called a teachable moment. It is called a gift.”

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Women and other marginalized groups are done being quiet. We know our value and our worth, even if rich straight white dudes don’t. For many of us, discovering intersectionalism has helped. Working together we can be more powerful than by focusing on just our own separate issues. Many of us have discovered new definitions of value and worth in community organizing. But that also means that structures of white supremacy and patriarchy are in serious danger. We’re only going to get louder and more powerful.

So White Male Geek Squad? Y’all should get your shit together and clean up your act. We’re coming for you. And that’s a promise.

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Giant – Playing at New Beverly!

My new piece on the continued relevance of George Stevens’ GIANT, its fortuitous casting & adaptation. Only on the New Beverly Blog. Check it out!

Near Dark – New Beverly Blog

New post on the New Beverly blog!

An article on the film Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987) and interview with lead actress Jenette Goldstein.

 

Check it:

http://thenewbev.com/blog/2017/04/near-dark/

Ariel’s Print Resource Guide for TCMFF 2017: Moving Pictures

It’s that time again! Time for TCMFF (TCM Classic Film Festival)!!!

Last year I decided to make an official film guides to assist in examining the program and schedule and use that data to do a format breakdown. Using my skills as a film archivist and preservationist, I thought that these things would be useful for fans and attendees to have.

This year I think this is an ESPECIALLY useful tool since we have an all new item to add for our viewing pleasure: 35MM NITRATE!!!

So first of all, let’s get a few rumors settled: nitrate is not OMGZFIRECAUSING and it will not blow up if you simply touch it. The chemicals that are released when the film begins to deteriorate (called “off-gassing”) can lead to some nasty toxicity though and the more you pack nitrate in…the more likely you are to cause a fire. Nitrate doesn’t like close quarters and it doesn’t like to to be under pressure. Think of Nitrate as the hippie film base- it just wants to chill, man. But if it gets a bad dose (ie, starts to deteriorate) or is put under bad pressure/circumstances, it could really blow.

BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A 35MM NITRATE PRINT??????????

Don’t miss the chance to do it this year.

Seriously, guys.

PART I: PREPARATION & PLANNING

Listed below, in the alphabetized spreadsheet, is all the films that are playing as of Friday, March 31, 2017. The spreadsheet moves down and also moves to the right and includes notes, theaters, times, formats and all kinds of details!!

If you want to download the spreadsheet and organize it according to your own wants (format, notes, theater, day/time, etc.) that link is here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BZuaCal1g9zZu0GYSdGScDKBWjB8uDpIuffrWImC6Q0/edit?usp=sharing

PART II: DATA BREAKDOWN

This (obviously) is the way that the formats broke down this year. The wonderful thing to notice is that we still have a thick chunk of rare kinds of films to see, including different kinds of formats. While there is no 16mm or 8mm (except digitized in the Hollywood Home Movies program which usually occurs on Saturday afternoon in Club TCM), the Cinerama and 35mm nitrate is pretty nifty stuff. We’re pretty spoiled on basic technicals.

Format Chart TCMFF 2017

TCMFF 2017

Last year’s stats looked like this:

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TCMFF 2016

So I think we’re doing pretty well for 2017!!! Analogue has gotten a more diverse face this year, which is definitely a plus. That is, of course, thanks to the Egyptian Theater/American Cinematheque for taking that risk and refitting their projection booth with all the necessary items for the projection of nitrate. Not every theater is able to project nitrate. We’re exceptionally blessed that they were able to do that in time to work with wonderful people like the UCLA Film and Television Archive and access prints from their MASSIVE nitrate collection.

I can personally assure all of you that UCLA FTVA’s nitrate collection is brilliant. I helped move their archive from where it used to be in Westwood and Hollywood to where it resides now, in a glorious archival palace in Santa Clarita. Their collection is beyond compare.

PART III: WHATCHA SEEIN’?

So I have some definite “MUST SEES” this year:

One of my favorite films of all time and a film that I wrote about for the National Film Registry/Library of Congress, Born Yesterday.

A film I’ve seen a gazillion times but it’s also one of my FAVORITE FILM IN THE UNIVERSE EVERZ, The Court Jester.

Last year I saw Larry Peerce’s One Potato, Two Potato at TCMFF and it was a revelation. This year I plan on seeing The Incident, come hell or high water.

I missed the screenings & talks for the restoration of The Front Page this year. But I won’t miss it at TCMFF!!! Especially with one of my favorite professors and awesome people from archiving school giving the intro!

