American Cinema - how would you describe your company in a few words?
How did Modern
American Cinema come into being to begin with, and what was the
original idea behind it?
American Cinema was created as originally to be the corporate
entity to keep myself and everyone who worked with me legally safe from
the possible legal issues that could arise from guerrilla filmmaking.
However, once my film
Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye
was completed and ready for exhibition I decided that I didn't want to
give any of my money to film festivals. I called over 60 theaters to get
the movie booked for single night and weekend runs. The film eventually
opened in 43 theaters between Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Everything worked because our deals worked our very well for the
exhibitors, the distributor (Modern
American Cinema), and the audience.
Our financial terms were not as risky as they are with studios such as
Disney and Sony (they normally ask 90% of the ticket sales). The
majority of our exhibitors have very low ticket fees. Most are between
$5 and $7. Some are even $2 or $3. It's very affordable.
One thing I thought would hurt us was that we only had one print of Capone's
Whiskey. This actually turned out to help us along the way because
the movie would travel from one town to the next and give each location
a chance to capitalize on the film.
Would you like to talk about some of Modern
American Cinema's productions?
I think most people are aware of Capone's Whiskey so I can talk about a
I just finished a short film called Some King. It was a
collaboration between myself and author/spoken word guy Josh Boyd and
artist Jonathan Pearson. It is very different because I never turned on
a camera. Josh wrote a selection poems and passed them to Jonathan
Pearson who then created these drawings inspired by the written words.
It was accompanied by spoken word recording of Josh reading the poems
and an original score by me.
The film premiered at Austin City Limits in October of 2012.
We also have Is This Heaven? The film about former neo nazi Frank
Meeink on the search to find where he belongs spiritually [more
about this movie here]. This has been
our most anticipated film since Capone's Whiskey. It was inspired
by the current political/religious issues in the United States dealing
with marriage equality in the gay community. Frank hears hate coming
from a lot of right wing conservative Christians and decided that maybe
being Christian isn't who he is.
Most recently, we produced a television program called Crowding
the Pan with Sam Auen - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2559852/. It is a punk rock cooking show of sorts.
Sam Auen used to be the guitar player for the grindcore band Black
Market Fetus and is also one of the top chefs in Des Moines. Think Dirty
Jobs meets Barefoot Contessa. It is also very significant as
it is one of the first TV shows entirely shot on an Iphone :)
American Cinema has gone into the distribution business only
rather recently. What prompted that move?
From dealing with booking my own films. I am very anti film festival.
Ask anyone. I believe most of them are a waste of money and to be honest
that is not a real audience. The real audience are the people that buy
movie tickets at your local cinema and that is who I want to reach.
There are many films out there that never reach that audience.
I also still believe in the cinema. VOD is the future, but there is so
much stuff on there. When I am on there, the only thing I ever click on
to watch are titles that I know about. Getting a small theatrical
release can lead to a great VOD release.
about some of the movies you are distributing?
Well, Kung Fu Graffiti just opened in Lake Mills, Iowa back in
November (two week run). It's a great kids movie by Iowa filmmaker Joe
Clarke [Joe Clarke interview -
click here]. Kind of like a Karate Kid-style film. It will circulate
for about a year in theaters.
My Name is A by anonymous is a great art house piece by Shane
Ryan [Shane Ryan interview -
click here]. I am a huge fan of the films of Harmony Korine, which I feel this
movie is very similar to. The movie is very non-linear which I think
adds to how uneasy the story is. It captures a very dark side of
America's youth. I was hoping to release this in November, however we
are holding off until the holiday blockbusters are over.
Blue - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1554524/
- directed by Sean
Gannon - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3700476/
- (an Iowa to LA transplant) is the first ever "found
footage romantic comedy". One of the most original films I have
ever seen about guy who pays his friend to video tape him asking his
girlfriend to marry him. They decide since they have not met each other's family or friends to document their days leading up to the
wedding. A GREAT MOVIE!
I also just picked up 4 films from Missouri film maker Blake
Eckard - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1768175/. He is the indie king of Americana!
His titles include:
Midwest Story - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433694/ (picked up by
Synapse for the their upcoming VOD
Blues - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1338550/
(shot on 16mm)
Come Home - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1157716/
(shot on 16mm)
Moon Face - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1757693/
(also picked up by Synapse for the their upcoming VOD
Many of his films have not been seen by a whole lot of people. He has
been championed by indy film pioneer Jon
Jost - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0430927/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
- and Dennis Grunes has reviewed two of his films in his book A
Short Chronology of World Cinema (read
the review of BackRoad Blues here). These films were a
treasure of a find. All are dramas of some type.
you find movies worth your effort to begin with, and what standards do
apply to submissions?
Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure to include some information about your film (clips, trailer,
website, press, etc).
As far as I know, as we speak Modern
American Cinema might go into the theater business as well. Care
A lot of single and twin theaters go out of business these days and
cannot compete with multiplexes. We have been infiltrating these markets
and reopening them. We created a nice a little business model and work
with the towns themselves on these deals. The only way to make it work
is offer something that community wants and content that people won't
find at the corporate multiplexes.
Our first cinema re-opening is in Fairfield, Iowa (home of Maharishi
University and the David Lynch Foundation). The CO-ED Theatre (named
CO-ED in the 1950's by the now defunct Parson's College) closed its
doors back in September. We are upgrading the projection to digital (and
retaining the 35mm projector as well). We are also working with a
non-profit group to raise the money to do some additional renovations.
The front lobby is being renovated into a "Cinema Cafe" that
will be open all day, even when movies are not shown.
What can you tell us about Modern American Cinema's key staff?
Alissa Sheldon in charge of all our community interaction. She was key
in getting Home Movie Day off the ground (along with our friends Mark
Heggen and Sarah Oltrogge).
Kerri Mullin is a producer who is in a charge of our television show Crowding
the Pan with Sam Auen - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2559852/ - and has been pushing our titles into the
western television markets.
There is also me. I vacuum floors, water the plants, and take the trash
Any other future
plans for Modern
American Cinema you'd like to share?
We are doing a big push on VOD distribution this year. We got enough
titles now that we can start expanding to different mediums rather just
releasing DCPs for theaters.
Television has also been in a new adventure for us (previously all we
had done was the 30 minute Templeton Rye: Iowa's Good Stuff on on
PBS back in October 2011).
company's website, Facebook, whatever else?
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Back in October I was appointed the Director of Marketing for the Donna
Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts - http://www.donnareed.org.
- It's A Wonderful Life!, The Donna Reed Show) was
originally from Denison, Iowa. The Foundation was formed in 1986 after
she passed away and is located in the Donna Reed Theatre (formerly the
Ritz Theatre) in Denison. We provide scholarships and classes for
students who are interested in a career in stage, screen, and broadcast.
I have been doing a big push on bringing independent and foreign films
into rural communities.
I brought the Rural
Route Film Festival - http://ruralroutefilms.com/
- for the first weekend in January. We were also
just approved to be a venue for the Community
Cinema Program - http://communitycinema.org/
- through ITVS and PBS. For the Community Cinema
Program we show films for free and host a discussion with the audience
for the interview!