No popcorn, and bring a pillow

Robert McKeown

Photo By Larry Dalton

In the shadow of its big-city siblings, Sacramento isn’t an urban poser. City living is in the details: a nine-piece photo gallery pinned below barbed wire on the levee, orphaned newspaper sections left on light-rail benches moving from station to station, a basement gallery turned indie-film theater featuring speakers on top of speakers on top of chairs. Sneak through the alley in the Old Spaghetti Factory parking lot at 19th and J streets on a Friday at 7 p.m. Descend the Fools Foundation staircase toward a $5 movie screening. Shiny Object Digital Video, Inc., a distributor of “truly independent films,” partnered with Fools Foundation, a contemporary art gallery, last fall to launch not-normally-seen-in-Sacramento film screenings on Friday nights. Robert McKeown, president and co-founder of Shiny Object, told SN&R how the community can make a night out of “Movies on a Big Screen.”

Why did you launch the screenings?

We have access to a lot of films, and we wanted to bring some of these titles here to Sacramento that aren’t getting into the Crest and Tower. The Crest and Tower have to be able to run something for a minimum of a week. Because we’re doing one showing, we don’t have to worry about that. I think it’s fantastic to have this available in a town. Many towns already had it, and Sacramento essentially didn’t, and so that’s really what it was.

We wanted to bring exposure to the filmmakers, too, to their titles. [We screened] Orwell Rolls in His Grave, which is on media consolidation and manipulation of stories. So we’re having out people from the Sacramento media group, which includes Common Cause, Public Access, some reps from Indymedia. They’ll be available to talk to people if people want to. [It] kind of adds dimension to the film and gives a local perspective and slant to what’s happening here.

A lot of times it’s just a movie, but as often as we can we’re trying to make it more than just a movie.

How do you pick what movies to show?

There’s no real set pattern; there’s no list of bullet points. In documentaries, we’re looking more at issue-based documentaries, but that won’t always be the case. As far as narratives go, it’s kind of all over the map. We have had a focus more on cult and comedy type films, but that’ll be changing.

They’ve gotta have some appeal and some level of quality to them, but if anything, there’s ones that we rule out more than we’re specifically looking for. There can be technical issues with films that are just gonna make them look bad when they’re projected large. That’s really what it is. Otherwise, we’ll look at anything, try to second guess whether it’s gonna be of interest to people.

How would you characterize your audience?

It’s really mixed, and that’s exactly what we wanted. We’re getting probably more of a younger crowd, which is essentially what we expected, but we’re getting a middle-aged and even some older coming out, which I think is fantastic.

What can patrons expect for five bucks?

It is a relatively intimate setting. They can expect a movie that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see here. It’s essentially a micro-cinema setup with digital projection. They can expect folding chairs. They should bring a pillow or cushion if there’s an issue with that. It would be $1,500 to supply this place with padded chairs. I can’t afford to do that!

You’re not gonna have to worry about people talking on cell phones while the movies going on. A lot of times now you go to the theater, people are just talking regularly to each other. That’s not happening here—people are here watching the film.

Someday there will be food that people can buy cheaply.

You were thinking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Why would you choose that over popcorn?

I want to do popcorn, but popcorn is a little bit hard to do. You gotta have a popper, and that can be a cost, and you’ve gotta clean it. We’ve already gotta tear down afterward. So popcorn is just coordination-ally a little bit difficult to do.

I can’t prep popcorn in advance at home, say, with an air popper, because if we have 40, 50 people show up, I’ve got this little bowl. We are looking at doing pita sandwiches, cookies, stuff like that.

How would you suggest Sacramentans make a night of the movie?

I would suggest getting a drink, or maybe two, particularly in the area, so you just walk over, and, before or after, getting something to eat. There’s so many places just in this area to get food and drinks. If they come down here and support what’s in this area, that’s fantastic. That’s what I’d like to see.