This Thursday, London’s top revival independent cinema The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square will be screening first-time-director Julia Marchese’s indie-documentary Out of Print, a fun and informative film that highlights theatres just like the Prince Charles. Those reasonably priced privately owned cinemas with double features, theme nights and old-school popcorn with real butter. There aren’t many of these places left in 2016 no matter where you live and that is why Marchese made this movie.
Although the film largely focuses on Marchese’s former employer, The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, through the eyes of its employees and customers such as director Joe Dante, the broader theme highlights the consequence of the advent of digital formats on the little guys as well as the relevance of watching older films in their intended formats and the importance of film preservation in general.
The financial struggle for these cinemas is real. Especially in the light of a recent decision by several major studios to halt the striking and distribution of any 35mm prints for any films, new or old regardless of how they were originally made.
As a Los Angeles resident with for 15 years with a passion for film, I spent many an evening at the New Beverly. I remember Julia selling me tickets and wondered how she made the transition from behind the ticket counter to behind the camera. She was kind enough to answer my questions in an interview conducted via e-mail last week. This is the edited version. Julia herself will be on hand Thursday at the screening to answer more questions after the film.
Q: Independent filmmakers all face great challenges, from raising money in the beginning to distribution in the end. Which were the most difficult challenges to overcome and what are you the most proud of, looking back over the past 4 years?
A: “I’m proud that I set out to make a film and I did. My motto (like Elvis’) is Taking Care of Business in a flash. I’m proud that I took this movie from an idea in my head to a 35mm print. The most fun thing about it was learning how to do everything. And luckily I had so many incredible people to guide me through every step.”
“The most difficult thing was getting fired from the New Beverly after the film was already complete. It was so bloody crushing to have a film that suddenly switches from a joyous one to a melancholy one. I have a film that promotes a place that I no longer wish to promote, so I feel like that has hindered my joy about the whole project a bit. Now I would make an entirely different film, of course. But the film has a bigger message – that EVERY independent cinema is important, so THAT I can be proud of.”
Q: When making Out of Print, where did you draw your inspiration? Were there any documentaries that you watched that inspired you?
A: “Yes! The four that I repeatedly watched were Exit Through the Gift Shop, Grey Gardens, Cinemania and American Movie. All of these films treat their subjects with reverence and a sense of humor that I love. Each one is endlessly watchable and absolutely fascinating every time.”
Q: Who is your favorite filmmaker?
A: “Alejandro Jodorowsky. His films absolutely blow my mind. He is unlike any other filmmaker out there, and he is still making such extraordinary work. Dance of Reality was terrific and I donated to his campaign for his new movie, Endless Poetry.”
Q: Since your petition to preserve film prints, what positive developments have happened in the area of film preservation?
A: “Across the world, there are thousands of dedicated souls working in archives everyday to preserve film prints. They were there before I made Out of Print, and they will be there after, and I am so grateful to each and every one of them for choosing to spend their lives saving the past. No matter what the studio decide, we will always have these silent warriors fighting the good fight.”
Q: In Out of Print, one of the interview subjects drew a very apt parallel with the digitalization of music. Vinyl has had a recent resurgence, with many old classic albums being re-issued over the past 18 month and bands even releasing new material in both formats side by side. Do you see this as a trend that may happen with film? Why or why not?
A: “…The thing about vinyl is that it is a medium directly available to the public – film prints are owned by companies. There are 35mm collectors, but they are few and far between, and were never meant to be owned by the public. …It’s tricky.”
Q: What other developments, technical or otherwise, do you potentially see happening in the future regarding film preservation?
A: “Sooner or later, the studios are going to realize that all films need to be stored on film. Hopefully that will cause them to up their production of it again – digital just isn’t permanent.”
Q: This film goes a long way at getting the word out on the importance of revival cinemas and film preservation. What do you think that revival and repertory theaters could do on their own to help the cause and improve their bottom lines?
A: “Making every single customer feel comfortable and like they’re part of the community is so important. Try new things. See what others around you are programming, and ask for help if you need it.”
Q: You spent some time filming in London at the Prince Charles Cinema for Out of Print. What is the biggest difference in the film-geek culture that you saw in Los Angeles vs. London?
A: “I programmed a double feature of Fast Times at Ridgemont High & Night of the Comet at the Prince Charles Cinema, so I got to see those up on the big screen, and I caught a midnight screening of El Topo there too. (Jodorowsky! Yay!) The audiences for both were awesome. There really wasn’t much of a difference and that was what was so bitchin’. Movie geeks are pretty awesome everywhere you go – that’s what makes independent cinemas so cool! “
Q: What project or projects are you working on now?
A: “I am hoping to start a new project in the UK, filming a series of mini-docs. Each one will focus on a single cinema, and we will see it through the eyes of the employees and regulars – the people who love it most. I’m really excited!”
Tickets for Thursday’s screening with director Q&A are available here: https://www.princecharlescinema.com/performances/16661/