Tuesday, August 23, 2011
It's pouring rain this Sunday as I begin this post, just as it was last Sunday when I met Eric Bresler at The Last Drop Coffeehouse (13th & Pine). Last Drop offers nothing in the way of a breakfast sandwich, so I settled for a chocolate croissant and coffee. Eric is a Naked Juice, non-coffee drinking, vegetarian. This explains his boyish appearance and energetic ability to run several projects at once.
As I mentioned in my previous post - Tinsel & Tine's Dreams and Schemes, Eric was the recipient of a profile interview in celebration of my 100th facebook like. However, as it is my intention to highlight the film scene in Philly whenever possible, interviewing a local film promoter seems like kismet.
Before getting into Cinedelphia, a go to site of film coverage, interviews, reviews, listings, ticket giveaways, event coverage and more! I wanted to chat about Eric's film background. As I suspected, he was an aspiring filmmaker; one who took on a huge undertaking for his 2001 senior project at Drexel University (Film & Video Program). As a Caucasian American, it takes balls to decide to do a documentary on the culture and fanatical followers of Japanese Anime. His film was titled, Otaku Unite. Otaku is the Japanese word for these obsessive fans.
T & T: I can't imagine taking on a project like this, because if you do it wrong, well, wrong in their opinion, these fans are really gonna let you have it in full force!
EB: Hence why they are deserving of a documentary. :)
T & T: How long did it take you to finish?
EB: We started shooting in the fall of 2000 and didn't wrap until the spring of 2003. I spent over a year editing it. Traveled coast to coast multiple times, went to over 20 anime conventions. It debut at the Philadelphia Film Festival in April of 2004. And then went on to have 60 public screenings around the world.
T & T: And can we see it now?
EB: The DVD was released nationwide in April of 06 with 10,000 copies pressed. Around 2007, 2008, a lot of the anime companies started folding, including the company that released the DVD, so it's presently out of print. But there's still some floating around, and all the rights reverted back to me.
T & T: What was the fan reaction to the film?
EB: As you predicted, it was a split amongst the fans; they do take their cartoons quite seriously. A lot of them enjoyed the historical aspects, cause I traced the importation of the animation from the 60's up to the present. Some people thought that I was being condescending, which I tried not to be. I embrace all of Japanese Cinema so anime is a huge part of that.
Although this may have been Eric's only venture into taking on Japanese culture as a filmmaker, he continues to support Japanese film - presently presenting a 6 week screening series called Unknown Japan, in collaboration with the Japan America Society .The screenings take place in a different Philly venue every week from August 10th to September 14th. Featuring all Japanese films that have never been released in the US, in any format. His association with the Japan American Society also included partnering on a charity event to raise funds for the Japan Relief Efforts.
T & T: Okay, on to Cinedelphia.com. You jokingly say that this started out as a way to see free films. But clearly you had more of an agenda in mind. How did cinedelphia become your main focus?
EB: I'm a relentless worker, so I make time to do all these little projects that I'm interested in. The website started off as a listing site of repertory films - IHouse, Colonial Theater, County Theater... I wanted to create one website to bring all of these different showtimes together in one location, so anyone who likes esoteric, off the road cinema, at a glance could say, "Oh, this is playing tonight, and that's playing tomorrow".
We discuss a bit about how lucky we are to have a venue like International House Philadelphia in our midst, and yet it's not fully taken advantage of, not even by the student population. I for one, will mark my calendar with films to see at IHouse and for one reason or another, rarely make it. Eric, however, is a member and sees a good deal of repertory films. That's not to say the Cinedelphia site doesn't cover mainstream movies. It has plenty to offer in terms of covering Indies and studio flicks as well. Eric continues by saying...
EB: Then I started contacting the ad agencies who began giving me access to review mainstream films. Just cause it's a repertory site, I didn't want to leave mainstream cinema out. There's always a gem here or there. And I embrace all film. Then people started reading the reviews and I started doing local news items that slanted towards gossip, which got a ridiculous amount of visits and hits, stuff that really put the website on the map as far as the city goes. But I started feeling guilty, cause I'm not really the gossipy type. So I got out of the gossip business.
