Microcinema Tour: Mallary Abel


  1. I’m talking to filmmakers and curators about the state of distribution today. You and a partner started a roving film festival (feel free to re-name that), Cut and Run. Can you talk a little about that? What was the inspiration to start Cut and Run?


Yes – Cut and Run was a roving film festival where we did not just screen at the same microcinema. We travelled to microcinemas all over the place and screened our programs there. Brenda Contreras and I met at San Francisco State University in a film program. We were both were interested in starting a curatorial project that featured not just new – but older and classic works. We concentrated on screening experimental, avant-garde, and even an occasional home movie. At the time, we were just breaking into the microcinema community, and it was very exciting to see how such a genuine and unique niche in the art world has such a close knit web of people all working together, keeping it vibrant. 


  1. From my understanding, Cut and Run mostly visited microcinemas . Can you define microcinema? How do they function?


A microcinema is like a small movie theatre. It can be anything though – a studio, an old church, a converted store front…or a dedicated space that strictly runs as a venue to project films. Small cinemas are able to be set up almost anywhere. They’re different from your normal, high end movie theatre, in that the entire atmosphere and experience is much more personalized (I think). Because the films are generally smaller scale, a small scale cinema can offer the right type of set up… a cozy space, with discussions about the work, Q & As with the artists, etc. Microcinemas can program any films or curated programs they want to. So, the programming can be very diverse. That’s a great thing… 


  1. Getting into the logistics: How did you fund Cut and Run? How much did it cost?


Well – Cut and Run was sort of complex. We’d do screenings at Artists’ Televsion Access in San Francisco, then we’d hit the road and travel. We traveled all over – the West coast, the East coast, and the South. We even managed to get ourselves to Europe to do some screenings with the help of a kickstarter campaign. During that campaign, actually a bunch of filmmakers who’s work we were screening were generous enough to donate. They were supportive and wanted their work to be seen! That European tour was largely possible due to the fundraiser – everything else was funded by us, door revenue at screenings, and submissions. 


  1. How did your tour fit into the larger DIY movement, if it did at all?


I think Cut and Run is a good example of a low-budget film festival that was accessible not just for the audiences we were looking for – but also for filmmakers who needed a certain liaison for which to support the presenting of their work. We’d see a lot of the films we programmed in other experimental film festivals around the country, and that was a reminder that many of us were working towards the same thing. I think we helped get some filmmakers work out there and keep it out there. 

There were times we’d put a film from the ’60s in a program. We had no limits really, we just wanted to screen important work as often as possible. 


Like the rest of the DIY movement, we weren’t going to let our grand goals of running a film festival (albeit small) get away from us, even if it wasn’t financially giving us much revenue. 

We helped keep that beat of experimental film – and microcinemas – alive. 


  1. What were/are the advantages of curating one’s own program and taking it on the road? What were/are the disadvantages?


The advantages were that we were in complete control of where we wanted to go, and that we would get a lot of invitations to screen places. We were very much free, and had some amazing experiences.

The disadvantages were perhaps, that we worked a lot and invested a lot, and while we were returned with an immense amount of gratification from that film festival, it became hard to maintain. Money was perhaps an issue, but that wasn’t a major contribution to why Cut and Run ended. 


  1. Is there a type of film work than lends itself more gracefully to a  tour such as yours?


To me, films that have a specific message or feeling, and films that might push boundaries, or not be afraid to say what they want to say. Experimental, avant-garde, and documentary films lend themselves to a project like Cut and Run. Film that are one of a kind. Short films also are generally more feasible for these types of festivals.


  1. What advice would you give a film student or an out-of-school maker who might be interested in developing a film tour?


Obviously, I’d say, do it! Act responsibly, but gather your resources and get creative, and write down your vision of a film tour. Then start taking the steps to get there and you will see that it will beautifully unfold. I’d also say that, without the filmmakers themselves, there would be no film tour. It’s all about them and their work, in a way. 


  1. What are you up to these days? Talk a little about Gaze and any other recent curatorial projects.


Cut and Run ended it’s tours in 2011. Before C+R said so long though, I was approached by the programmer of Artist’s Television Access to help start a film festival strictly dedicated to screening work made by women. I teamed up with a group of people in the bay area and started running the new festival called GAZE. This will be GAZE’s 4th year. 


The unique thing about GAZE is that we screen works made by female identified artists. While a large part of the film world is controlled by men, GAZE is entirely run with the female gaze ideology. We’re also hoping to take a show on the road this summer – like Cut and Run would.

Aside from programming GAZE, I teach 5th grade and tinker with other film and art projects on the side. 

Mallary Abel is an educator and artist living in Oakland, CA. In 2004, she graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cinema. She is also a recent graduate of Mills College where she studied Education with a focus on social justice. Since 2004, Mallary has been largely involved with curating and programming film screenings, nationally and internationally. She helped co-found and run an experimental film festival called Cut and Run. Currently, she teaches 5th grade, and co-runs GAZE,  a women’s film festival based out of Artists’ Television Access in San Francisco. She can always be reached at mallaryabel@gmail.com.

