Documentaries

THE REEL PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND (2015)

Film Overview: In partnership with Fulbright New Zealand and the University of Waikato, The Reel People of New Zealand highlights the small town cinema owner’s point of view on modern business struggles or innovative successes with models of boutique cinemas, community-run cinemas, independent multi-screens, and art houses. This 30 minute documentary follows independent movie theaters’ personal endeavors that deserve to be recorded in the most fitting way possible: through film.

Reason Behind the Film: In the United States, I just completed a feature film entitled “The Shared Experience”. I collected interviews from film critics, historians, movie theater owners, and avid filmgoers who provided passionate and intriguing discussion points. I accumulated research on independent theaters that went out of business as a result of the digital conversion, communities that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to save their local theaters, and independent art houses that are attempting to redefine the movie theater experience. These theaters are all located in the northeastern region of the United States. Since this conversion is a global issue, I decided to pursue a documentary study on the future trends of cinema as a result of the digital conversion in another country. For my focus, the country needed to have a rich history of cinema, cultural appreciation for film, and have a wide variety of art houses and independent theaters within manageable travel distance. New Zealand/Aotearoa ideally fit my vision and my purpose. A film on cinema culture offered learning opportunities for not only myself, but for the local population, too – New Zealand is the perfect model for this documentary. The theater population of New Zealand provides a unique case study of cinema in a small country study.

This project managed to display the range of possibilities and constraints typically faced by the cinema of small nations. The case study also unveiled the consequences for film distribution and exhibition within the cinema industry showcasing the balance between the supply and demand of film. The size of the two main islands allowed me to journey between cities in both regions in merely a matter of hours. This country has such a rich range of cinema culture in the genres of production, distribution, and exhibition within a small, manageable area.

When researching New Zealand for my film, I located an online gem entitled “cinemasofnz.info”. It is a website that did not describe film screenings, but rather focused on cinemas themselves. It contains information describing where these theaters can be found, what types of audience they serve, what types of films they screen, their individual histories, and what makes each one original and worth visiting. Upon further research, I noticed that art house cinema culture is also thriving here. According to the Motion Picture Distributors’ Association, art house cinema is experiencing a dramatic increase in popularity and at faster rate than in the United States. I knew that this was a sure sign that it is unmistakably the country for me to pursue another documentary on the status of modern cinema.

The man behind this online database is Geoff Lealand. Professor Lealand teaches Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. He is the New Zealand editor of the Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand and the author of a chapter of Watching Films: Perspectives on Movie-going, Exhibition and Reception. Film going remains a regular way of life for Geoff as he attends fifty to sixty films a year in the place where they are meant to be seen: the movie theater. The region of Hamilton, Waikato, NZ, served as my base where I could edit my collected footage. The University of Waikato also provided me with my own office and resources from their media arts department. This resource were approved by Dr. Adrian Athique, the head of the Screen and Media Studies at the university. With the help of Geoff’s website and mentorship, I wished to venture into the country known to the outside world for its natural beauty and reveal another side of New Zealand, to show that movie theater culture is a way of life for many New Zealanders – just as it is for Geoff.

I demonstrated that not all cinemas are clones, but that each one has a story to tell and a story worth telling. Behind every movie theater is an individual, a family, a community devoting their lives to keeping the cinema culture alive. Their stories need to be shared. I visited at least one community a week while meeting dozens of people. Multiply that over the course of eight months, and this suggests a reached of hundreds of people; New Zealanders had a greater appreciation of cinema culture and understanding from meeting me and learning about my travels. From reporting on the recovery of Christchurch cinemas after the recent quake to traveling to a cinema in Opunake that raised funds for years to reopen its doors, I found remarkable stories throughout New Zealand/Aotearoa. I turned these stories into art by carrying a personal video camera, minor equipment, and a smile as I traveled among these communities.

I visited at over thirty independent theaters on both the Northern and Southern Islands throughout the months of January through September. The main islands are only separated by a two-hour ferry. I completed my editing in the month of October 2015. The film focuses on the thoughts, feelings, and comments of each local population alongside industry experts in the field. My larger goal is for these independent theaters to showcase my film, if only for a night, with a direct question-and-answer sessions afterwards. This will happen on my next visit to New Zealand as I discuss the personal history of each cinema screening my presentation. This allows the New Zealand audience to better understand the history, business, and modern issues of independent theater and art house cinema. The film will also be distributed online free of charge.