T & T: Did you worry about losing your readers when you stepped away from tattle-tale type journalism?
EB: Luckily a lot of the old ones came over. The site continues to be opinionated, but it's not gossipy anymore. I'd like to think it's much more refined and scholarly now. You'll find stuff on local theaters and film related happenings. Last week, I featured Collegeville's New Movie Tavern, and the Secret Cinema event at ICA, the Closing of the TLA Store on Locust Street, we featured 5 movies reviews. Everyday of the week there's something different and I post at least twice everyday.
T & T: I saw that the site says you have an open submission policy. Are you receiving reviews or are you scouring the blogesphere for submissions?
EB: A little of both. There are so many film related blogs and websites in the city.
T & T: Thanks, I saw Tinsel & Tine was listed!
EB: Oh yeah, sure. I was going to say, a lot of them aren't worth your time at all, but about 50% of them are, and Tinsel & Tine is one.
T & T: Are you just posting what you receive or are you sorting through?
EB: Oh, very, very, picky. Extremely picky. Writers have also been sending me pitches and I'll say, great please do it, or not. The requirements being the writers have to be related to film in Philadelphia in some way. It can't just be somebody who likes movies. I like to match the film up thematically with the reviewer.
T & T: So they haven't just been sending you a completed review, you are assigning the screenings?
EB: Oh yeah, like this Friday opens Fight Night, the horror film with Colin Farrell, and I have a local feminist horror blog writer covering it.
I repeat feminist horror blogger aloud, my head filling with an image of green tinted skin, nose wart and cackle, which then in turn becomes the image from Macbeth of the witches around the cauldron, as Eric goes on to say, "They are a group of 3 women who analyze horror films, called Final Girl Support Group, they do a really great job".
I try to shake all thoughts of covens out of my head by thinking, these women could picture me 300lbs, consuming a 7 course meal, while streaming Netflix. When in truth, I've never had more than 3 courses during a film (kidding). At any rate, Eric and I agree that I should begin contributing to Cinedelphia. And I look forward to doing so, however, the last three films he's wanted me to cover, I've had conflicts; still, look for me on the site in the near future.
Being as Bresler was formerly the Manager of a TLA Video store and the former Managing Director of The Philadelphia Film Festival, and I work with both groups as well, we had a lot of common ground to talk about on the subjects of Cinefest, QFest, PFF and The Film Society. To our credit, there's nothing we said that would get either one of us in trouble; the summation mostly being that QFEST is excellent and very important to the city and the Philadelphia Film Festival is exciting because it allows those of us that can't afford Sundance or Cannes to see these film, and often the filmmakers. However, Cinefest is neither here nor there and is perhaps unnecessary.
I guess I would never make a very good hard hitting journalist. I danced around the subject of money with Eric, but never actually asked him, "What do you do for a living?" Yes, he produces a couple of events a year, but from what I gathered, nothing on a scale that would be considered a money maker. He's taught himself webdesign, but I don't believe he's doing other people's sites. Cinedelphia is not making revenue, he views it as part fun, part community service; and he self funded, Otaku Unite. Well, where ever the money is coming from, I say, good for you! My greatest desire is to do away with a day job and I envy and admire anyone who's figured it out.
To wrap up the interview, I ask Eric to name his top 5 best film picks, seen so far this year.
His film school training came out in spades when he answered... "It's been a rough year, ah... let's see... ah... um... I've seen at least 200 films so far this year between theater and at home."
To which I responded, "You've seen 200 films and are having trouble naming 5 you liked?"
To which he replied, " I can give you the 5 I've been surprised by. Films I didn't expect much from, but were better than anticipated - Insidious, Hanna, The Future, Tree of Life, Buck and a bonus one, Senna.
And because this is Tinsel & Tine, I asked about his top 5 favorite Philly restaurants (keep in mind, he's a vegetarian) - Blackbird Pizzeria, Charles Plaza, Pod, Santa Fe Burrito, Golden Empress.
I hope Eric likes his "winning" post and I hope all my readers check out Cinedelphia.com!