Hi everyone. Hope you had a good 4th of July, and tomorrow, Youngstown Film will kick off its Summer Classic Movie Festival with a showing of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the McKay Auditorium at YSU’s Beeghly College of Education. It may not be a vintage movie palace, but the chance to watch a bona fide classic film and the price of admission (FREE) certainly makes up for that.
Before their innaugural screening, I talked with YF’s Michele McBride to find out a little more about their organization and what they plan to do.
New YTOWN: How do you like the current accommodations at DeBartolo Hall? Do you think about a change of venue at all?
McBride: I think DeBartolo Hall is, in itself, a nice layout for screening films because of (1) the number of seats, (2) the auditorium seating and (3) sound and screen size. The downside is that a lot of people are hesitant to come to the YSU Campus but it is important to us that the films remain in Youngstown proper and our venues are limited–although we have had several offers to screen films in various locations downtown but none seem to be a good “fit”.
New YTOWN: Are you looking to expand your operations beyond the summer months? McBride: We are beginning a monthly indie in September after the conclusion of the Summer Classic FF. I wanted to remind people how great old films are in the cinema setting and then get some new stuff into the area. We already have a number of fantastic first-run indie films lined up. The first is a series of films shot by American National Guardsman while in Iraq.
New YTOWN: Are you at all discouraged about establishing an organization to show independent films? Personally, I’ve found some indies to be great, but do you think the failure of Austintown Movies indicates the Youngstown area isn’t interested in those sort of films? McBride: Sherry Weinblatt and I started Keep It Reel to keep the Austintown Theatre open. In that instance it was not the lack of interest in indie films but, rather, the confluence of third party operators, theatre owners looking for big profits and other issues that were far afield from indie cinema. I have had so many people tell me that they want to see movies that they have seen either in other cities if they are new to the area or that they went to in college out of the area, etc. The interest is there. We need the right combination without too much interference.
New YTOWN: The “Summer Film Fest” consists of classic films and runs on Thursday night. Depending on the success of these screenings, would you consider the prospect of an “actual” festival like Sundance/Cannes/Toronto? McBride: I’ve spoken with folks at YSU and others in the local arts community who are extremely interested in having a juried film festival which could be possible with the right support from the community.
New YTOWN: On your website, it says you’ll screen films from the AFI list of 100 great movies. Was this list your first choice for the selection basis, or did you look at lists like the National Film Registry? I ask because the AFI seems to include films labeled as “classics”, and while NFI-listed films like “Network”, “Boyz n tha Hood”, and “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” wouldn’t be considered classics, they’ve had considerable impacts on filmgoers and still spark widespread discussion. McBride: Although I agree that other films have been deemed American classics which are more on the fringes, etc. but the AFI remains the definitive source for classic cinema and, as a member, I vote for the 100 films each year (BTW Network is on that list). Also, the goal for the summer film fest was not obscure but the familiar in an atypical setting (not on TCM on your TV but larger than life in a true theatre setting).
New YTOWN: What do you think is the significance of independent film, and why should they be shown in Youngstown ?
McBride: Indie film is a loose term these days. I believe that true indie films are the vehicle to getting people out into the community to see films together rather than sitting at home removed to watch film. A lot of these movies can only be seen in larger cities but Ytown needs to recognize that it can make a home for culture and stimulating film and need not be apologetic or riding on the coattails of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Being a native, I recognize the tendency of other natives who have, as I have, returned to the area to be apologetic or resigned to the fact that Ytown contains no cutting edge artistic expression.
New YTOWN: This organization is something I’ve only heard about through the Youngstown blogs. Do you go anywhere else to promote this? McBride: We are just getting started! We wanted to take advantage of this time of year to get people out to films and we plan on being a fixture in this area. One independent movie house in downtown Ytown could do wonders for connecting current business and encouraging others. As an attorney I have done limited work with real estate in Youngstown and I know that it can be a possibility with the right people being in the right place.
New YTOWN: Do you see this organization expanding further if successful?
McBride: Like all attempts to revitalize Ytown, this effort has to remain relaxed and patient and, in the meantime, bring people something interesting and cutting edge. I recently attended the Tribeca Film Festival and some of these theatres looked like something that could be found in Ytown. It IS possible—besides, how many truck shows and bars can you go to before your mind demands more!
Thanks Michele, and we look forward to Youngstown Film’s events and what they’ll be doing in the future. Once again, YF will present “To Kill a Mockingbird” this Friday at 7:00 in the McKay Auditorium at YSU’s Beeghly College of Education building. And for more information, visit youngstownfilm.com .