This task is innovative because it is focuses on a project within its own medium: a film on cinema. It relates to modern day issues, connects with an entire country and audience, compiles hours of interviews about a topic that not too many people examine, and allows my film to be watched by its target audience in a timely fashion. It has the power to promote personal business for local cinema and turn ordinary citizens into local celebrities. It is truly a unique project, and I know that I was well-suited and deeply invested in accomplishing this pioneering documentary experience.

Other Cinemas of New Zealand Projects: As a side project, I made two-to three-minute video clips profiling individual cinemas throughout my journey. These clips can be found on my Youtube or Vimeo page, and are accessible to anyone. Each video highlights a cinema that I visited, and contain sound bites of local talent and original content of the local cinema. These videos are currently used by theater owners on their social media pages, big screens, or websites to promote their business. They are also profiled on Geoff’s theater directory on cinemasofnz.info page, thus adding another dimension for researchers or viral visitors.

Distribution: The Reel People of New Zealand was selected to have a world premiere at the prestigious Documentary Edge 2017 Film Festival in Wellington and Auckland. I hope to apply this film to other regional film festivals in both New Zealand the the USA in coming months. My film can be accompanied by a discussion focusing on the future of cinema going and ideas that you can bring to your cinema in the future.

In the News: Please explore some articles written about The Reel People of New Zealand…

Film Maker Calls Action on New Zealand Cinema Film (The Waikato Times)

Documentary Edge: 12 films to see at this year’s festival (The Dominion)

Fulbright Scholar’s Film Selected for Prestigious Festival (The University of Waikato/Stuff.co.nz)

The Reel People of New Zealand 30 mins Director Nicholas Homler Review Glenn Blomfield (NZ Entertainment Podcasts)

Doc Edge in Review: The Reel People of New Zealand (The Speakeasy)

Marist’s Newest Batch of Fulbright Scholars (Marist College)

Fulbright Recipients Speak of their Experiences (Marist Admissions)

 


THE SHARED EXPERIENCE (2013)

Film Overview: The Shared Experience is a documentary that showcases the significance of the digital conversion within the movie theater industry. This film discusses the history of previous technological theater transitions, investigates how independent movie theaters are adapting to the mandatory digital conversion, and explores the future of theatrical presentation as theater owners compete with the new media generation.

Reason for Making the Film: Many note that the digital conversion in American movie theaters is the most significant technological alteration for the movie theater industry since the switch from silent film to talkies. Previous technological conversions proved costly, put theaters out of business, required theaters to adopt new ideas, and changed the industry forever. These technological advances began a new chapter of progress for the movie theater experience.

If someone had documented the financial hardships theater owners faced in the 1920s, many untold stories would never have been lost over the decades. The Shared Experience will document this pivotal transition period as movie theater owners convert to digital projection. It will highlight the American independent movie theater owner’s point of view concerning this monumental transition so that the stories of today’s movie theaters are not forgotten or overlooked. Though thousands of newspaper articles, blogs, and local news channels have mentioned this issue, I would be the first to pursue a feature documentary film on the subject. This project will follow multiple classic movie theaters’ struggle to survive, adapt or perish. Their stories deserve to be heard in the most fitting way possible: through film.

History: The Shared Experience began as a capstone project at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Communication students Nicholas Homler, Carolyn Rivas, Kevin Mahoney, and Nicholas Davis traveled around upstate New York interviewing independent movie theater owners, film critics, and film historians. With the help of ADK Mogul in Lake Placid, NY, these students were able to shoot and edit a short documentary about the digital conversion. Nicholas Homler and ADK Mogul decided to expand upon the film and professionally interview a wide array theater houses from around the Northeast.

Distribution: The documentary is currently being reviewed in the United States and will be available to view in coming months. Screenings are currently being scheduled for the communities featured in the documentary. Please look back in due time for distribution information.

In the News: Please explore some articles written about The Shared Experience…

ADK Mogul Blog (11/9/12)

The Mahwah Patch: Part 1 (1/30/13)

The Mahwah Patch: Part 2 (9/28/13)

Film Leads to Fulbright to New Zealand (6/4/14)

From Film Forum to Filmmaking: From Coffee to Kiwis (7/7/14)