Curating the Future: Programming a Virtual Film Series in the COVID-19 Era Open Access

Amaral, Evan (Spring 2021)

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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, film exhibition has been in a difficult position: how do exhibitors, curators/programmers, and organizers foster the sense of community found in a physical theater, but now in an online space? This points towards broader questions of access, since audiences from outside of festivals’ locales can now take part in them, but also to questions of community in cinephilic spaces, which have historically been exclusionary in attitude towards non-cinephiles. Research has shown that the anxieties facing cinephiles in such a fraught time, one in which cinema’s future is determined by adopting new technologies, have plagued film culture since the dawn of cinema. However, due to the very recent nature of the pandemic’s disruption, few accounts of the shift to online programming exist. In this paper, I describe and analyze my experiences programming and organizing a six-screening, virtual film series through the Emory Cinematheque: New Cinematic Directions. This analysis pulls form prior research, personal interviews conducted with other programmers from around the United States, and the experience of the film series itself. Like it has in previous film-historical crises, opening up the conversation to cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike, along with embracing new spaces and technologies, created a feeling of camaraderie and community that I, and many others I spoke to, did not previously find in cinephilic spaces and/or established film-cultural institutions. Much of this had to do with eliminating as many hierarchies inherent in the space as possible, and my experiences have pointed to these practices being ones that can address film culture’s problems of access and community moving into the future.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER I: Searching for New Directions 1

Introducing New Cinematic Directions 1 Research, Part I: Models for Film Curation 4 Andy Ditzler 4 Justine Atkinson 6 Research, Part II: Film Culture in Crisis 8 Sarah Keller 8 Gabriele Pedullá 10 Interviews, Part I: Exhibition in the COVID-19 Era 12 Genevieve McGillicuddy 12 Brad Pilcher 13 Abby Sun 15 Chris Escobar 16 Maddie Whittle 18 Interviews, Part II: (Three) Ways Forward 20 Thomas Beard 20 Rooney Elmi 23 Ajay Ram 26

CHAPTER II: Building New Directions 30

The Film Selection 30 Organizing “Four Films by Sarah Maldoror” 33 Virtual Logistics 35 Structuring the Series 38 Scheduling and Promotion 40

CHAPTER III: Cultivating New Directions 43

Week One 43 Week Two 45 Week Three 47 The Exit Survey 50 New Cinematic Directions: A Postmortem 52 Conclusion: New Directions Found? 55


APPENDIX A: Links 60

APPENDIX B: Images 61

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