By Scott Harvey, Columnist
With independent film becoming an increasingly popular and acclaimed outlet for enterprising filmmakers, a young businesswoman from Spartanburg has started a campaign to bring this cinematic revolution to Greenville.
Daryn Zongrone, a 2013 graduate of the University of South Carolina Upstate, is the CEO and president of The Film House, a Greenville-area company designed to attract the burgeoning population of cinephiles in the Upstate by holding screenings of classic films in various locations in the area.
Zongrone’s ultimate goal, however, is a far loftier one. A former film studies major at USC Upstate, Zongrone has seen independent film grow over the past several years and believes that it is time for Greenville to embrace this change.
The best way to do this, Zongrone believes, is to bring a new, independent theater to downtown Greenville.
Greenville’s theaters are entirely of the large-scale variety, the sort where you might be able to see the new “Transformers” film nine times a day, but would be hard-pressed to find Oscar nominees like “Whiplash” and “Ida.”
The theater that Zongrone envisions would not only bring these smaller films to Greenville, but would provide a location where adults can have a drink or a meal on their evening out. That is because, in addition to the two to three screens that would make up the theater, this new venue would also feature a pizzeria and bar with an extensive assortment of the area’s best beers and wines.
“Frankly, it’s time,” says Jill Brinson, the marketing director of The Film House. “So many cities around Greenville already have indie theaters.”
The question of whether or not there would be interest in bringing independent film to Greenville seems to have been answered in recent months by The Film House. One way the company has attempted to raise money is through screenings at popular area hangouts like the Swamp Rabbit Café and Thomas Creek Brewery.
Among The Film House’s most successful ventures was a series of screenings of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” last fall which drew record attendances.
Zongrone and her associates, however, did not stop there. Last November, they set up a fundraising campaign on the popular website Indiegogo, which helps crowd-source projects like Zongrone’s.
It did not even take a month for the company’s goal of $3,500 to be reached and, by the time the campaign was ended in late December, the project had garnered over $5,600 from supporters.
Along with support from local businesses like Coffee Underground, O-Cha Tea Bar, and Borderlands Comics, the Film House has received contributions from the Greenville County Library System and the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, demonstrating just how influential the campaign has been.
One of The Film House’s biggest supporters is Bill West, the president of the Upstate Film Society, a local collective of film lovers that has been around since the late 90s. Since its formation, the Upstate Film Society has worked to bring small, indie films to Greenville’s big-name theaters. Zongrone’s vision, if realized, would undoubtedly be a long-awaited reward for the Upstate Film Society.
If Zongrone can achieve her fundraising goal, the theater will occupy the Keys Building, a former printing business on McBee Avenue which has been abandoned since 1973.
Despite the promise that the project has shown, there is still a long way to go before Zongrone’s dream can become a reality. She has identified 1.5 million dollars as the amount of money necessary to begin building. She has raised $10 thousand so far.
The future looks bright for The Film House. Mar. 7, Zongrone intends to launch a new fundraising campaign using SCCrowdfund.com, a newly formed crowd-sourcing website that focuses solely on the South Carolina area. This time, her goal will be $30,000.
“By donating to this business,” says Zongrone, “you are supporting local business. It’s also important on a national level. We have shown films from independent filmmakers all over the country and we want to continue to do that once we’re open.”
To learn more about how you can contribute to The Film House, visit greenvillefilmhouse.com for more information.