Embracing the future of film

Big Screen at Home selections pack a wallop

by Tamra Testerman
Posted 6/18/20

Chelsea Reidy, the theater and programs manager at the Taos Center for the Arts, is in tune with what seeing movies in a theater is all about.

She and the TCA leadership responded to the pandemic by shuttering their doors and starting a series called TCA Big Screen at Home.

The series has been a hit.

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Embracing the future of film

Big Screen at Home selections pack a wallop

Posted

Chelsea Reidy, the theater and programs manager at the Taos Center for the Arts, is in tune with what seeing movies in a theater is all about.

She and the TCA leadership responded to the pandemic by shuttering their doors and starting a series called TCA Big Screen at Home.

The series has been a hit.

Reidy explained, "When you go to the movies, you sit in the dark with strangers and friends with images 20 feet tall that encompass your world for one or two hours. With TCA Big Screen at Home we are inviting people to watch movies at home with TCA. We've heard from audiences they are enjoying the selections and the virtual Film Fans discussions on Sundays. We've also heard that they miss the big screen."

TCA, like other unique arts and film houses, has a lengthy history with film festivals and distributors. Their longtime film projectionist and film programmer Peter Halter set the wheels in motion for the series to blossom even after his furlough starting in March. (In an April 17 Tempo article, Executive Director Colette LaBouff credited Halter with alerting her that distributors were making available films for independent cinemas and small theaters providing an avenue to move forward.)

For this article, Tempo interviewed Reidy, LaBouff and assistant director Gina Gargone.

What is the curatorial process for the TCA Big Screen series - pre-pandemic and now?

Reidy: Since we haven't been showing movies in the theater, staff have been curating films. How we work together to select films starts with watching a lot of movies!

During the selection process, we consider what's happening in current cinema internationally. We also think about what's happening in the world and how film, as an art form, is impactful as it educates, broadens our perceptions and allows us to see others.

Some selections are responding to the simple pleasure of watching a wonderful movie. Other selections respond to our current time. What's everyone thinking about? We've chosen movies that respond to now. For example, "Triple Feature for the Future" included three films about young people and was in response to the class of 2020. We also showed two documentaries about the enduring legacy of the 1973 military coup d'état in Chile, which offer depictions of living under junta rule and inspiring expressions of hope amid dire circumstances.

For the next six weeks, we have chosen a combination of recent releases and currently available movies connected to rights: civil, indigenous and immigration. In particular, many of these films focus on black lives in this country: famous, not well known, historic. This selection of movies responds to today, even the ones that were made in another year or decade.

Has the pandemic affected your choices?

Reidy: Yes and no. As I mentioned, movie selections are both about responding to current times and about the art of cinema. We want to encourage a conversation and focus on what it means to be human in a particular time and place. It's our hope that films enhance our capacity to engage in dialogue with one another. And to continue to ask questions about our own understanding of the world. From a distribution point of view, some distributors have chosen to postpone releases of new movies, hoping we will see those movies in theaters first and so the availability or unavailability affects our choices.

How has the pandemic affected TCA?

LaBouff: It has affected everyone at TCA -- those who work directly at TCA and the broader community of people connected to TCA, including our many supporters and dedicated volunteers. The pandemic has cut off a place of connection for many.

Above this, TCA depends on movies, opera and theater on the screen. It counts on audiences, use of the theater and Stables Gallery. TCA counts on membership and donations that have been ongoing through all of this from generous community members who count on TCA making it through the pandemic embracing fresh and innovative approaches.

The bright side for us has been that our determination to not look back once our doors closed and not ask when things will be the same again means that we early on focused on the broader possibilities of virtual programming not just limited to movies. We have been thinking about ways TCA can serve our communities through audio programming, video programming, virtual exhibitions [and] curated conversations in virtual spaces not limited to those we felt defined us before mid-March 2020.

These communities, our audience, remain the primary focus of our efforts and work - an audience with or without popcorn, exhibition openings or the livestreaming of opera.

Any recommendations for people who want to take part?

Reidy: Right now, Film Fans discussions take place every Sunday at 4 p.m. These are informal discussions guided by a moderator where we talk about a movie from the week, what we liked, what we didn't like and so on. Let's say you didn't watch the movie but want to drop in to the discussion to decide whether to watch it, please do!

Another way to take part is to discuss a movie in writing for "Pitter-Patter." Pitter-Patter is a film review in the form of a back-and-forth conversation. See past Pitter-Patter film reviews at tcataos.org/blog and reach out to us if you'd like to participate in one - info@tcataos.org

What does the future look like?

Gargone: The future is uncertain, but blazing with opportunity. Every day TCA shifts and adapts along with public health guidelines and safety concerns, and in anticipation of opening our doors to the public once more. And we think that virtual programming will stay, too. The through line is a connection, right?

No matter whether it's in a virtual or physical space, TCA will strive to bring Taos together through conversation in, around, on top of and next to the arts.

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