" /> History of Stand Up cinema
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StandUp and be counted
Author: Tom Zajac

We started StandUp Cinema 5 years ago because we thought there needed to be a place where the community could screen their own short films locally and also get to see some truly amazing feature films. We meet many people through Real Time who are making music videos for their bands or are experimenting with film or animation, who come to ask us about a range of issues such as technical queries or on matters relating to funding advice. I always ask,

“Where is the film going to be shown?”

Most of the time you hear it will be going up on a webpage, Facebook or YouTube.

“Great. Have you thought about screening it, before a live audience, at StandUp Cinema?” I ask.

“Is that the film night at the Rising Sun Arts Centre where you have to stand?” I hear.

“Well, you could ‘stand’ if you reeeally wanted to… but I recommend you get a beer at the bar and sit comfortably like everyone else!”.

The name StandUp Cinema has always caused some confusion and we even considered changing it some years ago because of this. The name came about because we were trying to think of a label that would stick but also give a notion of what the night was about – which is an “open mic” for short films. The main “cinema” film is screened at 8PM but there is an hour before to fill up, showing random films in the style of ‘Exploding Cinema’ (
www.explodingcinema.org). The “StandUp” part is because we expect the filmmaker to get up and introduce their film to real people, a real paying audience, and not hide behind internet anonymity. What’s there to lose? It might even be fun…

The main feature is usually a classic or an arthouse or even an obscure gem that we might have heard of and are interested in seeing. Sometimes the process can be hit and miss. One year, a film choice for October’s Black History month, was ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song’ (Melvin Van Peebles) , which is a risque low-budget blaxploitation film, and was attended by some elderly churchgoing clientele who came out looking dazed and bemused. But it’s great bringing an old film like ‘Night of the Hunter’ (Robert Mitchum, Charles Laughton) to an audience who’ve never seen it or even heard of it before. And there’s nothing like watching it, up on the big screen, in a dark room, with fellow spectators, a glass of wine. There is a chance to discuss the films shown in the bar before or after screenings, and there is something really cool about that vibe that you don’t get in a regular cinema.

I welcome suggestions for films to screen – there’s always a film someone’s seen and been blown away by that I’ve never heard of (yep, even me). The issue is seeing if we have permission to show these films from the distributors. But this is usually only a phone call or a google away. We try to stay away from big studio films, which are actually easier to get hold of and get a licence to screen, because most people have already seen them. There’s always an occasion to show something well-known like ‘Taxi Driver’ (Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese) or ‘Five Easy Pieces’ (Jack Nicholson), (we tend to put a well-known film on after a break like Christmas or the summer holidays), but we mainly try and go for the lesser-known obscure films or even documentary films. The sort of thing some might not even contemplate such as ‘Gummo’ (Harmony Korine) or ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant’ (Rainer Werner Fassbinder). I’ve even found one or two films hard to watch but you know what?, I’m still thinking about them today. They’re still more memorable to me then something I’ve seen like ‘Prometheus’ (Ridley Scott) or ‘Django Unchained ‘(Quentin Tarantino), both of which I actually enjoyed whilst watching them at Vue, only I don’t think about them much.

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