There are plennnnnttttyyyyyy more that I’m thinking about & considering but that’s all I’m committing to on blog right now.

See ya at the movies!

Anarchy in the TV: 2016 Discoveries in UK TV

I’ve given up on a great deal of media work in the US. It just doesn’t do it for me anymore. The representation of women is awful, discussions on culture, ethnicity and class are disappointing, and my crime shows are just not satisfactory.

So, I’ve turned to the English. They have an insane amount of content that not only centers women & POC as dynamic and powerful players but also examines class and subcultural topics.

For a punk rock intersectional feminist like myself, it’s good media food.

Also, they just hit it so much better with crime/detective things (or at least they have in the past) and I’m getting to discover a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know about before. So, although I am picky, if it’s British, I’ll usually give it a shot over any US TV program.

I can’t say that all of these are easy to find. Sometimes you have to work at it. But they are ALL worth it.

Here are my pix for this year.

1) HAPPY VALLEY (2014-

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Available on Netflix.

While I LOVE Olivia Benson & Law & OrderHappy Valley is all that and then some. If the first 10 minutes don’t grab you, I don’t know what will.

2) SCOTT & BAILEY (2011-

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Available on Amazon.

Another show by Sally Wainwright. Best cop team ever. Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are insanely great actresses.

3) OUR FRIENDS IN THE NORTH (1996)

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Mark Strong. Christopher Eccleston. Daniel Craig. Malcolm McDowell. Gina McKee.

After I watched this, I was stunned. I wished there was more than 6 eps. But…no. There’s a cadre of reasons that it won a bunch of BAFTAs. Tells the story of a bunch of friends in the north of England from the 1960s to the 1990s. Brutally good.

4) THIS IS ENGLAND (2010, 2011, 2015)

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If you haven’t seen the movie This is England (Shane Meadows, 2006) you should. This show is a continuation of those characters and it’s ABSOLUTELY GREAT. If you have (or have had) any history in the punk rock or ska scene, it’s a must. But even if you haven’t, the writing is great, the characters are unusual and well-formed, and, like Our Friends in the North, it does an amazing job of covering long periods of time in people’s relationships.

5) PRIME SUSPECT (1991-2006)prime-suspect

Available on Hulu

Helen Mirren is the best DCI that I have come across. Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Sharp & Suranne Jones are amazing in their own ways, but Helen was first. This show is so great at discussing feminist issues in the workplace AND being a top notch crime show that it’s bonkers.

A-“GOG” at #TCMFF 2016: Talking 3D & Restoration With Bob Furmanek

We’re heading into the final stretch, guys and gals. So many plans and schedules have already been posted (mine is forthcoming, I swear)! The slow trickle of #TCMFF pals into my Hollywood hometown and everyone’s excitement is (as usual) giving me such joy. I’m just giddy with Classic Film Craziness!

So aside from the Print Resource Guide that I posted a few days back, I have something else very special to add to my “preservation and restoration stream.” As one of the TCMFF Social Producers, my focus is to increase knowledge about preservation, restoration & film archiving through social media platforms. As a working archivist, I wish to showcase why I truly believe that TCMFF is one of the strongest film festival venues dedicated to these critical procedures.

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One of my favorite parts from TCMFF 2015 – an entire booth dedicated to cinephilia and why we, as film lovers, “heart movies”! So great!

For this blog, I got a wonderful and in-depth pre-TCMFF interview from the knowledgeable Bob Furmanek of the 3D Film Archive about the restoration of GOG (Herbert L. Strock, 1954), which will be playing as the midnight show on Saturday night, April 30th at the festival! Bob will be there in person with his restoration colleague Greg Kintz, so that will be extra cool!!

Hope all of you enjoy this interview and perhaps learn a bit more about 3D preservation!gog3dposter1

 

1) Can you give a short history on your relationship to this film and why it’s such a unique opportunity for TCMFF fans to be seeing it this year?

When I was living in Los Angeles and working for Jerry Lewis in the mid-1980’s, I spent a lot of time doing work in the old Technicolor building in Hollywood. Director Herbert L. Strock was still active at the time and maintained an office on the first floor. I used to visit with him quite often and naturally, we discussed GOG. At that time, it was lost in 3-D (the studio only had material on the right side) and he lamented the fact that nobody would ever see it again.  For that reason, I made it a top priority to try to find the missing left side.
 
