I have been busy since my last column. We had a last minute season lineup change due to the unfortunate cancellation of the Circus 1903 Tour. I hope that our fill in of The Illusionists has satisfied our subscribers as an alternative.
The other thing that has kept me busy is the final planning for a new program here at the Center this season. The Southern Circuit of Independent Films is coming to the Clayton Center! This opportunity brings 6 different independent film screenings to the Lambert Recital Hall, during the season. It has been interesting and educational working on this new (at least to me) type of programming and I thought I might provide you some insight into what this is all about.
The Circuit is coordinated through a group called South Arts, a non-profit, Regional Arts Organization headquartered in Atlanta. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, their mission is to strengthen the South through advancing excellence in the arts, connecting the arts to key state and national policies, and nurturing a vibrant quality of life.
Working with 24 – 26 presenters, the staff of South Arts screen over 100 submitted films down to around 40 titles. These films are then provided as choices to 6 – 8 different presenters in 3 different circuits in the southeast region. We are in a circuit that includes many academic institutions in our region such as; Western Carolina, Emory, Auburn and East Tennessee State University, Presbyterian College, and the Winder Arts Center in Georgia
The films for our circuit were chosen in collaboration, discussion, and negotiation with our circuit members in Atlanta in May. It is a little like picking players in a fantasy football league, which I must admit, I know nothing about. (remember, I’m an arts person) The participants roll the dice to determine their selection order and then we go through our lists until 6 final films are selected. Once that is accomplished, South Arts arranges the selected films into a tour with screening dates based on availability in each location and viola, we get a final series of 6. Whew!
While I was living and working in Salt Lake City, I had several opportunities to work for and attend the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, recognized as one of the world’s best independent film festivals. I was not really a film buff, but in that heyday of the developing indie film scene, it was fun and exciting to see alternate points of view and especially the breakthroughs in animated films that seemed so prevalent at that time. I must admit that my cultural perspectives were also challenged by the works of many of the filmmakers.
If you are new to the concept of Independent film and are wondering if this might be a good fit for your entertainment pallet allow me to share some insights that may be helpful.
I must credit Sherry B. Ortner, University of California, Los Angeles for providing the best introduction to independent film that I have run across. In her article Against Hollywood, American Independent Film as a Critical Cultural Movement she states- “Independent filmmakers see themselves as challenging the hegemony of Hollywood, eschewing entertainment—fantasy, pleasure, happy endings—and offering instead harsh and “edgy” stories about life in contemporary society.”
“What then is an independent film? The simplest place to start is to say that an independent film is defined—to varying degrees and in varying ways—as the antithesis of a Hollywood studio film. The contrast can be seen in a variety of relatively objective indicators. Where studio films are very expensive, independent films are made on relatively low budgets; where studio films are in the business of “entertainment,” independent films often set out to challenge their viewers with relatively difficult subject matter or techniques or both; where Hollywood films generally eschew taking sides on political issues, independent films are often explicitly political and critical; where Hollywood films are in the business of fantasy and illusion, independent films include virtually all documentary films, and even features are usually highly realist; and finally, where Hollywood films classically have happy endings, independent films rarely do.”
For those of you looking for more insights on this, check out the entire article, which can be found online at https://www.haujournal.org/index.php/hau/article/view/hau2.2.002/1004.
The other thing to emphasize about our film screenings is that the filmmakers will be joining us each night for post screening talk backs. Patrons will have an opportunity to direct questions to the filmmaker. Don’t worry, if you’re shy about asking questions, we hope to have some locally known folks on hand to moderate and lead us in thought provoking discussions.
If you are the “try it before you buy it” type, then I would suggest you tune in to our local PBS station and check out some of their series that feature independent type films. Programs like PBS Indies, POV and Independent Lens offer a glimpse into this genre.
Although I am not going to share our exact titles with you at this time (I like to build suspense), I will say the six films chosen are very much in line with the description of Indie films above. I am also pleased that two of our films were also chosen to be shown at the Sundance Festival in January. That tells me we are in good company with our choices. Each film will be thought provoking and should evoke a desire for some great conversations following.
We will be officially announcing our circuit line up some time in the next month or so, so please keep an eye on your email box or the Clayton Center’s website for more details on the titles, schedule, and information on each film.
If you are an Indie film junkie or just someone looking for new ways to experience the arts, I hope you will find an opportunity to join us in this exciting new endeavor.