Facets Marquee during the Chicago International Children's Film Festival
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Milos Stehlik, Director and Co-Founder of Facets
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My guest today is Milos Stehlik, director and co-founder of Facets in Chicago. Welcome to OpEdNews, Milos.
JB: Facets has been around for quite a while. Can you fill our readers in on what goes on there?
MS: Next year will be 40 years! We start out with the premise that film IS the most important art and act as a bridge between audiences and great independent, world and art films. This means daily screenings of films at the Facets Cinematheque, a unique public archive of over 65,000 films on DVD and video, film classes, seminars, director appearances, publishing and distribution of independent films and at the heart of Facets, children's educational programs which begin with the Chicago International Children's Film festival which just completed its 31st year.
JB: Wow! You have a lot going on. I don't know where to jump in. How did you get started? What was your initial goal?
MS: Our initial goal was simple: to give Chicagoans (of all ages) a chance to see films that they would not otherwise have been able to. We had no money ($40 and a typewriter), so we borrowed space from a church, rented a projector for $25/week and it all went from there.
JB: I love it: $40 and a typewriter. Give us more backstory, Milos. What kinds of audiences did you get and what kinds of films did you feature? What did you look for in a film?
MS: The 1970s were great years for independent film, so we were able to screen a lot of amazing films and big discoveries (like Luchino Visconti's "Ossessione", which had been withheld from release because Visconti didn't get the rights to the novel "The Postman Always Rings Twice" before making the film.) A year after our temporary rental at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Chicago, a Facets volunteer discovered that another church, in Chicago's Lincoln Park, was vacant and for rent. So we moved to the Grace Lutheran Church, built a huge drywall screen in front of the altar, projected from the choir loft, covered up the stained glass windows, and people sat in pews. Many used to come to screenings with their own pillows or cushions. But this only lasted a year, because then the church was sold, torn down, and converted into ugly condominiums. After a six-month search, we found our current location on Fullerton Avenue, which had been built as a department store but used for the past 35 years as a printing plant.
JB: I'm assuming you're staying put for the time being. What kind of attendance did you achieve at the beginning? And how have things morphed in the intervening years?
MS: Forty years has seen a lot of changes, mostly driven by technology. 16 mm film disappeared. Video, which Facets embraced against great opposition (video would denigrate the film experience), went from VHS and Beta to VHS, from rental pricing to sell-through, from VHS to DVD, and from DVD to streaming. 35mm has now virtually disappeared, seemingly overnight.
Audiences have changed too, partially due to the proliferation of entertainment options. It's a time in history when more films are readily available than ever before. Yet the need for Facets as a curator has never been greater. Certainly during the 40 years, the sense of excitement which would accompany the release of a new film by an art film director no longer exists. Today, films come and disappear quickly, and it's difficult for independent films to register on the radar.
JB: Yes, things have definitely changed in the four decades Facets has been around. You have an archive of over 65,000 films. That sounds huge! How does it work? Who gets access to it? Does it operate like a lending library?