Jacqueline Wood is trying to address one of the glaring weaknesses in Cincinnati’s cultural offerings — the lack of non-profit venues whose ongoing programming takes film seriously as art.
Her creation, The Mini Microcinema, opens Thursday at People’s Liberty’s Globe building and gallery in Findlay Market (1805 Elm St.). A party begins at 6 p.m., followed by an introductory film/video presentation at 8 p.m. Starting next week, The Mini will show free curated programs of experimental film/video shorts on Thursdays and Saturdays. Open Cinema nights will also occur on Tuesday nights.
For now, The Mini’s existence is temporary — Sept. 3 is slated to be its last day. It is an art project that has been funded by a $15,000 Globe Grant from the philanthropic People’s Liberty lab, a collaboration between Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation and Johnson Foundation, for on-site installations.
The space used to be the Globe Furniture Building.
Wood, a filmmaker who owns the commercial Golden Hour Moving Pictures video production company, is excited about this opportunity. And she’s proud that all artists and curators involved in The Mini will get paid.
But she also knows she will need to explain to some people — maybe many people — who don’t understand that there is a world of film other than that at the multiplexes or commercial “art-houses.” This is a world whose important names are influential, but not that well-known to the masses.
“Film as art is anything that falls outside the Hollywood mainstream three-act narrative structure,” Wood says. “And even documentary film has a built-in structure. When I’m talking about experimental, I’m talking about work made by singular artists who don’t necessarily have a support structure or crew. It can have no actors, it can be only abstractions or light, use found footage, or just manipulate the medium in a new way.
“One way people do it is through length and duration,” she continues. “Instead of a traditional 90-minute film, you can have a two-minute film or a five-hour one. It can also be experimental through content or by offering alternative viewpoints to those Hollywood usually shows. Anything that breaks conventions can be experimental.”
A Clifton native, Wood received her undergraduate degree in film and video studies from the University of Michigan and completed her master’s in film, video and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She then returned to Ann Arbor, Mich., to work at its prestigious film festival as well as to teach at Eastern Michigan University. She returned to Cincinnati three years ago.
Wood is familiar with many of the nation’s microcinemas, so she knew what the city was missing. In fact, programmers from Chicago’s The Nightingale and Detroit’s Corktown Cinema will be curating programs here.
“I’ve had this idea since I moved back,” she says. “The microcinema is prevalent in bigger cities, so there are quite a few in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But I found no specific spaces in Cincinnati dedicated to the art of the mini-cinema.”
Here are highlights of The Mini’s curated programming:
July 9 and 11: New York independent curator Nick Pinkerton, a Cincinnati native, presents All Shook Down, a program featuring films by Scott Cummings, Calum Walter, T. Marie, Terence Nance, Gabriel Abrantes, Eve Heller and Benjamin Pearson.
July 16 and 18: Terri Sarris of the University of Michigan will present a Fly-Over Zone program of six films featuring Midwest artists exploring dance on camera.
July 23 and 25: Brandon Walley of Detroit’s Corktown Cinema will have two programs of Unbundled Detroit shorts by various filmmakers, including himself; Chrisstina Hamilton of the University of Michigan assisted him.
July 30 and Aug. 1: Cincinnati’s Near*By curatorial collective will offer Is This For Real?!, programs of films by such local artists as Kate Ball, Kevin Gautraud, Chris Reeves, CityBeat reporter Nick Swartsell, Caroline Turner, Joey Versoza and Aaron Walker.
Aug. 6 and 8: Leslie Raymond of the Ann Arbor Film Festival brings two collections of highlights from this year’s 53rd-annual fest.
Aug. 13 and 15: Charles Fairbanks of Antioch College presents People & Places, a program he co-curated with filmmaker Kelly Gallagher.
Aug. 20 and 22: Christy LeMaster of Chicago’s The Nightingale microcinema presents two programs at The Mini that explore depictions of the body on film. And on Aug. 23 at 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, she will offer a program about the microcinema movement.
Aug. 27 and 29: Mark Toscano and Becca Keating offer two programs of contemporary and historical art films about Los Angeles, Apparitions in the City of Angels.
Sept. 3: The closing-night presentation features a live cinema experience, Terminal Beach, by Cincinnati video artist Charles Woodman and also City/City, a performance by local visual/sound art collective Video Band, which features Wood.
Wood has plans to make the People’s Liberty building feel like an intimate movie theater for the duration of the microcinema. The screening area itself will be on the second floor and hold about 100 people. It has a screen and sound system. A 16-millimeter projector has been found to show works that are on celluloid; digital files can be shown via laptop.
For the Thursday night and Saturday afternoon curated shows, half of the seats can be reserved in advance online and half will be available at the door. The first floor — the building’s gallery space — will feature artists’ looped moving-image work on a flatscreen and will also have a popcorn machine, reading material, artist-commissioned posters and several old movie seats. Additionally, Jeff Welch of Modularem Ltd. is making an old-fashioned-style “Cinema” sign for the front window. The space also will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays as a gathering spot for film buffs.
Wood hopes The Mini is a catalyst for a permanent Cincinnati microcinema, and she’ll be accepting donations to that end. “In order to be up and running, we need a space — an empty storefront. A pop-up space for a while is fine. We really just need chairs, a projector, a screen and an audience,” she says. “Creating a communal viewing space is very important because I don’t think people realize how far you can push it in the movie-making medium.”
And art is about pushing it.
THE MINI MICROCINEMA opens Thursday at People’s Liberty. More info: mini-cinema.org.