I eventually discovered the lost 35mm left side print in 2001 and carefully matched it to a new 35mm right side print from MGM. We screened the dual-35mm polarized 3-D prints in 2003 at the World 3-D Film Expo at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Mr. Strock got to see it again with a sold-out audience of 700 fans and it was a wonderful moment. Sadly, he passed away in 2005.
 
We spent five tedious months restoring the film last year for 3-D Blu-ray release through Kino-Lorber. Our new digital master has extensive color restoration and shot by shot 3-D alignment and left/right panel-matching. As a result, the audience at TCMFF will be seeing GOG in a better presentation than was technically possible in 1954. Mr. Strock would have loved it!
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TRULY exquisite examples of the restored L/R eye work can be found by clicking on this picture. It will take you to the AMAZING “before & afters”!

2) You head up the 3D Archive. Why is it important to have a 3D Archive? Isn’t 3D still coming out?

Nearly every 3-D feature from the first forty years of stereoscopic cinema (1922 – 1962) was photographed and printed on dual-strips of 35mm film with one print representing the left side and the other representing the right. They were projected theatrically on two 35mm machines in precise synchronization. Polaroid filters in each projection port – and the corresponding polarized glasses worn by the audience – insured that each eye only saw the intended side in order to create a 3-D image. If either the left or right elements are missing, you have lost the film in 3-D. Since the early 1980’s, the Archive has worked very hard to ensure that most of them survive.
 
There were fifty Golden Age (1952-1955) domestic 3-D features and thankfully, forty-eight survive in their complete stereoscopic versions. The only lost 3-D features from that period are TOP BANANA with Phil Silvers and one half of SOUTHWEST PASSAGE with Rod Cameron.
A lobbycard for Southwest Passage (Ray Nazarro, 1954) a lost 3-D film...

A lobby card for Southwest Passage (Ray Nazarro, 1954) a partially lost 3-D film…

 
We are doing our very best to get as many released onto 3-D Blu-ray as possible so that people can see these films as they were originally intended. It’s been quite an obstacle and uphill battle securing licenses from the copyright holders but we don’t give up easily.

3) What is the most difficult thing about restoring a 3D film? What was the most difficult part of restoring GOG?

Right out of the gate, the workload is doubled and that presents many challenges with respect to time and financial resources. You basically have to restore the film twice. The most challenging aspect is ensuring that both left/right sides are perfectly aligned and panel-matched in order to present the best possible viewing experience. That means going through the film and making adjustments on every single shot. It’s very time-consuming and labor intensive but it’s absolutely crucial that both the left and right sides are matched.
 
On the average, we can restore a 3-D feature in three months: GOG took five. It was an enormous challenge because the left side was completely faded with no yellow or cyan information whatsoever. In addition, every single shot in the film required up to seven levels of correction including color restoration, left/right panel matching, flicker reduction, image stabilization, detail extraction from the superior right side element, stereoscopic vertical alignment and dirt/damage clean-up. Greg Kintz has literally worked a restoration miracle in bringing this 3-D gem back to life.

4) GOG is a Eastman color film, a stock that is known to fade if not cared for correctly. Can you talk a little bit about the process of the color restoration and why color restoration and 3D film preservation might be especially challenging (if it is)?

 

GOG had a rather complicated history so far as lab work and processing. It was filmed on Eastman color negative 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and processed by the Color Corporation of America laboratory – formerly SuperCinecolor/Cinecolor – in Burbank. By time it was edited and ready for theatrical release in May 1954, the lab was in financial trouble and had been sold to Benjamin Smith and Associates, owners of the Houston Fearless Corp. As a result, the 35mm release prints of GOG were made by Pathé Laboratories in Hollywood. While some early Eastman color negative stock holds up pretty well if it has been stored properly, the 1954 Pathé color release prints were already faded within a few years after it was released.
 
Thankfully, the right side element used in the restoration (a 35mm inter-positive struck from the original camera negative) still had quite a bit of color. With a little finesse, we were able to tweak it digitally to bring back its original palette. The biggest challenge was then matching the faded left side with the right.

5) Without any spoilers, can you give us a scene to look for that was *especially* challenging in the process but your team thinks came out particularly well?

To be honest, there wasn’t one particular scene that was more difficult than others. The entire film was an incredible challenge! When Greg Kintz was doing his work and sending me 3-D Blu-ray test discs, I was constantly amazed at the restoration and how the image kept improving with each new level of correction. Additional dirt and damage clean-up was then done by Thad Komorowski and that helped immensely.
 
