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My Soapbox: C. Jacqueline Wood, Filmmaker

C. Jacqueline Wood


When covering the local innovation movement, as Soapbox does, you occasionally come across a “serial entrepreneur,” someone who starts one business after another. They get their kicks from ideas and start-ups and move on after the concept or company is launched.
 
C. Jacqueline Wood is a “serial experimenter.” She’s an artist, a filmmaker, an organizer who can’t stop experimenting. Her drive to share experimental film with Cincinnati turned into a 10-week communal experiment that begins Thursday, July 2.
 
Wood is the second recipient of a People’s Liberty Globe Grant, which provides $15,000 to individuals to mount a provocative art installation in the Globe Building’s ground-floor gallery space in Over-the-Rhine. She’s turning the gallery — as well as second-floor space — into The Mini Microcinema through Sept. 3.
 
The Mini will offer eight different programs of experimental film, video and media curated by eight different sets of experienced programmers, many from out of town. Programs screen every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1:30 p.m.; there’s also an Open Cinema series featuring local filmmakers every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
 
Wood opens The Mini Microcinema program with a July 2 kick-off celebration and personal introduction to her love for experimental film, titled “This Is What We’re Doing.” She closes the run Sept. 3 by hosting live music and theater performed to projected film to create “visual/sound bombs.” See the full weekly schedule here.
 
Admission to all screenings and events is free. Half of the tickets to Thursday/Saturday programs can be reserved online, with the remaining 50% available at the door. Admission to the opening and closing events and Open Cinema screenings is at the door only, first-come first-served.
 
Screenings will take place in a temporary theater on the Globe Building’s second floor, with 80-100 seats. The Mini Microcinema will fill the gallery space downstairs with films on loop, movie posters designed by local artists, classic movie seats and, yes, a popcorn machine.
 
Wood has been wanting to bring this type of film programming to Cincinnati since returning to her hometown in 2012.
 
She got involved with the Ann Arbor Film Festival while a student at the University of Michigan and went on to receive a master’s degree in film video/new media from the Art Institute of Chicago. She returned to Ann Arbor to teach high school film and video classes.
 
Wood moved back to Cincinnati to start a video production company, Golden Hour Moving Pictures. She was a finalist in last year’s ArtWorks Big Pitch competition, looking for funding to expand the company’s staff and scope.
 
She’s gearing up for a new experiment now, a microcinema she hopes will eventually morph into Cincinnati’s permanent home for experimental film and home base for the region’s filmmakers.
 
(Note for those interested in future Globe Grants: People’s Liberty is accepting 2016 applications through July 20. Attend a training session for prospective applicants on Tuesday, June 30 at 6-7 p.m.)
 
How would you describe “experimental” film/video/media as an artform? Who are experimental filmmakers that most Cincinnatians would be familiar with?
 
It’s work created outside of the mainstream Hollywood system that breaks with form and content standards. It can be very short or very long, explore filmmaking in purely abstract ways, use found footage, tackle alternative subject matter and might have no actors.
 
The endings usually don’t wrap up neatly like Hollywood films. They create questions instead of providing answers, leaving the viewer to take away what he or she will.
 
There’s been experimental filmmaking throughout the history of movies, but it probably hit its stride with Man Ray in the 1940s and ’50s, Stan Brakhage in the ’60s and ’70s, Andy Warhol, even Jean-Luc Godard. Nam June Paik (who created the Metrobot outside of the Contemporary Arts Center) got big in the ’70s and ’80s with the emergence of video.
 
 
How has today’s technology explosion impacted experimental film?
 
Just because the camera apparatus is accessible to everyone, with cheap high-definition equipment and even our smart phones, doesn’t mean that today’s filmmakers understand the medium and its history any better. You can make 10-minute short films easily now, but how do you share your work?
 
What’s missing today, at least in Cincinnati, is a communal space to enjoy these films and create dialogue. That’s why I’m doing this Microcinema project. It’s not just about sitting in the dark together watching a movie — the experience also involves talking and sharing about what you just saw.
 
 
Why is it important to expose Cincinnati to this kind of work? Aren’t there enough movies to see already?
 
Even though I’m programming experimental film during this project, I’m not discriminating against mainstream movies. I love all movies, and I support people who love movies. In fact, my favorite movie ever is Singing in the Rain.
 
It’s just that there isn’t a permanent home in Cincinnati for film as an artform, and that’s my ultimate goal with The Mini Microcinema. There are some great opportunities for us to see experimental and alternative films here — Drew Klein presents films at the Contemporary Arts Center, Brian Sholis does some film at the Cincinnati Art Museum, there’s film at FotoFocus, a variety of film festivals.
 
This isn’t the most accessible artform. It makes you think and question, and most times people just want to be entertained. It’s certainly not a money-maker.
 
 
Singing in the Rain doesn’t seem very experimental.
 
Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I love nostalgia. I grew up watching movies with my family. My dad took me to see classic movies almost every weekend at the Emery Theatre.
 
In any case, Singing in the Rain is just a fabulous movie. I’m not biased when it comes to movies. I love them all.
 
 
What’s your long-term vision for growing a film community in Cincinnati?
 
I would like for The Mini Microcinema to become a permanent organization and give people a place to go to dialogue around films and unite to support filmmakers. I’d love for it to become a hub for all filmmakers in Cincinnati — I found that kind of community in Chicago and Ann Arbor, but I haven’t found it here yet.
 
I know other cities support local filmmakers on a primitive level, but it helps. I look at organizations like RedCat in Los Angeles and Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and how they drive the next generation of filmmakers and film fans. I can see offering classes, having a resource center, giving scholarships.
 
There’s no reason Cincinnati shouldn’t have this kind of supportive filmmaking community.
 
 
Speaking of supportive, you distributed your entire People’s Liberty grant to filmmakers, program curators, chefs and the artists who made your posters.
 
There will be more than 100 filmmakers represented during the 10-week Mini schedule, and I wanted to pay as many as possible for the rights to their work. There’s a whole group of experimental filmmakers today who pack their films in their cars and drive around to show them in various cities. Some are coming here during Mini when their work is screened. I’d love for them to make Cincinnati a regular stop in the future.
 
I’ve commissioned 10 different local artists to create each week’s movie poster, and I’m paying local chefs to make food for bake sales each week. I’m paying travel stipends to the weekly curators coming from out to town, and they’ll all be here to introduce their programs and run Q&A sessions.
 
I actually had to raise an extra $2,000 to make it all happen.
 

Read more articles by John Fox.

John Fox is an experienced freelance writer and editor who served as managing editor of Soapbox from December 2014 to August 2016.
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