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Movie Natters: June 23, 2008 Archive

John Koch tries a new Cinema Revolution

Posted at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2008 by Euan Kerr

For the last few years John Koch has been learning some lessons while running his video store, Cinema Revolution, in Minneapolis. One was a lesson in frugality.

Thus when he made his first feature film he kept the costs down to just $5,000. He did this with a lot of (free) help from his friends, and by cutting a deal with a local movie equipment rental business to get a less popular camera on a cheaper and extended basis.

The movie "Je ne sais quoi" gets its world premier tonight at the venerable Ritz Theater in Minneapolis. It will then screen another 11 times in the coming week. You can check out the trailer here.

He says if all goes well, and the audiences turn out he could pay for some if not all of the expenses of making the film. He says it makes more sense than depending on the festival circuit to build an audience. He admits the idea is nothing less than a new model for movie financing.

"I would hope so and that's definitely the model that I am going to try to follow," he says. "I'm just approaching it from a business model rather than sort of a lottery ticket model that people seem to follow these days when they just put the money down and hope for their one in a million chance."

Another important element of the plan is to use a regular theater instead of a movie theater for the screenings. He says it's easier and cheaper to get a stage theater as they often have periods when they are dark between productions. He also says that nowadays most have the digital projection equipment he needs to show the film.

If it works well at the Ritz, then Koch says he may take the show on the road and go to other cities and try the same deal. And just to be safe he is also putting out feelers to a few festivals where he or a friend has connections.

So what is this film? Koch says it's a story of two oddballs.

"Paul is very well spoken, fairly loquacious young man," Koch says, explaining that Paul enjoys the high arts and has some strong opinions on them. "But he has the problem where he just can't stop talking. It tends to alienate people he wants to connect with."

Paul lives across the hall from Anna who Koch describes as "A young woman who works as a florist, who has creative impulses, but has a certain ontological weightlessness, where she is sort of drifting, and she has doubts about herself and about her life."

Koch says the two are interested in each other intellectually and romantically, but don't know how to act on their inclinations.

"It's about trying to form a connection between two people in a world where it seemingly harder and harder to do so," Koch says. "Because I feel that people expectations, or the rituals that go around the whole dating game are becoming a little blurrier than they used to be."

When asked if this is then a mumblecore movie, he says no.

"I think if you went into it thinking its a mumblecore film you'd be pleasantly surprised."

"The film has a... I feel that the stakes are raised slightly, where I feel like in all the mumblecore films I have seen, the characters, nothing bad ever happens to them.

"But I feel that these characters lives are on the line in a way, and I get the feeling that in my film the stakes are raised, the emotional stakes are raised. There's also an expressiveness to this film that those films don't have."

Koch says a test screening went really well earlier this year and he has high hopes for the finished film.

When asked if running a video store has helped the film he says yes and no. He says running a business has slowed the production process and the editing. However he also says just about everyone who worked on the film he met through Cinema Revolution.

He's already working on his next film "The Seducer," which he hopes to be shooting early next year. It's about a love triangle, with a woman trying to decide between two men.

"It will be dialog driven just as this film is," Koch says. "It probably will be a bit more of a drama, 'Je ne said quoi' is a bit more of a comedy,"

Koch hopes it may actually cost less too. He's bought a camera for his own video supply company, so will save on the rental fees.

He hopes both to using the flexibility of video, to let the circumstances of where and when they shoot influence the production. He also hopes he'll be able to pay his actors this time.

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