Philadelphia Film Society is one of several organizations who will be partnering with us for this year’s Art for the Cash Poor 14. Learn more about their monthly programming June 8 and 9.
Please tell me a bit about your organization’s history.
The PFS mainly focuses on programming and showcasing films. For the past 22 years this fall, we’ll be having our annual film festival. During the festival we show pretty much every range of film you can think of, whether it’s independents, documentaries, domestics, blockbusters, animation, international. The festival is 11 days long and spans across the city. We have screenings in Old City, center city, and West Philadelphia. The organization itself was created around the festival. It’s 12 years old and member-supported. We like to work with a lot of filmmakers and film organizations in helping people show their films. We always try to bring film to people who may not normally see it. This year is a very exciting year for us because we’ll be opening our theater for the first time in the summer. We’re going to be opening the Roxy in center city. A lot of great things have come from the buzz around the theater. Right now we’re in the process of renovating. When we took it over it was a little rundown. We’re trying to get it up and running. We want a state of the art theater. There’s two theaters within the building, with no more than 80 seats. We want it to be a small comfortable theater, not the Roxy that everyone has known.
We applied for a Pew grant so we can do specialized programming instead of just first-run independent films. So we’re hoping to do a local filmmakers showcase, hopefully do a little bit more with children – a festival or film series.
Something we’ve been doing the past two years is exploring partnerships with different organizations. We just completed a music film fest with WXPN. And last year we started working with The University of the Arts on a monthly screening series. During the year we’ll pick a theme. Last year’s theme was the artist as a filmmaker. That’s when we took pretty notable directors that started their career in the visual arts. This year the series is called Passport to World Cinema. We’re showing the international films that may not come to Philly. Back in March we showed a film called The Angels’ Share, before it premiered at SXSW, so we had the US premiere of the film. The goal is showing new films circulating around the world.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your role in the organization?
I’m the managing director. My specialty is putting on the film fest. I’ve been with PFS about eight years. I started as an intern when I was in college at Temple. Back then I was a volunteer coordinator, and I worked my way up the organizational side. We’re a small organization, so we all have a say in the programs we enjoy seeing, and throw around ideas.
Why do you feel that a greater access to film is important specifically to the Philadelphia region?
Philadelphia is an interesting town because it is one of the top five major cities. But the arts always need to be pushed. If you don’t talk about it then no one knows about it. Its really important for us because we are an organization who love movies, and we know there’s more out there than the blockbusters showing at the major movieplexes. There are independent films showing at the Ritz, but they’re higher in rank, they’re supported by a smaller distributor. What we want to do is bring you more independent films. Films that are worth seeing but may not have a distributor selling it across the country. We’ve seen it because we are going from festival to festival to program our own fest.
How does film come into play with other arts communities?
We’ve worked with a lot of different groups. You can pick a topic and there’s a film about it. We’ve been approached by the art museum. They’re highlighting an exhibit in October and their focus is fashion and city life. This artist, one of his paintings was displayed in a Charlie Chaplin film, and they asked us to incorporate something with a Chaplin film.
There’s always a way that we can work together and make something a bigger event with more people involved.
You’ll be holding your Film Festival in October. Do you have any programming scheduled yet for this year’s festival?
The day after the film fest ends, our programmers jetset to the next fest. There’s three days time between our fest and the fest in LA. All year round our programmers in LA and Philadelphia travel from place to place. What we do is go to these other international film fests and find the films we’d like to show in our fests, we reach out to the distributor or filmmaker, and we invite them to our fest. The program is based around films that will be coming out around the time of our fest or after our fest. We have to investigate every film we want to show. It’s a bit of a process programming so far in advance. Filmmakers always have an idea of when they’d want their film to be out, and it’s always the sooner the better, especially if there’s buzz around their film. So we probably won’t have a program until late September. But we do have a structure. We always try to make our opening film have a Philly connection. Last year we had a sold out screening of Silver Linings Playbook.
We’ll have centerpieces, bigger blockbuster films. We have a series called From the Vault, older films but they might have an anniversary this year or be re-released. We always do a Masters of Cinema series, master directors who have films coming out. We’ll do a Spanish section, French section, world narratives, American independent, local, documentary. Graveyard shift is thillers and horror.
What was one of your festival favorites?
One of my favorite films out of last year’s fest was a short film called Caine’s Arcade. About this little boy out in CA, who out of cardboard and tape formed his own arcade. He made up games and gave out tickets, he’d give out prizes, and built it all in the front of his dads’ auto-shop. A local filmmaker went to the shop, met Caine, and did a film. He’d sit outside every day and hope that someone would come by and want to play his games. The filmmaker set up a day with Caine’s dad, via a Facebook campaign, for people to come to the arcade and play. It was the most exciting day of his life. It’s a really cute movie. I like movies like that. The ones that are heartwarming. I’m a big documentary person.
I understand you’ll be incorporating new membership benefits in conjunction with the Roxy. Can you tell me more about what that will involve?
When the Roxy opens, we’re going to reform our membership. You’ll automatically get discounted tickets to the Roxy, and depending on your level, you’ll also be getting free tickets once in a while, making member benefits year-round.
Why should people come out to visit your table at AFTCP?
We are a great organization. One of the things we want to do is get the local film community, whether you’re an independent filmmaker or an organization, there’s a lot of disconnect, and we want to be a resource for filmmakers and artists. We’re more than willing to work with anybody. A lot of people don’t know that we’re based out of the Northern Liberties area. People hear about the festival and don’t hear about the society. They don’t know we’re a yearround organization. We have two to three events per week. We also want to know what else is out there in terms of the local arts community.