By Rachel McAlister
We’re all familiar with Cherrydale Cinemas just down the road, with its overpriced and oily popcorn, blockbusters, and sticky floors. But just imagine a Coffee Underground of the cinema world. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Something akin to that is Daryn Zongrone’s new project in downtown Greenville, The Film House, which aims to create a center of independent, local, and classic films and an outlet for students interested in film production and critique to showcase their work.
A typical indie film, which is usually eclectic in content and style, is produced outside the structure of major studios and operates on a lower budget and with leaner advertising. Some make it big such as “Instructions Not Included” and “12 Years a Slave,” which grossed high in 2013, bringing in $44,467,206 and $37,951,371 respectively. These films have a limited release and rely heavily on independent theaters such as The Film House to showcase them.
Then we have the classics, the foundation of modern film.
“In order for people to understand and appreciate film today, it is completely necessary for them to understand and appreciate the earliest films that were made,” Zongrone said, arguing for the value of the silent era films that will likely be in the lineup for the theater.
Finally, there are local films that stimulate the kind of involvement and conversation needed for any flourishing creative community. Unless you know the producer yourself, these rarely make it to the public eye.
Already, there are numerous organizations, informal groups, and enclaves of artists in Greenville promoting the arts. But as Zongrone pointed out, the film culture in Greenville is scattered. Consolidating a scattered film culture is not about homogenization but rather diversification and communication. Sharing and discussing unique or unfamiliar ideas and experiences is something that films do in a visceral way. And isn’t that what the artistic endeavor is about?
“We want to create a place where local and national independent cinema can be showcased in Greenville,” she said.
In addition to films, the Film House will also have a pizzeria and microbrewery featuring local ingredients. Aside from entertainment, a large part of the project will be educational; they plan to host a film lecture series in which a film professor or filmmaker will choose a film and offer a lecture before it’s screened, presenting a great opportunity for Furman Film Studies students.
So far, the project has been greeted with enthusiasm and support in the Greenville community. The project is far from its goal, but the audience is growing and the development trajectory is promising. They’ve just reached about 30 percent of their current goal of $5,000 through their crowdfunding site. This method of fundraising exemplifies the kind of support needed for the success of a project like this, supported by demand from the bottom up, not the top down.
Construction on the 300-seat theater’s potential home, The Keys Building on 307 E. McBee Ave. in downtown Greenville, is slated for 2015. Despite that, there are still plenty of ways to get involved. Individuals can visit their SCcrowdfund.com site and donate in support of their film series, talk to the Creative Director (MJ@Greenvillefilmhouse.com) and become a Street Team member, or attend one of their free film screenings on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Coffee Underground. The group has been showing films in the little dark room in Coffee Underground’s lower level since Nov. 23 of last year. And you won’t be a loner: Furman students have already found their way there. Now Furman students can add “watch local” to Greenville’s burgeoning local movement.