These times provide an opportunity for a deep dive and introspection in many areas, including the arts--music, culture and film.

Tempo caught up with Peter Halter, who for over 25 years has been part of delivering the magic of film to Taos - as film curator and projectionist. These years have provided Halter an opportunity to travel the world - working innumerable film festivals while prospecting for films that might be of special interest to a Taos audience - an audience that can be both international and local.

It has also been a period of much technological and other changes in the arts - and the film industry is no exception. And no change looms larger than those precipitated by the current pandemic.

Halter has enormous experience and a clear love of the film industry -- everything from changing old-school film reels to sitting in the back row and experiencing a film with the audience, to meeting film producers, actors and other film enthusiasts.

Tempo took advantage of the opportunity to discuss with Halter some of these more deep-dive areas. Since March, he's been on furlough from his position with the Taos Community Auditorium and his contracts with film festivals vanished in the pandemic's wake.

There are vast questions looming for filmmakers and their audiences about the future of film. Halter has some ideas about what might be next.

We caught up with him, in quarantine like the rest of us - tending to a flock of Muscovy ducks, reading and making the most of quarantine life with his wife, the artist Theresa Gray. Here are the highlights from our interview.

Did you ever imagine a pandemic scenario like this?

I had a glimpse of what was ahead at Sundance in January 2020 when a coworker arriving in Toronto said people were being screened for COVID as they entered the country. We had just wrapped up a TCA special event screening in March on Friday the 13th - a beautiful 35mm film print of "All The President's Men."

I had my volunteer radio show on and noticed Taos Mesa Brewing was closed. I checked my email and saw that the TCA also was closing. The grocery store was super busy that day. My wife and I were packed and ready to fly to the Sarasota Film Festival. As technical director, this was my biggest gig. Same day, another email and text that they canceled the festival. It sank in. Everything changed.

What have you been up to in quarantine?

We unpacked, ordered ducklings and planted seeds. My wife is Theresa Gray, the artist who paints vast vistas with graphite and oil paint of sweeping grasses. Over the years, we always had animals -- dogs, cats, chickens, ducks -- and we've done gardening.

But it wasn't comfortable with the amount of travel for work. Five years ago, after all the animals had passed, we decided to stay animal free. While quarantined, we decided to grow some of our own food again. Now we have Muscovy ducks. We had to rebuild the old chicken coop for them and make it friendly and safe.

As we've all found staying at home to be the new normal, I feel grateful to be in Taos because people have taken this pandemic seriously. I realize how tired I was, and this reset has allowed me to catch up somewhat. But I've also found how busy I am just doing things at home. I have enjoyed catching up on some reading. Recently I finished Richard Powers' "The Overstory." A fabulous read. I hope we've all discovered things we did not have time for before; this time is a bonus.

What was the genesis of your interest in film as opposed to other arts?

My father was a film lover and took us as a family to many brilliant films. I got to see "How the West Was Won" in Cinerama, a widescreen format using three 35mm projectors on a big screen, with a seven-speaker sound system. That stuck with me.

My first documentary film was "Tokyo Olympiad." I was 7 years old. We saw "Lawrence of Arabia." On a whim one Saturday afternoon my father and I went to see "2001: A Space Odyssey." I was 10. I guess it's always been in my DNA.

At what point did you become involved in international and other film festivals, in particular, identifying films that may interest U.S. audiences especially those in New Mexico and Taos?

In 2004 I attended my first international film festival in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I did that festival for four years. In 2008 we started doing Doha Tribeca in Qatar, and I have been going there for the past 11 years. Around that same time, I started programming for the TCA.

Being at festivals and hearing the buzz from other people at festivals, I could always spot films that I knew our audience would appreciate and worked hard to bring them to Taos. I worked to create a festival environment at the TCA. New Zealand filmmaker, actor, director Taika Waititi screened his movie "Boy" in Taos in 2010 with the support of Sundance. His most recent, "Jojo Rabbit," was also a hit in Taos.

As technology has evolved in movie making (streaming, film digital, etc.) how have you adapted as a projectionist and film programmer?

For me, there's something special about watching movies on film. Lots of research shows the science behind the mechanics of film and digital. Film allows your eyes and brain to rest into a REM state of mind and absorb differently than the constant images of digital projection; digital has a numbing sensation.

Being in a theater and watching a movie on the big screen is a unique experience -- there are intriguing studies about how your body participates and processes in a theater versus watching in your home. I was involved in the upgrade at the TCA after recognizing that film was going away, and the major studios had decided that DCP (Digital Cinema Package) was the new format. The first generation of digital projectors had come out, and by the time we were ready to upgrade, the second generation, 4k projectors surpassed. So we came into it at a good time.

It was a struggle to book movies at the TCA. I asked Deborah McLean, the former executive director for help. I told her we needed to upgrade our equipment. And at that moment, it began. We went to the TCA board of directors, and they established the capital campaign. I had connections for getting the equipment and knew what we needed; it was not just converting to DCP but also replacing the screen to a huge, 35-by-15-foot screen. We brought in a dual system of 35mm projectors to continue to show films.

To what extent are you aware of the things film festivals are looking at six months, 12 months, two years from now?

A number of things are still evolving. Film festivals are looking at virtual screenings and reducing the number of titles. I remain in contact with people in the industry.

The other day I talked with the Toronto International Film Festival technical director and close friend. They have set their plan for this September, with 300-plus titles a year. They are planning for 50 screenings with social distancing, drive-ins, outdoor experiences, online screening and virtual red carpets.

I believe the New York Film Festival is moving forward with a limited physical festival and an online experience. Once a month, I check in with the Sundance tech crew. We have a happy hour virtual event which allows us to catch up on a personal level and talk shop. And many things still remain uncertain.

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