Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lost highway

Pulling in to the Capri Theatre in Montgomery was a moment you dream about--the film's name up on a real marquee! I am taking lots of photos for Don Henderson Baker, the co-director and the writer of "Willow Garden." A brilliant (though thoroughly twisted) man.

What does it take to keep a single screen "art house" theater alive these days? I think the first thing you need someone like Martin McCaffery, the Director of the Capri, at the helm. Martin's 22 years at the theater have been fraught with perils for movie houses in general, yet Montgomery has rallied around the theater and it has found and remained on solid financial ground (though I'm sure Martin could use another "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to bank a year's worth of receipts in 6 weeks again).

Traveling on the circuit has really brought home the fact that there are people who will go to extraordinary lengths to support low budget independent filmmaking. The fact that people will take a risk and come to see movies by people they've never heard of, about all kinds of strange subject matter, is astounding. Getting to talk to people after the show is probably the best part of the tour. In Beaufort, Orangeburg, and last night in Montgomery, folks stayed after to talk about the films and what connections they made with them. What a luxury that is for a small filmmaker, and what a shot in the arm.

The audiences for this kind of work aren't huge, of course. For one thing, there aren't that many towns that have a venue that will support something like this. The tour has really shown me how important a community-based theater or college venue or arts council is--somebody has to be willing to try and present this kind of thing. Martin cracks a lot of jokes about how insane it is to try and run an indie theater, and of course he's right--nobody ever gets rich doing it, and never will. It's depressing when six people in a city of 200,000 show up for the latest Gus Van Sant film. And then you think that if the Capri wasn't around, would those six even have had a chance to see it at all?

I keep coming back to the notion that somebody has to be willing to take a chance. Small, local theaters are one of the things that really give a community a unique identity. They're a total pain in the ass to run, program, raise money for, keep alive. The trade-off has to be that the experience of seeing a film there is so totally different that it makes the intense hardship worth it.

I guess it's like going to a local restaurant versus McDonald's. I definitely get the hankerin' for a greasy Mickey D cheeseburger, but then I also want to eat something that isn't made of plastic. The multiplex will always be good to see "Iron Man," and hopefully there will be something like the Capri around to give folks something to really chew on.

I have been tossing around the idea of trying to start a microcinema back home in Durham. This tour might be the thing that pushes me over the edge (of insanity, Martin might say).

Fun fact of the day:
Martin worked briefly for Roger Corman, and revealed the secret for creating a realistic sound effect for a drill going through a human body: take a whole grapefruit and a 2x4, put the grapefruit in a blender, turn it on (this gives you the soft, gushy sound of guts), then push it down with the 2x4 (for the bone crunching). Ah, movie magic.

Winner of the Best Hotel Room Art Award (so far).