Thursday, March 19, 2009

SMELLS LIKE INDIE SPIRIT

Columbia, SC. We arrived at the Nickelodeon, a funky little art house right in the heart of downtown. Larry and Andy, who run the operation, are true cinephiles. Their office (or perhaps more accurately, their lair) is in the basement of the theatre. Movie posters are plastered everywhere, even on the ceiling. We have a lot in common -- our office (or perhaps more accurately, our lair) is tucked under the eaves in our likewise dark attic, and we too plaster posters on the ceiling.

Larry and Andy are dedicated to bringing the ultimate indie experience to the Nick. And, they also bring a wealth of knowledge to the community; both teach film at the local university. Before long they were showing us a hilariously ironic trailer promoting their film festival, INDIE GRITS. The fest is known for its celebration of filmmakers who have a tie to the south. This prompted a lively discussion about film festivals in general, leading Vic to regale us with his perhaps all too vivid memories of the 2007 Portland Underground Film Festival, where RANDOM LUNACY was the Opening Night Selection. It was the next night, however, that Vic will never forget. A line of hippies, freaks and degenerates wound around the block and then some. As they waited to enter the theatre they were entertained by an oversized bicycle pulling a bed on wheels, upon which writhed a man and a woman simulating sex.

Inside the theatre, Vic was treated to a stage full of people stripping totally naked and dancing to the thump of house music before the curtain rose on that night's feature, BIKE PORN. The title says it all. Andy was properly shocked upon hearing about these outrages, but nonetheless, hearing that the crowd was SRO and hanging from the rafters, he thought it might not be a bad idea to reach out to Columbia's bike community and sponsor a race. A key to surviving both as an indie theatre owner and as an indie filmmaker is to be as creative as possible in trying to generate an audience. Andy is also currently working on an idea which would be a sort of open mic night for local filmmakers, who would be given an opportunity to screen ten minutes of their work one night a month at the Nick. The respect that Larry and Andy have for filmmakers leaves us no doubt that their INDIE GRITS FILM FESTIVAL is a very supportive and nurturing atmosphere for filmmakers to be a part of.

Larry took us to what would be the Nick's new location a few blocks away, a once grand old theatre that would require at least a year of renovation to be restored. But it's a huge space, and their new office would have the bonus of windows. It was a museum-like experience seeing the popcorn machine from the 30's, patiently waiting to pop again for patrons in a new century. Vic's grandfather owned movie theatres, so merely walking into an old projection booth is virtually a religious experience for him.

This was not our first trip to Columbia, and in the small world department, Larry actually knew the woman whom we'd fondly remembered all these years as Isabel The Filmmaker; we'd had lunch with her on our first trip to the south thirty years ago. It was then that Larry noted that we appeared decades older than most of the other filmmakers on the Southern Circuit. With that, Vic assured Larry that when the trip began a week and a half earlier, his now silvery head of hair had been a youthful brown. Truth is, our motto is, "They'd have to kill us to stop us."