Sure, some Richmonders had already heard about the eccentric nanny who took a bunch of cool photographs -- a so-called "street photographer" -- and died a few years ago in poverty in Chicago, or somewhere. Yet, as James and I (Terry) went about promoting the Bijou's benefit screening we found that few people could remember her name. After all, during her lifetime, 1926-2009, Vivian Maier did her level best to fly under the radar.
Given those particulars, how could we have gone wrong by booking "Finding Vivian Maier" (2014), a documentary feature about a rather obscure shutterbug? (Remember, we had to pay up front for the film rental.)
Our formula for guaranteeing success?
- Select a film made by a couple of cats nobody had heard of.
- For our low-budget promotion effort depend completely on posters and shoe leather.
- Gamble that we could garner some favorable publicity about the screening from local publishers.
- Using Facebook, hope to get film buffs and the local photography community talking about the movie.
- While ignoring the fact one could see the same film on cable television, or get the DVD from Netflix, by all means, show it on a breezy, frigid mid-February night.
Make that, "THANK YOU!"
Without the help we got from our partners and sponsors for this venture, as well as the local media, it simply would not have happened. Chief among them was Gordon Stettinius, of Candela Books + Gallery, who first suggested "Finding Vivian Maier" to James as a film to consider playing. That happened months ago. Then James and I looked at the DVD of the film and decided to take the plunge.
From James Parrish's comments on Facebook on Feb. 16:
A special thanks to our partners and sponsors -- Candela Books + Gallery, VCUarts Photography and Film, The Byrd Theatre & Foundation, IFC Films, Plan 9 Music, Visual Arts Center of Richmond, New York Deli, Portrait House and Terry Brown Photography.
And thanks to Bygones Vintage Clothing, Ipanema Cafe and Alchemy Coffee (in addition to Candela) for selling advance tickets.
A huge shout out to Roger Carroll, Debo Dabney, Brian Sulser and Johnny Hott of Chez Roué for the perfect nightcap!
Last night's success definitely gives Terry and me more hope and confidence that Richmond wants and will support a small, independent art house cinema, cafe/bar and nonprofit film center dedicated to everything from Hollywood to home movies with detours.No doubt, when the movie we had picked for our second fundraiser screening received an Academy Award nomination in mid-January it helped draw attention to the title we had already booked some six weeks before. So for whatever part of the Bijou's success on Sunday was pure luck, we're especially grateful to the gods who watch over the show biz risk-takers.
Once again, a roomful of patrons got to feel the difference between watching a movie alone on a small screen and being part of a packed house seeing the images traipse across a movie house screen. After our success with "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) back in September and "Finding Vivian Maier," we have demonstrated the range the Bijou will be comfortable working within. We intend to exhibit old films and new films, big films and small films.
Moreover, the Bijou Film Center will be a friend to movie-lovers of all persuasions. A friend to filmmakers. A friend to other exhibitors. A friend to people who have amateur films they want preserved and transferred to digital. And, a friend to those who'd like to have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and perhaps a bite to eat, while they discuss their thoughts about this and that, to do with the illusion of moving images.
Soon we'll be posting some information about our further plans to help make the dream of a Bijou Film Center for Richmond come true. In the meantime, visit our Facebook page for routine daily posts and to see some of the photos from the Feb. 15 event that have been/will be posted.
The details on how to buy a Bijou T-shirt will also be posted soon here at the Backlight, as well as on the Bijou's Facebook page.
Last, but not least, thanks to Vivian and her fans.