When it comes to independent cinema, nothing beats the house

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Brett Crandall is a Garden City-based LGBTQIA+ actor, writer, producer, puppeteer, and activist.

The film industry has been no more immune to the COVID-19 pandemic and its logistical curves than any other industry. Premieres and productions have been postponed, distribution models have changed, and audiences are hesitant to come back in force.

Indie moviegoers have found a silver lining in online streaming, but producing and delivering movies to the big screen, as expected, is harder than ever, unless you live in…Kansas?

mom.moviea Kansas-based film collective, has partnered with the Sundance Institute to present the 2022 Sundance Film Festival Satellite screens for the second year. After a 2021 ‘drive-in’ model produced in Wichita, mama.film took on the challenge of finding a local arthouse to meet Sundance’s updated screening requirements by securing Liberty Hall in Lawrence as seen on the site. host of the festival from January 28 to 30. Six other cities held local in-person events for simultaneous world premieres, but after the Sundance Institute canceled its annual in-person festival in Park City, Utah, Lawrence became the only non-coastal satellite screen.

Lela Meadow-Conner, founder and executive director of mama.film, spoke about the value of the cinematic experience that is missing when streaming from home.

The audience takes their seats ahead of the world premiere of Sundance’s ‘Every Day in Kaimuki’ selection. (Brett Crandall/Kansas Reflector)

“There is a real excitement, not only to be the first to see these films, but to see them to the big screen,” she said. “The public panting at the same time, laughing at the same time; the feeling you only get when things are larger than life.

Kansas, home of movie heroes like Dorothy Gale and Clark Kent (Superman), is poised to become a cultural hub for storytellers. Creatives, unable to perform or tour because of the pandemic, perhaps wanting to be closer to loved ones in uncertain times, have been kept away from coastal hubs like Los Angeles and New York.

Elle Schneider, an independent filmmaker, said she was “pleasantly surprised when Lawrence was announced as the Sundance satellite screener”.

Schneider defended Lawrence’s story as an expert on Centron Corp, an Oscar-nominated film studio that has nestled itself in Lawrence for forty years.

“A lot of film productions have come to this area,” she said.

I hope I asked Schneider about a potential front of local creators.

“A lot of artists moved here to relax and have a liberal place in the middle of the country,” she said. “Because it has a university, that means a lot of the population is young. It brings new trends, new music, new ideas that you wouldn’t expect from a small town in the Midwest.

A savvy New Yorker from Los Angeles and a self-proclaimed “intruder” to Lawrence, Schneider spoke confidently about the filmmakers she’d worked with in the Kansas City and Lawrence area.

“In our time of all these technological innovations… the silver lining of the pandemic being that we’ve learned so much about how to connect through technology, across different geographic locations,” she said. “I think (this) area has had a lot of interesting productions over the last few years, as people here are starting to try to make films in this area.”

Schneider was an associate producer on director and KC-local Morgan Dameron”different flowers», published in 2017.

“The arts go where artists can live. The housing crises in New York and Los Angeles make it nearly impossible to experiment or make art on your own terms,” she said. “…Technology helps artists live outside of these areas in a place where they can afford to do their art and make art their profession. You’re going to see booms, and I think Lawrence is one of the cities that’s ripe for it.

Schneider pointed out that films can foster social change simply by being accessible.

“There’s also something about bringing Sundance films, many of which are international, to cities that are a little less international. … There are more cultural exchanges there,” she said. “If you’ve chosen a place like Los Angeles, where you already have so many options…a cultural melting pot, anyway, movies don’t necessarily make that much of a social change. Anyone seeing a Sundance movie is going to see something they’ve never seen before.

There are some really amazing filmmakers in Lawrence, who really make interesting movies without feeling like they have to go to this metropolis, knowing that there isn’t a strict path to being an artist.

Local audiences were certainly happy with the selections, coming out of the theater eager to discuss their cathartic laughter and heartbreak. Two residents enjoyed the film »Marte uh” and thats centered on a lower-middle-class family in Brazil, while fellow moviegoer Lawrence was grateful for the festival’s international selections.

Schneider was confident that the city’s art scene would continue to grow.

“There are some really amazing filmmakers in Lawrence, who really make interesting films without feeling like they have to go to this metropolis, knowing there’s no strict path to being an artist,” he said. she declared. “Having your voice heard is really important, especially when you have the (KU) film school here and this next generation. It’s important for them to see new things. And at KU, you’re lucky to have Oscar-winning film professors, like Kevin Willmott – just the fact that he is here and teaching shows that you don’t have to change who you are, go to the big city and play the game. You can stay where you live, with the people you are with. you like to collaborate, and succeed.

A sense of relief and artistic camaraderie, a feeling I swore I would only find in New York, washed over me when Schneider explained the importance of “knowing that there is no hard path to follow. to be an artist.

When I returned home to western Kansas in 2019, after 10 years in New York City working (then not working) as an actor and writer, I never planned on just driving myself from my town country to dress myself up for the world premieres of art house films. in Greenwich Village would show it. It was a risk to move to Kansas while pursuing my creative endeavors.

However, even after two eventful years, my spirits are buoyed by the idea that new and old Kansan artists are coming together at mama.film’s KS+ Film Convergence in April at the Free State Festival in Lawrence, all languishing and mining for centuries of rich stories lived here just waiting to be told.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.