To give you an idea of what we achieved on a shoestring budget, Warner Bros. spent close to $300K restoring HOUSE OF WAX. We brought in the 3-D and color restoration of GOG for $10K.
 
After suffering through flat, black and white 16mm open-matte full-frame transfers on TV for decades, I never expected GOG to look as good as it does today. We’re very proud of the final result in bringing this lost 3-D classic back to life.

6) What are you particularly looking forward to seeing at the TCMFF?

Boy, that’s a tough question. The entire schedule is wonderful and there are many cinematic treasures to be enjoyed.
 
For me personally, the new restoration from the 35mm nitrate camera negative of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (Roy William Neill, 1943) is going to be quite a treat. That’s been a favorite of mine since I was a young Monster Kid in the 1960’s and watched New York TV’s Chiller Theater on Saturday nights. I even had the three-minute Castle Films 8mm fifty-foot home movie edition. It’s going to be great fun seeing it fully restored on the big screen!

Thanks again so much, Bob!!! Can’t wait for this screening!

It’s been a pleasure Ariel, thank you!

 

Ariel’s Print Resource Guide for TCMFF 2016: Moving Pictures

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I’m ready. BOY AM I READY.

I have been since last year when TCMFF2015 ended. I live for this film festival. My experience has shown me that TCMFF is one of the most organized and best staffed film festivals that I have ever attended and the content is truly the most dynamic and rare. For a film archivist and preservationist to say this is no small feat.

The films are sometimes familiar, many times obscure, always challenging and enjoyable. The festival welcomes audience members from all over the world and gives them access to films that they would not normally be able to see, especially not in the environment that they were designed to be seen in: a theatrical setting. This annually growing community of passionate film-goers and classic film fans that TCM has created is what I have termed “Classic Film Summer Camp.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time waiting in line for a film as I have at TCMFF. I’ve met people from everywhere and learned about so many different lives, experiences and classic film star fandoms. Y’all can have Christmas- this is MY most wonderful time of the year!EarthaKittenTCMFF

For the second year in a row I have been asked to be a member of the wonderful TCMFF Social Producers’ Team. As Social Producers, we are a group of fabulous and intelligent classic film advocates and cineastes working with the TCMFF social media team to advance the goals of the festival and make it more enjoyable for everyone involved! Each of us has our own “theme” or line of “promotion” and we can be found under the hashtags #TCMFF and #TCMFFSP. Whether or not you are in attendance, you want to follow these hashtags! These folks are some heavy hitters!

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So my theme this year? Well, nothing’s changed. Leopard and spots and all. I’ll be Tweeting, Tumblring, Instagramming on my most beloved subjects: film archiving, preservation and restoration.

So, for my first intro post, I have created a resource for everyone who may be currently planning their TCMFF schedules. I designed a spreadsheet that has cataloged the 35mm prints, DCPs, noted the restoration and preservations, and did my best to signify notes on World Premiere or North American Premiere, etc.

OF NOTE: the TCMFF schedule, while extremely reliable, is always subject to change. As a preservationist, projectionist and film series programmer myself, I can tell you that there are innumerable variables that can cause variations in guests, film format or program itself. This is just your garden variety disclaimer, folks,  but it has to be said. You know it does. And since you’re reading this blog, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but it’s a necessary statement. Additionally, if I have not written it here, that does not mean it is NOT a premiere/restoration/etc. I have based this upon as much information as I could get. If there is something in need of correction, please contact me immediately! I would be pleased as punch to change it!

So let’s get down to business, shall we?

PART I: RESOURCES & PLANNING

So. Now that the disclaimers have been said, here is your 2016 TCMFF Format & Preservation Resource guide. Get to scheduling!

It’s alphabetical, and if anyone has any questions or problems reading it (or understanding the manner in which it has been broken down) please let me know. I will actively pay attention to any and all comments  as they come in, and will be ABSOLUTELY ready to alter something if needs be.

If you would rather have it in a link form rather than embedded, go here.

It is critical for attendees to have this kind of format map. It may have taken some time to put together, but I know how important this resource is. Being able to access a full report of what has been restored, what has been preserved, what has been digitally reconstructed and how to identify each of these pieces in order to put together the fabulous puzzle that will eventually be your TCMFF experience is just invaluable.