GAZE: http://http://www.gazefilmseries.wordpress.com


Narrative Feature: Matt Myers, Producer

  1. Matt, I’m talking to different filmmakers and producers about their experience with distribution as it stands today.

  A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same.  Distribution continues to evolve as the lifestyles and viewing habits of customers and audiences change.  Obviously, for a long time we have been moving away from the traditional theatrical model as the primary market for a film—and in most cases, there is not much of a serious theatrical market left for anything that is not a “tentpole” film (e.g. big budget 3D action/comic book movies).  Paying for a ticket to see a movie at a brick-and-mortar building is a 20th century notion, and there are whole generations of young people out there who have rarely or maybe even never gone to the movies.   But for content providers (meaning producers, directors, writers) the goal is consistently the same—to reach the widest possible audience as possible and to generate income and profits.  How we do that is the hard part.  We do know the way in which we distribute films to that viewership has radically shifted to less of a communal public experience to more of a private or personal on-demand experience.  For us producers, we have to really try and understand where the most value and revenue can be obtained, and that means trying to anticipate—from the very beginning, before we’ve shot a single frame—how to make the right film for the right price, and what the market is for that film in all the distribution platforms that exist now, or in the future?

  1.  How does the act of developing an audience on the internet interact with or parallel  casting and choosing source material in theatrical release?

It all depends on what kind of picture you are making.  Most of the time, we are leaning heavily on a particular pre-existing intellectual property such as a book, graphic novel, video game or prior originals to nurture and encourage an audience that’s already out there.  Then we rely on packaging the movie with marquee value, e.g. recognizable or famous actors or celebrities, star directors, etc.  That, we hope, also brings an audience.  So by the time you go to the internet to cultivate an audience you already have a very specific business plan in place, and you pretty much know who your audience already is.  But the internet can also affect your casting choices from the other direction.  For example, on a recent picture I co-produced we were told by a casting director that we should cast a particular YouTube celebrity in a minor role just to imbed the picture with someone who has two million Twitter followers.  Scary.  But that’s what we did.

  1. What role is episodic TV playing now?

TV is where all the action is now. Forget the cinema.  Last year, the MPAA reported that movie attendance dropped by 23%.  And it will continue to drop as VOD and SVOD get better, and as we all start living in the cloud and not owning published copies of DVD’s, etc.  TV is filling a critical gap that was left when the studio output for movie theaters ramped up to almost exclusively ‘tentpole’ content, i.e. giant 3D IMAX Experience super blockbuster movies aimed at the central 13-18 male dominated moviegoing demographic.  The smaller fare, the riskier movies, the indies, the specialized product, just can’t make the business model work anymore.  There is simply no money left in it, as a primary theatrical market.  So what’s happened is the risky stuff, the hard-to-sell items or the niche stories are increasingly turning to the episodic short form because it’s the gold rush—as the appetite for original short form programming goes up and the pipeline demand is ever increasing——there’s no such thing as a crazy idea anymore.  It’s the wild frontier where shows like Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black just broke all the rules, and there are innumerable other examples you can name.  But because it’s all up online, worldwide audiences can tap into the shows with subject matters that particularly interests them.  There are more eyeballs out there watching computer screens of various types than ever before, and because technology has created this incredible convenience and affordable cost, the demand just goes up and up and up.

  1. Is any of this different for shorts?

Short films in and of themselves don’t have much of a market today, but when it comes to YouTube we are seeing more and more successful shorts going viral and really capturing people’s attention.  A lot of the time when a good short becomes a phenomenon on the internet, there’s not much profitability in it, but again because of the democratic nature of the internet it can be incredibly useful for marketing emerging talent

  1. What words of advice would you give film students today?

Make a really polished, professional looking short.  The shorter the better.  Demonstrate that you know how to tell a good story, how to get good performances from your actors and where to put the camera.  Get that film out there, anyway you can.  Festivals, online platforms, whatever.  Then have a polished TV pilot with a first season bible under your arm when you engage in those publicity and marketing activities.  Maybe the short is also serving as a pilot for a 24 minute comedy you can pitch to Amazon!




Matthew Myers is an American film and television producer.  His first professional film job was as a production intern on The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.  Since 1995, he has produced over 30 commercial features and TV movies for independent production companies, major studios and networks, including 20th Century Fox, Showtime, HBO, Sony, Lionsgate and Universal.  His films have won major awards and international honors at the Cannes, Toronto, Berlin and Sundance film festivals.  He has worked with Academy Award-winning talent (Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Dustin Lance Black, Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Harvey Keitel, Glenn Close, Kathy Bates and Bette Midler). He has earned membership in the Writer’s Guild of America, Director’s Guild of America, the Producer’s Guild of America, the Independent Feature Project and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Holding a Master of Fine Arts in Film and TV Production from New York University, Matt has also delivered lectures, seminars and workshops around the globe. As a production consultant, he works for American studios and networks, as well as international clients. Matt taught production management, film financing and distribution and producing coursework while serving as Chair of the Graduate Film Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts-Asia in Singapore. He lives in Fargo with his wife Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, Associate Professor of Religion and Director of the Forum on Faith & Life at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.  He has four new films being released this year: Catch Hell (starring and directed by Ryan Phillippe), Ned Rifle (directed by Hal Hartley and starring Aubrey Plaza), The Great Gilly Hopkins (directed by Stephen Herek, starring Kathy Bates, Glenn Close and Julia Stiles) and The Deviants (directed by John Mikulak for Troma Studios).


IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0616804/






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