Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Size Matters: Microcinemas and Alternative Exhibition Spaces

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Size Matters: Microcinemas and Alternative Exhibition Spaces

Article excerpt

How many independent or experimental queer films did you see this year? Where did you view them? Is there currently greater availability of such projects than in the past? Are the current modes of exhibition allowing independent queer film and videomakers substantial screening opportunities? This article attempts to address these questions by exploring a variety of potentials for exhibition of queer independent film and video. The issues I'm most interested in as a filmmaker and curator are: What kinds of venues are currently exhibiting experimental queer films and videos? What models for exhibition exist either to be replicated and strengthened or shattered? How successful are the "mainstream" LGBT festivals at including such films and how do experimental festivals and microcinemas compare? Are these smaller and fiercely independent venues accessible? Above all, I hope this piece is practical: in these few pages, I hope to shed a bit of light on the strengths and weaknesses of screening opportunities for queer filmmakers who are struggling to get their films seen.

I will look at a variety of exhibitors, from a microcinema in a Greenwich Village apartment to larger and more established LGBT film festivals, such as MIX: the New York Lesbian/Gay Experimental Film and Video Festival, and experimental film festivals in Europe and Canada. While I hope to draw some preliminary conclusions about current exhibition opportunities, this is hardly an exhaustive survey of each and every festival. The reader should use the resources at the end of this piece to investigate opportunities for screening and starting his or her own microcinema. Please write to me at berrys@newschool.edu with your ideas about anything I've written about and/or missed in the process. For the sake of definitions: by experimental or independent I am focusing on short works (as opposed to features) that are produced independently, without commercial or broadcast funding, and films and videos that are handmade, self-funded, small-gauge, low or no-budget, and distinctly non-narrative. We'll start with the beasts and move forward to the basements....ready?

While there are hundreds of Lesbian and Gay film festivals worldwide, very few focus on short and/or experimental work. These "mainstream" festivals usually showcase feature films that reaffirm how good it is to be "gay." Stories that mirror the love, romance, thriller, horror, fill-in-the-blank genres showing at the corner multiplex, only with gay characters-sometimes lesbians, but very rarely. These festivals have become behemoths which only reinforce binaries of gender and sexuality in a minority community that is much more complex than LGBT (most such festivals don't even include the B or the T in their names, but most do in their mission statements.) Many of these large festivals such as Frameline in San Francisco, Outfest in Los Angeles, The New Festival in New York, and Inside Out in Toronto have been around since the 80s and have grown substantially since their inceptions.

With their growth in size has come parallel growth in budgets, staff, and the subsequent necessity to meet the bottom line through ticket sales. The (unfortunate) reality is that experimental shorts programs don't sell tickets in the same way that romantic features do. While this is the sad economics of film presentation, what it means for these big festivals is that shorts are now guaranteed to be marginalized where they used to be the centerpiece. Fifteen years ago there weren't budgets for queer feature films that are now churned out since the rise of the so-called "new queer cinema" of the early 90s. Instead of dedicating space for shorts, these festivals depreciate them in favor of appeasing the studios and productions that offer financial support to the festival for premiering their latest feature. To be fair, some of these festivals are better than others when it comes to presenting short and experimental works. …

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