Before moving into Part II, I briefly mention a remark about formats and preservation. Please consider the curatorial dedication and labor that has gone into the maintenance of all the films that you will watch this festival season, no matter what format they are in. Whatever your sensibilities or thoughts about format (analogue/digital, etc), every person with whom I have personally come into contact in my archival career who is involved in classic film preservation takes their job very seriously. Whether moving towards the creation of a Digital Cinema Package or striking a new 35mm print, my classic film archival colleagues work really hard to make sure that these materials see another generation and that another generation sees them. So let us be certain that if we downplay a digital format in favor of analogue, we do not forget that the digitization and digital work had to have an incredible amount of analogue preparation work done to it first. There are no classic films that were “born digitally” and thus you cannot have digital without analogue attention. Let us not forget that aspect of the workflow.

PART II: DATA BREAKDOWN

I compiled some data based upon what we have this year, print-wise. So if you want to get nerdy with me, here’s what we have…

From a preservation standpoint, I noted that the vast amount of 35mm was made up of rare works and, quite simply, the films that rarely make it out of the vaults. These films are the very reason that I continually attend TCMFF, religiously watch the channel until stupid o’clock in the morning (just…one…more…movie….), and truly appreciate educated colleagues like Will McKinley‘s continued updates on TCM as we move forward into various streaming and cable variations.

These are the films that caused me to become a preservationist. But we can get back to that.

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The analytics – 33% of the films appearing at TCMFF this year will be shown in 35mm. These are films like One Potato, Two Potato (Larry Peerce, 1964) a film about interracial marriage that came out BEFORE the more socially palatable Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Stanley Kramer, 1967). Or a bewilderingly unheard-of feature like Double Harness (John Cromwell, 1933), a pre-code film that has been, quite literally, sitting in a vault until TCM bought the rights to it in 2006. These films catalyzed my film archival career and have subsequently reignited my film passion every year at the TCMFF. They are the “lost” or “forgotten” children of classic cinema.

While it’s beyond incredible to watch an old favorite on the big screen with a crowd, I would highly recommend that folks try to make it to at least ONE “rare pick” at TCMFF. Try the Film Noir Foundation/UCLA Film & Television Archive Restoration of Repeat Performance (Alfred L. Werker, 1947) or the rarely screened Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (Roy Del Ruth, 1934). This is your opportunity!

So here are my “5 Points to Consider When Making Your TCMFF Schedule and Beyond.”

  1. Restoration costs a GREAT deal of money. A LOT. Many grants, volunteer labor and insane hard work is involved just to get to the point of being able to approach the physical restoration. This relates to 35mm *and* DCP. Love your restoration folks and the restorations!

  2. Lesser known films are riskier and have less potential for “return investment” in many people’s eyes. When you get the opportunity to investigate rare works at TCMFF or at a home repertory theater, you can be part of a new kind of “return investment.”

  3. Supporting restorations & preservations (in 35mm *and* DCP) and making your voice heard through social media & online makes a difference. Boutique labels do exist for DVD/Blu distribution and we do have wonderful companies like Warner Archives, Flicker Alley and others who make it a mission to serve our community.

  4. TCM (and TCMFF) serves the classic film community in a positive way by their continual & consistent showcasing of “forgotten films” or unusual materials — there is the possibility that, with more exposure, viewing more rarities on 35mm may lead to more preservation and restoration!

  5. TCM also showcases incredible panels like the Academy Home Movies presentation (something that I will be livetweeting for the second year in a row) with the wonderful Lynne Kirste and Randy Haberkamp. What was previously a closed circuit of “35mm features” is now open to different formats and narratives (Super8, 8mm, 16mm – all transferred of course, but that IS what we get to see). If you have not attended this panel, DO IT. It is one of my favorite parts of TCMFF every year.

PART III: SAY HELLO!!! I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU! 🙂 

When you see me walking around during #TCMFF, I will have my badge on and it will look like this:

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Look for the blue and burgundy 16mm reels and the red circled SP on the badge.

My social media platforms that you can follow are…

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/archivistariel

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ArchivistAriel

TUMBLR: http://archivistariel.tumblr.com

And once again, check out the hashtags this year – #TCMFF, #TCMFFSP and follow @tcm on Twitter!

I will be returning with another post soon letting you know what my schedule will possibly be so that you can stalk…er…find me during TCMFF if you wish. But for now, enjoy!

 

See you at the festival! ❤

 

ArielSchudsonTCMFFSocial